The headlines all too often are filled with stories of brutality against children.|
For example, just a week apart in late November, this newspaper featured reports of a Rock Island pair making initial appearances on Class X felony counts of aggravated battery to an 8-year-old and a Cordova man professed his innocence on charges of aggravated battery against his 4-month-old son, whom authorities say suffered two skull fractures while in his care.
We know that such instances are all too commonplace. But we still were taken aback by word from the Illinois Department of Children and Family services that child abuse and neglect cases in Rock Island and Mercer counties last year were twice the statewide average. If that doesn't sound like a lot, we invite you to do this: Look into the faces of the kindergartners at your local grade school and consider that at least one of every 50 of these fresh-faced young people is being impacted by abuse and/or neglect.
Nearby counties -- Knox, Warren and Henderson -- share the dubious distinction of double the statewide average. While stats for other metro-area counties weren't as high, they still were unacceptable.
It doesn't make us feel any better about the terrible statistics to find out that DCFS says the horrible numbers here are part of a decade-long statewide trend of rising downstate child abuse and neglect cases.
Misery most assuredly does NOT love company, and the only bright spot we can find here is if the news galvanizes our community to root out the causes of abuse and neglect and then act to reduce the number of children in jeopardy.
Money is almost certainly a factor. Hard times means not enough cash for things like food, adequate clothing and utilities, fostering neglect. They also increase parental frustration levels and kids suffer the consequences. Tight state, federal and local budgets also squeeze out the kinds of community-based programs that help prevent neglect and abuse.
Decreased funding and other issues at DCFS, also make it harder to investigate, uncover and monitor abusers.
Acknowledging the problem, of course, is only half the battle, so we are encouraged that local leaders say they are ready to focus on the problem. But they will need community support to make a real impact. Elsewhere in Viewpoints today, Sue Swisher, executive director of the Child Abuse Council in Rock Island, offers some steps each of us can take to help attack the problem.
They may not be our children, but their well-being is the responsibility of everyone in a civil society, so please don't turn away.
Do all that you can to help prevent child abuse today.
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