As April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month, state Rep. Chuck Jefferson, D-Rockford, said Illinois is taking steps to better protect children from neglect and abuse with the unanimous House passage of two measures that now await action in the state Senate.
Even one incident of child abuse is too much, and it is inexcusable, Jefferson said. But we have a chance to help prevent abuse by making it easier for people to report these horrible incidents while making it easier for local law enforcement to investigate them.
One such measure supported by Jefferson would require the states Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to notify local law enforcement any time a call reporting child abuse comes through the DCFS central registry. The change would allow local police to conduct their own investigations into reports of serious injuryand even deathto a child. House Bill 421 is supported by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.
A second bill requires DCFS to investigate and report on cases involving serious life-threatening injuries and what actions were taken in the five years prior to the incident to protect the child. The law that requires detailed departmental reports only applies to incidents in which a child dies.
House Bill 616 was prompted by reports last fall that in the deaths of 53 children under the care of the state between 1998 and 2005, staff and caseworkers made repeated errors and failed to accurately gauge the dangers the children faced. In one instance, a caseworker took the word of a suspected child abuser who said his son couldnt be seen because he was asleep. The boy died an hour later from a beating at the hands of his father. Other errors included doing background checks on the wrong names of suspected abusers, which resulted in false clean reports.
Its a tragedy that we have to pass new laws because people who are responsible for the well-being of our children failed to do their jobs, Jefferson said. Its my hope that our efforts in the Legislature will keep staff and caseworkers more accountable to the children they are supposed to be looking out for.
For more information about this legislation, contact Jeffersons constituent service office at (815) 987-7743 or visit www.ilga.gov. To find out how you can help prevent child abuse, visit www.illinoiscasa.org and www.preventchildabuse.org.
from the May 2-8, 2007, issue