Education groups help in fight against child abuse

One in five Illinois children is abused, according to state child welfare officials.

October 2, 2013

Patrick Smith

Courtesy of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
This poster is being sent out to more than 600 Illinois school district. The campaign aims to encourage kids to report abuse.

Some key education groups in Illinois are out to help stem child abuse.

The Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois PTA will participate in the state’s “You are not alone” campaign.

“We are all committed to working together to ensure safe, loving homes and brighter futures for children,”  Roger Eddy, director of IASB, in a press release. “School board members across Illinois understand that children can’t do their homework if they don’t have a safe home to go to at night, or their home is in chaos because of abuse or domestic violence.”

The campaign features posters and social media advertising urging kids to report their abuse.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services started sending out posters to schools last month.

It carries a simple message: “You are not alone.”

DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin says in addition to getting more reports, the department wants to combat the feeling of isolation that comes when children are abused.

On the same day that the statewide groups pledged their support, DCFS added a crucial school district to its coalition: Chicago Public Schools and its roughly 400,000 students.

Clarkin says it’s important for kids to report their own abuse, because too many Illinois adults are letting them down.

“One in five kids in Illinois are abused or neglected before they turn 18, and unfortunately children tell an average of seven adults that they’re being abused or neglected before an adult calls the hotline,” Clarkin said. “All nine million adults in Illinois have a shared responsibility to report abuse and neglect. Unfortunately not every adult lives up to that responsibility and when that’s the case we want to make sure that children know that helps is available.”

Clarkin says the department already gets more information from children who are siblings of kids being abused than they do from other adult relatives. He said sometimes children as young as 6 call the hotline to report the abuse of their brother or sister.

The posters - in both English and Spanish - are being sent out to more than 600 Illinois school districts. The department estimates the posters will reach about 1.5 million students.

“If children haven’t seen them already they should [soon]. But the folks at our hotline report that we’re already seeing an increase in calls to the hotline, so it looks like the campaign is working.”

The campaign urges children who are being abused to call the DCFS hotline at 1-800-252-2873.

Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him on twitter @pksmid.