SPRINGFIELD — The number of children reported as abused or neglected in downstate Illinois has increased 5.4 percent, according to a new report from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Logan and Livingston counties in Central Illinois were among 35 counties that showed abuse and neglect rates more than double the statewide average of 91 indicated cases of abuse or neglect per 10,000 children, according to the report compiled by Northwestern University. An indicated report means credible evidence exists that a child has been harmed or neglected.
Logan County ranked ninth in the state with 259 substantiated reports per 10,000 children and Livingston County was 27th with 187 per 10,000. McLean County ranked 56th among the state’s 102 counties with 141 reports per 10,000 children.
The reports cover the state’s 2012 fiscal year of July 1 to 2011 to June 30, 2012.
But the DCFS reports have resulted in a small number of cases reaching the level of seriousness that results in a child being removed from the home in both Logan and Livingston counties.
Last year in Livingston County, 18 cases of abuse and neglect were filed; so far this year, the total stands at nine cases. Logan County handled 37 cases in its child welfare court in 2011 and has addressed 39 so far this year. McLean County has seen 101 abuse or neglect petitions filed so far in 2012, compared with 128 last year.
The disparity between the numbers of abuse reports the state receives and court cases filed lies with the DCFS practice of working with families to resolve the issues without removing children from the home, said DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin. Some cases involve a caregiver who is not a parent, a situation that also would not necessarily lead to removal of the child, he said.
Two factors are likely contributors to the increase in reported cases of child abuse, said Livingston County State’s Attorney Tom Brown.
“Any time you see an increase in a statistic in criminal law it’s because either that type of activity is up or the agencies charged with investigating and the victims involved are doing a better job of reporting it. In this case, I think it’s a combination of both factors,” said Brown.
Logan County State’s Attorney Michael McIntosh said it’s hard to explain the fluctuation in abuse and neglect reports.
“More than anything else, it seems to be cyclical. It seems that we’ve had a bump in the number of cases, but no specific pattern,” said McIntosh.
The state’s Child Abuse Hotline received 25,348 reports of abuse involving downstate children from July to October, compared to 24,053 during the same period last year, according to DCFS. The increase is part of a decade-long trend in child abuse in downstate counties, with last year’s total of 74,102 representing a 20 percent increase, said DCFS.
Twenty-seven percent of allegations were substantiated by state investigators in 2011, with 71 percent of the 29,044 children deemed abused coming from downstate counties, according to DCFS data.