The number of deaths linked to child abuse may hit an all-time high in Illinois. A new report from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services showed that credible evidence of abuse or neglect was discovered in the deaths of 94 children around the state last year. With 45 cases still under investigation and awaiting an official ruling, Illinois is likely to surpass the previous yearly high of 102 deaths, set in 1989.
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Dave Clarkin of DCFS says the answer to the problem is educating the public to recognize the warning signs. “Three-quarters of those child deaths involved families that had no previous report of abuse or neglect to the department,” Clarkin said. “We’re making every effort to urge families across the state to contact the DCFS hotline if they suspect a child is at risk of harm.”
Causes for the deaths include fatal beatings, infants who suffocated while sleeping with a parent, a blanket, or on their stomachs, or children who drowned while playing unsupervised.
Since January, the agency has partnered with nonprofits and civic groups to increase public awareness, and Clarkin believes those efforts are paying off. “Over the past six months, we’ve actually seen a steady decline in the number of child deaths in Illinois,” Clarkin said. The DCFS child abuse hotline is 800-252-2873.