In 2018, nearly 35,000 cases of child abuse were indicated in Illinois, according to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Illinois.
April’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of communities working together to help identify and prevent child maltreatment. Evidence and years of research show that children raised in loving and supportive environments are more likely to prosper academically and financially.
As a health care provider, we always have to watch for child maltreatment and it is so difficult when we see signs of it, said Debra Trickey, director of HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital. As we focus on their health care needs, we also reassure them that we are here to keep them safe and take steps necessary to ensure that.”
Illinois recognizes five categories of child maltreatment, which include physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and emotional/mental injury.
Trickey encourages you to learn the signs of child maltreatment, which in many cases is committed by someone the child knows and trusts.
DCFS Illinois says sometimes a parent’s demeanor or behavior sends a red flag about potential child abuse. Experts say a single warning sign of possible child maltreatment does not necessarily mean harm is occurring, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when the signs appear repeatedly or in combination.
If a child reveals abuse, it’s important to listen carefully, let them know they’ve done the right thing by telling you, tell them it’s not their fault and explain what you’ll do next to keep them safe.
St. John’s Hospital colleagues are encouraged to wear blue on Fridays this month to help raise awareness and a prayer service for healing was held on April 8.
If you suspect child maltreatment, call 911, or a helpline such as the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline at 800-25-ABUSE (800-252-2873).
To learn more about the types and conditions of child maltreatment, visit Prevent Child Abuse Illinois.