Child Abuse a Growing Problem in Southern Illinois


By Matthew Searcy

CARBONDALE -- New data shows child abuse is a growing problem in downstate Illinois. On Tuesday, local experts gathered at SIU to look for solutions.  

The new information comes from the Department of Children and Family Services.
"Ten years ago we were seeing about a  50-50 split between Cook County and the rest of the state," said child welfare expert Dana Weiner. "Ten years later we are seeing that 75 percent of new cases are coming in from the downstate region." 
Despite that shift, most of Illinois' child welfare resources are located in Cook County, leaving other areas under-served.  
"We definitely see areas where there are vacuums," explained Weiner. "They don't have the resources and capacity that we need and we need to develop that." 
Experts do not expect an increase in child welfare funding from the state because of budget concerns.They hope the new data will help them better understand the root of the problem and use resources more efficiently. 
George Timberlake is a former judge who chairs the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission. 
He says more alcohol and drug abuse in southern Illinois has contributed to the growing number of child abuse cases.  
"One of the biggest impacts in Southern Illinois in the last 15 years has been meth and before that it was crack cocaine," said Timberlake. 
Last year, more than 450 child abuse cases were reported in Jefferson County alone. The highest of any county in southern Illinois.
"Substance abuse, poverty and child maltreatment are all correlated and we need to respond to all of those factors," explained Timberlake. 
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