Illinois DCFS to youth: You are Not Alone!

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New campaign aims to keep children safe

information provided by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

CHICAGO, Ill. (June 3, 2020) – During the coronavirus quarantine when families have been secluded at home, calls to report suspected child abuse and neglect decreased significantly across the country, and by 57% in Illinois compared to the same time last year.

According to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS):

  • One in five children is abused or neglected before the age of 18
  • 70% of child abuse goes unreported
  • Children tell an average of seven adults they are being mistreated before it is reported to authorities

To ensure that children know that it is never okay for anyone to hurt or neglect them, DCFS is launching the “You are Not Alone” campaign with the simple message: if someone is hurting you, we can help.

“A decline in calls to our abuse and neglect hotline does not mean that child abuse and neglect have decreased—in fact, with this pandemic many families are suffering from extreme stress,” said Illinois DCFS Acting Director Marc D. Smith. “During this time when youth are at home—potentially with an abusive parent—and they don’t have a teacher, coach, or other trusted adult to turn to for help, we want them to know they are not alone. If a child is being hurt or neglected, he or she can call us at 1-800-25-ABUSE, and we will help.”

“Kids are smart, and they see things adults don’t,” said DCFS Medical Director Doctor Margaret Scotellaro. “My advice to them is to protect your siblings, your friends, and yourself. If you or someone you know is hurt or in danger, make the call. Help is here.”

DCFS is partnering with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to distribute posters in English and Spanish to pediatrician’s offices and IDPH healthcare facilities across the state and place the poster at children’s eye level.

“Sadly, about five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect,” said Robert Sege, MD, PhD, FAAP, a child abuse pediatrician and member of the AAP Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. “No doubt, we are worried about the financial and emotional stress this pandemic is placing on families, especially the most vulnerable. Call your pediatrician. Call your close friend, relative, or faith leader. Call someone if you fear snapping.”

“No child should have to endure abuse or neglect, and during these unprecedented times children may think that there’s nowhere to turn for help if they are in an unsafe situation at home,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike. “We are pleased to partner with DCFS and the American Academy of Pediatrics on this most important initiative to let children know that help is just a phone call away.”

Anyone concerned about the health or safety of a child should call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-25-ABUSE (252-2873).