PEORIA - Only three cities in Illinois had more reports of child abuse and neglect than the River City in 2013. This afternoon local advocates rallied in Peoria for “Hands Around The Courthouse” to spread awareness.
“We feel like it is a cancer in our community. And the only way we can deal with it is to be out their vocalizing our concerns,” said Director of Youth Services at the Children’s Home Association Jeff Campbell.
Child abuse and neglect are growing problems in Peoria. According to CASA, there were 1,100 pending child abuse cases in Peoria County at the end of 2013. That’s nearly twice as many in 2010.
“We believe that poverty plays a major issue in abuse and neglect cases. Lack of education plays a major role in abuse and neglect,” continued Campbell.
Peoria County ranks fourth in the state in the number of child abuse and neglection cases and second per capita. According to authorities, 75% of those neglected are four or younger.
Advocates gathered for Hands Around the Courthouse Friday afternoon to raise awareness.
“We want to make some available resources for individuals so they not only become aware, but so they can put action to that awareness,” said Campbell.
“We are working together with different partner agencies to reduce the amount of cases of child abuse. But one of things they need to do as parents is to reduce stress so something like this doesn't happen,” said President and CEO of Crittenton Centers Jennifer Orban.
Local groups- like CASA and the Crittenton Centers- are doing their best to fight the problem.
But abuse prevention begins in the home.
“Experts have identified that child abuse is a learned behavior and so it seems to perpetuate itself,” said Peoria County State’s Attorney.
Which means in order to have a brighter tomorrow, children must be protected today.
“We found out that it's cyclical, however, if we deal with the parents at this level it can be eradicated for generations to come.”
Hands Around the Courthouse was hosted by the Youth Services Network Panel as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month.