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Child abuse cases increase in southern Illinois

WILLIAMSON COUNTY (WSIL) — Officials report a record high of child abuse cases. Between January and April of 2019, the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) received more than 10,000 reports in southern Illinois. In 2017 Illinois had nearly 17,000 children in DCFS custody. As of March 2019 Williamson County had 213 open juvenile cases.

Nannette Vaughn, the director at Casa Williamson County, says she’s seen dozens of child abuse cases but recently there’s been an increase. 

"We had a record year 2017 with 95 and then we had another record high in 2018 with 105 new cases," said Vaughn. 

She adds, although that number might seem alarming, Vaughn is still happy people are speaking out and seeking help. 

"Since people are stepping up and speaking out then were getting the care and the attention that our children need to have," Vaughn explained. 

She says there are different forms of child abuse like; physical, emotional, sexual abuse are all taken seriously. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services receives and investigates a report of suspected child abuse or neglect every five minutes, and a report of child sexual abuse every two hours.

Williamson County States Attorney Brandon Zanotti says he makes sure the state prosecutes child abuse cases seriously. 

"First and foremost, like I always say these are some of the most important cases we have they are a lot of the times the most difficult cases that we have," said Zanotti.

He adds it’s a team effort to bring people to justice and certain cases can become challenging for him and his team.

"It’s not like the TV shows like CSI where there is an inevitable a smoking gun and all the evidence just matches up a lot of the time that’s not the case," he explained. 

Zanotti and Vaughn want the public to report any suspicion of child abuse. They add, you don’t need to have proof of the abuse, just make the call. That number is: 800-25-ABUSE (22873). For life-threatening cases, you should call 911 immediately.

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