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Study finds more Will County children in danger

R. Dale Evans social services coordinator for Housing Authority Joliet discusses report by Voices for Illinois Children thfound disturbing increase

R. Dale Evans, social services coordinator for the Housing Authority of Joliet, discusses a report by Voices for Illinois Children that found a disturbing increase in child abuse and neglect in Will County during the past seven years. | Frank Vaisvilas ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 8, 2014 6:36AM



Cases of child abuse and neglect in Will County have risen by 69 percent during the past seven years compared with 13 percent statewide, according to a report released Thursday by Voices for Illinois Children.

The nonprofit organization’s report also found that the number of children living in poverty in the county increased from 7 percent to 12 percent between 2006 and 2011.

Children’s and family health advocates discussed the report at a news conference at Aunt Martha’s Community Health Center in Joliet.

“These numbers tell us everything is not OK,” R. Dale Evans, social services coordinator for the Housing Authority of Joliet, said, adding that he hoped the “report will spark communication among the communities.”

Chris Buzdon is executive director of Child Care Resource and Referral, which provides child care information and services in Will, Kankakee, Grundy and Kendall counties. She said she believes the rise in child abuse is directly linked to increasing poverty, which places greater stress and frustration on families.

“There are real pockets of poverty (in Will County),” Buzdon said.

The report also found that the percentage of children in the county without health insurance declined from 10.3 percent to 3.4 percent in 2011 thanks to state programs such as KidCare and All Kids.

And the number of kids covered by Medicaid rose by 120 percent between 2005 and 2012 in Will County compared with 47 percent in the state.

“That’s really a good thing,” Buzdon said. “But it just confirms the number of children in poverty in Will County.”

Still, advocates said they hoped that a successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will help further reduce the number of children and families without health insurance.

Buzdon said poor families need a safety net to provide medical insurance, housing, food and clothing to children so they can perform better in their school classes.

“We in the community need to do a better job in terms of linking those families with resources and then children can do a better job in school,” Buzdon said.

Social workers at the event said they’re doing all they can with limited resources.

The news conference also served as a networking event for nonprofit groups to benefit from each others’ services. For example, Evans encouraged the groups to enlist the help of Kristine Cain-Kulig, who was there providing information about the Will County Health Department’s mobile dental van.

With the help of Orland Park Dental Services, the van provided basic dental care to about 4,300 children last year in Will County, Cain-Kulig said.



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