Child Abuse, Neglect Reports Drop In McLean County During COVID Isolation
Child protection advocates in McLean County expect to see an increase in abuse and neglect reports as schools and more of the economy reopens.
Molly Evans is executive director of the McLean County Children's Advocacy Center and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Her office handles abuse and neglect cases in McLean, DeWitt and Livingston counties.
Evans said child abuse was likely more common during the pandemic, but fewer kids had access to teachers, counselors and others who are required to report abuse.
“We believe that abuse thrives in isolation,” Evans said. “We have been prepared that as these kids are out and back in daycare and in school and involved in extracurricular activities that we will likely see numbers increase."
Evans said her office handled about 20% fewer abuse and neglect cases last year compared to 2019, and they are down this year, too.
Evans said parents should talk to their children early about boundaries as soon as they can identify their body parts.
“We encourage parents to teach kids at a very young age the proper names for their body parts, having conversations with them about touches that are OK and not OK, and use examples to set that up for kids so they can fully understand,” she said.
Evans also advises parents to tell their children to have a "no secrets" rule in case an adult tries to prevent them from sharing a story of abuse with a parent or guardian.
“That should be a red flag for that child to come back to that parent," said Evans, adding about one in 10 children is sexually abused by their 18th birthday. She said 90% of victims know their abuser.
The CAC will host a free child abuse prevention training from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at its offices at the McLean County Health Department building, 200 W. Front St., Bloomington. More information is available by calling (309) 888-5656.