Child Abuse Increase Spurs County to Try New Prevention Program
Williams, Amy E., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
McHenry County health officials are hoping to start a new program this year aimed at combating the rising number of local child abuse cases.
From 1990 to 1997, the number of cases in McHenry County rose by 46 percent.
In 1990, there were 7.2 cases per 1,000 residents 17 and younger. In 1997, that number rose to 10.5 cases per 1000, or a total of 734 founded cases of physical, psychological or sexual abuse.
The increase has alarmed McHenry County Department of Health officials, especially when it is compared to the average statewide increase of 1.5 percent for the same time period.
The state still has a higher incidence of child abuse reports, with 13.2 cases per 1,000 people. However, the rate is growing much faster in McHenry County.
"This was of concern because our numbers are going up and the state is staying steady," McHenry County Public Health Administrator Robert Murray said. "If the state was going up too, we would be concerned, but less concerned.
"This is an important issue," Murray said.
Board of health members directed Murray and his staff this week to make child abuse prevention programs a priority for the health department.
Presently, the county has no programs specifically aimed at preventing child abuse, only programs aimed at helping children who have been abused.
But after analyzing the numbers, Murray said, the department is changing its approach and implementing a new program to stop problems before they start.
Child abuse can be hard to stop, he said, because health officials can't pinpoint exactly what's causing the increase.
However, Murray said he believes the numbers are rising in part because of McHenry County's growing population.
"One of the things we see is the population, particularly in the southeast corner of the county, is getting more heavily populated," Murray said. …