Child Abuse and Neglect Increasing in Suburbs Study Finds Kids Face a Rocky Road Growing Up in 'Stressed Out' Families
Janota, Laura, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Laura Janota Daily Herald Staff Writer
From birth through adulthood, being a child in today's suburbs can be a rocky ride.
These days, it's apt to start smoothly: Chances for suburban infants surviving at birth have greatly increased, a study by the not-for-profit Voices For Illinois Children shows.
It's when the child goes home to grow - often to dysfunctional, stressed families - that the ride gets increasingly rough, the group said.
The annual Illinois Kids Count study ranked Illinois 34th out of the 50 states for childhood well-being in 1996. It shows child abuse and neglect rising in the suburbs.
While unemployment and poverty among children fell during the last five years, the study found suburban children more often are being placed in foster homes, group homes or with relatives for care.
A drop in the region's infant mortality rate, coupled with findings that more pregnant women today are getting prenatal care, comes after years of education and medical breakthroughs.
"One of the main things we're doing right is that there has been a drop in teenaged pregnancies," said Dr. Richard Burnstine, a Buffalo Grove pediatrician.
"We've also been increasing our care in natal intensive care units. Smaller and smaller babies are living with newer and better techniques."
The good news is tempered by study findings that many suburban families and their children are facing growing problems.
"Parents tend to be really stressed out with their jobs," said Denny Clouse, a licensed clinical social worker at Central Baptist Family Services in Elgin.
"They're stressed by their environments. They're strained with their budgets. They've got kids who have special needs."
Clouse oversees at a weekly support group meeting of Parents Anonymous.
In six years, similar groups have sprung up in 65 locations including Carpentersville, Elgin, Mount Prospect and Schaumburg.
Groups also are about to get started in Arlington Heights, Palatine and Rolling Meadows, said Maureen Blaha, director of Illinois Parents Anonymous.
Children in the suburbs are being cared for more often outside the home because of substance-abuse problems among parents, the experts say.
"The majority of kids in placement today have parents who have drug-addiction problems," said Karen Salmon, director of the north central region of the Children's Home and Aid Society in Palatine. …