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WJBD - Local News - Jefferson County Ranks Highest in Child Abuse in Illinois, Stats Say

Jefferson County Ranks Highest in Child Abuse in Illinois, Stats Say

By Rob Sussman, WJBD News

Troubling statistics from the non-partisan Voices for Children advocacy group reveal that Jefferson County has the highest child abuse and neglect rate in the entire state of Illinois.  Marion County ranks fifth.

The annual report released Thursday revealed that for every 1,000 children in Jefferson County, 36.5 of them are abused or neglected. That amounts to 363 actual cases last year, a jump from 257 the year before.  For comparison's sake, nearby Clinton County has a rate of 4.7 per every 1,000 children, the lowest rate in the 51 most populated counties in the state.  Clinton County had only 43 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect, down from 66 the year before.  

Marion County had the fifth-highest rate in the state, with a rate of 20.5 per 1,000.  That number reflects 227 cases last year, up from 210 the year before.  However, the rate has been much higher, peaking at 318 cases reported in 2000.  

Voices for Children Spokesman Larry Joseph says that high child poverty rates as well as high unemployment rates are correlated to higher child abuse rates.  "Both Marion and Jefferson are counties where child poverty rates have been increasing for a decade" said Joseph "One of the things we've found is that poverty and child abuse [are correlated]. Especially in areas where child poverty rates have been increasing."

The news in the report was not all bad. The rate of children without Health Insurance fell from 6% to 3% since 2008. Joseph hopes that the Affordable Care Act's implementation, which took place after statistics were gathered, will help lower that percentage even further.

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