Each April, the "Teaming up to Keep
Kids…Safe at Home" event serves to encourage people across the
country to join forces to raise awareness of the terrible tragedy of
child abuse and to promote specific ways the public can help to
prevent these occurrences in their communities. During ceremonies in
Chicago, Mrs. Blagojevich emphasized the importance of increasing
awareness of child abuse prevention, and she recognized
award-winning local initiatives. The first lady also encouraged the
child welfare community to continue to increase public understanding
of efforts to provide services designed to prevent child abuse and
"It is necessary that
we take this message of prevention into the community," Mrs.
Blagojevich said. "Our priority is to empower families with the
information and services that will allow them to create safer homes
and communities for children. Our emphasis needs to be on prevention
programs that work to connect families to needed resources, to
ensure healthy children, and to predict and address abusive
situations before they happen. The public is aware of the prevalence
and seriousness of child abuse, but we must continue to deepen
people's understanding of the problem and its solutions."
Recent statistics from the
Department of Children and Family Services show that there are
significantly fewer reports of child abuse and neglect in Illinois
than in past years. Since 1997, the number of reports investigated
for abuse or neglect declined 12.8 percent, the number of reports
with indicated victims of child abuse or neglect decreased by 34.5
percent, and the number of children taken into protective custody
decreased by 28 percent.
The state's ability to provide
services for children in its care has been significantly improved by
reforms implemented in the last two years. The first lady served on
the Department of Children and Family Services Task Force, where she
helped create a blueprint to reform the agency. Successful
Implementation of a "lifetime approach" delivery of services that
includes "day one" assessments, streamlined services, a new
emphasis on the impact of trauma and intensive stabilization
services for youth with multiple placements.
Establishment of the Child Location and Support Unit for Missing
Children, which includes a unique computer tracking system and a
24-hour phone line.
Development of a child endangerment risk assessment protocol -- a
structured decision-making process that has contributed to a 48
percent reduction in children being re-abused after contact with
the Department of Children and Family Services.
Reorganization of the Division of Child Protection to speed
service delivery by forming teams of investigators and follow-up
Establishment of a medical forensic task force that includes a
network of pediatric experts in the field of child abuse and
neglect to provide assistance and second opinions on medically
Implementation of the nation's first Web-based Statewide Automated
Child Welfare Information System, which dramatically improves
access to the most current information for child protection
workers, supervisors and managers.
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Increasing Department of Children and Family Services staff in
areas where the volume of reports is higher than average.
all child protection supervisory staff to have a master of social
Child Advocacy Centers, which coordinate investigations of child
sexual abuse and serious physical injury.
- Creation of four citizens' review
panels, which review Department of Children and Family Services
policies and case records and make recommendations to strengthen
policies and improve the safety of at-risk children.
"The first lady's active and
substantive involvement on the DCFS Task Force contributed to the
positive direction we believe our agency is heading," said Bryan
Samuels, director of the Department of Children and Family Services.
"While we continually aim to improve our policies and programs, we
also realize that serving the best interests of children depends on
the resources, expertise and collaboration among key stakeholders
such as Prevent Child Abuse Illinois."
During the ceremony Friday at
Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, the first lady honored
recipients of awards given to local programs to raise awareness and
reduce child abuse and neglect. This year's winner of the Program
Excellence Award is the Chicago Area Project. The recipient of the
Blue Ribbon Campaign Award is Hands Around the Courthouse, a Parents
Care & Share program of The Children's Home & Aid Society of
Following the awards presentation,
Mrs. Blagojevich tied blue bows to trees in front of the church as a
visible expression of a commitment to help prevent child abuse and
neglect. The blue bows, representing hidden bruises abused children
carry with them throughout their life, serve to remind the public of
the importance of preventing child abuse before it starts.
Similar ceremonies were conducted in
Springfield and Mount Vernon.
As first lady, Patti Blagojevich has
worked tirelessly to promote initiatives that help Illinois families
bring up happy, healthy and successful children. She has worked to
promote the Prevention Development Resource Project -- a partnership
between the Department of Children and Family Services and Prevent
Child Abuse Illinois -- that links parents with agencies offering
services to those who are affected by substance abuse and domestic
violence or who need other family support services.
The first lady was also recently
honored by ORBIS International for spearheading the Illinois
Pediatric Vision Awareness Initiative, the first state-sponsored
campaign in the U.S. to specifically target amblyopia, or lazy eye,
In February, Mrs. Blagojevich
launched the Children's Reading Club literacy initiative. The
Children's Reading Club consists of a recommended reading list made
up of books the first lady and her daughters enjoy reading at home.
The first lady began the Children's Reading Club to encourage
parents to read with their children and hopes the recommended list
will enable parents to find books the whole family will enjoy.
[News release from the governor's