April 2, 2014

JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – There is no easy win in the ongoing battle to defeat child abuse in Illinois. But a host of experts on the subject were effuse in their praise of those social workers on the front lines fighting the good fight to help improve a child’s life, and in some cases, saving that life.

“Everybody here is working in the trenches. The goal is to make a positive impact with a child,” said Perry County Assistant State’s Attorney David Searby. Searby was one of the featured speakers Tuesday at the invitation of the Poshard Foundation on the John A. Logan College campus.

The press conference was held as April has been designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is hoped that a greater awareness of the problem will help alleviate the problem.

Searby said it bothers him to see an increase in the number of children born from mothers addicted to meth, which translates to children inheriting that addiction.

Jo Poshard, co-founder of the Poshard Foundation, said spotting the warning signs of abuse may be a child’s “only lifeline” in righting a wrong at home. She said it’s advocates like those gathered who truly make a difference.

“Trust your instincts,” she said. “Report abuse if you think there is abuse and let the professionals take over the cause.”

Dr. Kathy Swafford, Children’s Medical Resource Network spokeswoman, said there are still thousands of unreported child abuse cases.

“The most common abuse is neglect,” she said. “That’s because it’s much harder to see and respond to.”

Swafford stressed, however, that such negative news, while certainly disheartening, is no reason to give up the battle.

“I feel we are fortunate here in Southern Illinois to have so many wonderful child advocates,” she said. “If there is at least one person in a child’s life he or she can trust, it can make a world of difference with that child.”

Department of Children and Family Services representative Don Rose said some people have termed child abuse and neglect “a hidden epidemic.”

Epidemic or not, he said, there remains much work to do.

“We need the right intervention and support to help keep children and their families out of our system,” Rose said. “Where needed, we must help secure food, housing and other basic needs. Every person has a role to play to prevent child abuse.”

Tarra Winters, representative of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, said the main message of Tuesday’s gathering at Logan is that prevention is the key to fixing the problem.

“What we do makes a difference,” she said. “Even though it can be a little discouraging when you hear some of the statistics, just remember that we have made a lot of progress over the last 20 years and we will continue to do so. We must remain undaunted in our effort. Because when it comes to children, we have to protect them. That’s our job."