Shifting the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect

Publisher: ICOY Staff

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Recently, the ICOY Policy Team hosted a panel discussion, “Shifting the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect.” It focused on prevention, policy solutions, and the intersection of poverty and child maltreatment. The event featured an esteemed panel of experts. For example, it included two Directors from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Tierney Stutz and Lori Welcher-Evans. In addition, Chicago Chapin Hall Senior Policy Fellow Clare Anderson provided her expertise. Family & Community Advocate, Mentor, and Educator Vernessa Gipson, LMSW, added a rich first-hand perspective. Finally, State Representatives Carol Ammons (D-IL-103) and Tom Weber (R-IL-64) added a legislative and political lens. ICOY Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs Ashley Deckert moderated the event. Last but certainly not least, ICOY CEO Andrea Durbin offered opening and closing remarks.

Key Highlights from Shifting the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect

First, the discussion began with a poll of the attendees. The poll intended to gauge the attendees’ estimation of the percentage of children in Illinois living at or below the poverty line. Next, the poll asked attendees to chose from either “abuse”or “neglect” as the number one reason children and youth come in to care. Throughout the discussion, participants received insight on how Illinois can reshape and expand the recognition and understanding of neglect allegations. Moreover, the panelists discussed the role of prevention strategies in abuse and neglect. Finally, the conversation covered the intersection of poverty and maltreatment and policy solutions moving forward.

Each panelist brought an astounding level of passion, insight, and expertise to the discussion. For example, some panelists shared specific, personal examples of lived experiences within the child welfare system. In sharing these experiences, they expressed the hope to highlight the dire need for a paradigm shift. DCFS representatives addressed challenges they face within the system and the efforts that are being put forth to accurately assess safety in the future. For example, the Department recently announced the Safe Model, as well as other prevention and supportive services. Rep. Ammons and Rep. Weber highlighted current efforts to engage system changes. Furthermore, they suggested future policy considerations. Clare Anderson underscored the broader, federal, and nationwide efforts that can be utilized when addressing these salient issues in Illinois.

Key Take-Aways from Shifting the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect

  • Parents and caregivers fair better with natural, community, and formal supports which boost their own protective factors. In most cases, it is better for families to be served in and by the community rather than having a child removed from their home and placed into foster care.
  • The data strongly shows a correlation of poverty with allegations of neglect. In 2021, 64% of allegations in Illinois were due to neglect, unrelated to abuse. Neglect allegations consisted of inadequate food, clothes, shelter, or medical care, which are directly linked to a lack of resources, not intentional physical harm (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY2020 data).
  • We all have a role to play in keeping children safe and families strong. One of the keys to systemic reform and transformation is the partnership between community and state legislators to advocate for changes that are rooted in equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Prevention, Prevention, Prevention. Helping families meet the needs of their children through financial supports decreases the number of abuse and neglect allegations.

Additional Articles to Shift the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect

Additional Resources

ICOY is also extremely grateful for the robust engagement of the attendees! The questions and thoughts in the chat helped to better navigate the discussion. For those unable to join the conversation, please view the recording. Similarly, it may be useful to those who want to revisit or share the discussion. To clarify, this event was informational and policy-focused. It was not intended to indicate any position with regard to any candidate for political office.

In conclusion, ICOY is contributing to systems change, building and strengthening Illinois’ human service infrastructure so that families are healthy, inter-generationally successful, and thriving towards their full potential. As a result, the ICOY Policy Team intends to continue Shifting the Narrative on Abuse and Neglect through future panel events.

ICOY Staff Contributions

Written by ICOY Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs Ashley Deckert and Communications & Marketing Manager Melissa Franada. Editing contributions by ICOY CEO Andrea Durbin and Assistant Executive Director Sarah Daniels. Find more information on the ICOY Staff