Knowing this, there is a need to address children care concerns if the state is to fulfill its mission of providing everyone the opportunity to live their life to the fullest.When dealing with children care, two things come to mind - neglect and abuse (University of Illinois, 2006). Neglect is a condition wherein a parent or caretaker fails to provide the child with adequate food, shelter, education, supervision, clothing and other basic needs. It is the failure to do the responsibility attached with being the child's source of development. Child abuse is much more severe translating to physical and mental harm. It is the mistreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in their home or someone who works with or around the children. Examples of physical harm that were recorded include burns, bruises, broken bones and sexual molestation (whether it is fondling, incest or any other sexual act committed on the child's person). Mental harm generally accompanies physical harm due to the trauma the young child's mind experiences. One can just imagine the horror of recurrent memories of child battery and sexual molestation.Reports of child abuse in the city of Chicago (Chicago Babyzone, 2006) and the Illinois state in general are plenty. In the year 1986, 70, 245 children were reported as abused or neglected. This number increased to 139,720 cases in 1995. Recent statistics indicate an alarming frequency of instances where children are abused - 104,258 (2004), 97,428 92003) and 111,711 (2005). The numbers alone are alarming. However, it must be stated that these statistics include reports that were pranks and false in nature. For example, out of the 104,258 reports in the year 2004, 27,508 were confirmed (DCFS, 2006). The number, although representing one fifth of the reports, is still quite staggering.
To address the problem, policy makers established the Department of Children and Family Services. Its mandate is as follows;
"The Department of Children and Family Services shall upon receiving reports, under the Child abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, protect the best interest of the child, offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to the child and to other children in the family, stabilize the home environment and preserve family life whenever possible." (DCFS, 2006)
To do this, the following systems were set-up:
a) Child Abuse Hotline
A hotline was established to facilitate the reporting of any trespasses. Certain professionals such as health care practitioners and public officers were mandated as reporters if any abuse.
b) Investigation scheme
Reported cases are acted upon by an investigator not more than 24 hours since the report of the act.
c) Centers to provide rehabilitation, oversight and advocacy of the child's development
The department is supported by the state with funds amounting to $1.3 Billion for the fiscal year 2007.
The main critics of the Department's policy points out that the policy is just reactive and not proactive. If instead of just responding to the act after it was committed, why not establish a system where pre-emptive actions are employed This contention is being addressed by establishing links with other government agencies such as the Police Department and community organizations. The Department is currently the nations' largest welfare organization serving as a model for other states. What hinders the application of this program to other cities is the lack of initiative and funding (Illinois Child Welfare, 2006).
In the end, the success of the system in addressing the problem requires the cooperation of all the sectors of society. Every one of us