Close to 26,000 cases reported in Cook County for 2019

CHICAGO – Despite numerous efforts focusing on child maltreatment prevention, child abuse and neglect remain a tragically common occurrence in the U.S., with thousands of children dying each year. In Cook County alone, 25,918 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported for fiscal year 2019. Among reported cases, 35 children died because of caregiver abuse or neglect. In fact, for children living in Cook County, the rate of child abuse and neglect resulting in death or serious injury has remained steady from 2014 to 2019, with a slight uptick in 2019.

Cook County Health (CCH) recognizes the urgency of this issue and has been awarded $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime to closely study the problem. The grant monies will be dispersed over three years and will be used to put a strategic plan in place to reduce child fatalities and recurring injuries. Together with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, CCH will bring together other critical stakeholders to form the Collaboration of Helpers Lowering Deaths of Children (Project CHILD). Project CHILD is aimed at reducing the incidence of child maltreatment across three Illinois counties, namely, Cook, Peoria and Vermillion.

“We now know child maltreatment leaves a lasting impact on both the physical and psychological health of victims for decades to come; these ‘adverse childhood Experiences’ can even influence the health and well-being of future generations through our genes,” said Dr. Marjorie Fujara, chair of child and family wellness for Cook County Health. “There is also a clear connection between child maltreatment and community violence. What we have is a complex public health problem that requires a coordinated, collaborative response by every agency and professional that comes into contact with vulnerable children and their families.”

Using a public health model, the Project CHILD collaborative will address the problem using effective primary prevention strategies through parenting education, a home visiting nurse program and referring families to a medical home. Innovative strategies using a simulation laboratory, regional unit-based multidisciplinary teams and telehealth technology will also be utilized to improve the assessment of information gathered during investigations.

CCH is committed to improving the overall health and well-being of children in Cook County. With this additional funding, the health system will continue its quest to address child maltreatment, ultimately lowering preventable child fatalities and recurring injuries, while supporting families so that the challenges they face are manageable.