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Event puts focus on preventing child abuse and neglect

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It felt more like a late fall day than early spring on Friday, with the cold wind whipping across the Peoria County Courthouse Plaza.

But that didn’t stop a couple hundred people, including children, from gathering there to hold hands in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month during April.

The event, Hands Around the Courthouse, was the seventh annual as agencies devoted to the protection of children continuously work to build awareness of child abuse and neglect in the community.

“There needs to be more emphasis on those residents with the most need. I think all would agree we always need to protect the children,” said Judge David Dubicki, who presides over the Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Court in Peoria County.

Noting that some of the parents he now sees in the courtroom were there as children years earlier, Dubicki reminded those in the crowd that family histories carry forward in such matters as abuse and neglect.

“We are attempting to break that cycle or at least put a dent in it,” he said.

Judge Al Purham, who presides over Peoria County’s Juvenile Delinquent Court, said abuse and neglect spans generations and that many cases drag out for years. “Without your commitment and support, many of the individuals get lost in the system,” he said.

The event was an opportunity for the judges and other to thank those who work in the agencies charged with preventing abuse and neglect, said Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady.

Because, as statistics show, most victims of abuse and neglect are age 4 or younger, the case workers, investigators, prosecutors and other personnel often must deal with parents who themselves feel violated and wronged. “These parents often feel you are just interfering and they don’t appreciate what you are trying to do for them and for their children,” Brady said.

“I am here to tell you we appreciate everything you do,” he said.

Brady said in the years he has attended the Hands Around the Courthouse event he has come to realize three things: That it is always going to be cold and windy, that the participants will have cold hands, “but also, that you all have warm hearts.”

Other agencies were also represented at the event, including the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, Crittenton Center, Common Place and the Pediactric Resource Center. The Humane Society was on hand with umbrellas.

A youth group called Peace Prints Singers performed.  

A key message from the speakers and various posters around the plaza was that abuse and neglect can be curbed if more people would step up and report it. While there are many professions that are mandated by law to report suspected abuse and neglect, including teachers, caregivers and those in the medical professions, it would help if friends and neighbors stepped up, as well.

They also encouraged people who feel they are ready to strike their children to get help before they do something they will regret.

The state hotline number to call if you know or suspect a child is being abused or neglected is (800) 252-2873.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).