Main editorial

THE ISSUE:

Advocacy services combine forces to ensure the safety of children.

OUR VIEW:

Funding is needed to support the Unified Child Advocacy Network that serves Macoupin and four neighboring counties.

CARLINVILLE (Nov. 30, 2017) – Hardly a day goes by when the news doesn’t tell us of some horrors leveled upon children. Sadly, the approaching holidays do not make such abuse stop. And yes, this is happening in Macoupin County as evidenced by the 746 cases of child abuse or neglect cases that were under investigation in 2015, which are the latest statistics available. Sadly, among our neighboring counties, Macoupin County ranked first, Montgomery second with 405 cases, Jersey County, 219; Greene County, 167; and Calhoun County, 28.

The United Child Advocacy Network (UCAN) is a newly formed non-profit organization that provides training, prevention, and treatment services in preventing child abuse. UCAN works together with professionals from Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, local law enforcement agencies, States Attorney’s office, and professionals from the medical and mental health fields. It was developed to bring together a community effort to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

While each of the five counties mentioned will have their own office, Carlinville’s is located at 205 Oakland Avenue. The group describes its mission as being to serve, protect and advocate for children affected by sexual abuse and serious physical abuse and to educate the community about child abuse. UCAN provides services for sexual abuse victims and non-offending families.

Sharon Clagg, executive director of the organization, has explained the agency works in cooperation with law enforcement and DCFS personnel regarding sexual abuse or severe physical abuse of children ages three through 18 and the child’s non-offending caretaker. Child advocates assist children by being present when court testimony is required.

The agency faces many hurdles, including awareness of the issue itself and funding to keep the agency operational. Both hurdles are equally daunting in their own right. With most of their funding coming from the state, such a plan is unstable at best due to the poor financial condition of the state. Fortunately the Crimestoppers of Macoupin and Montgomery counties have both been a source of funding in the interim. As a designated 501(c)3 organization, any contributions are tax-deductible according to the current tax code.

Current members of the UCAN board of directors include Mayor Deanna Demuzio and Blackburn College President John Comerford of Carlinville, Mayor Brian Sullivan and Kim Noyes of Hillsboro, and Sherry Droste and Lisa Schuenke from Jerseyville.

UCAN has a hotline phone number of (800) 422-4453 that citizens may use to report the suspicion of child abuse. In today’s society it is important for citizens to be vigilant regarding any suspicions and to be aware of their neighbors. The recent case of child starvation in Jerseyville went totally undetected by neighbors. Children need to have someone to advocate for them. That someone is often a concerned neighbor. UCAN provides an important safety net for those who have no one. We wish them well as they seek to fulfill their mission.