A scared little girl
A frightened girl hiding in the corner

Child abuse reports that go ignored may result in continued maltreatment and allowed ongoing contact between children and those who have abused them. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 676,000 children of the 3.5 million referred for investigation in 2017 were found to have experienced abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, some of the reported cases are wrongfully deemed unfounded while other instances of abuse go unreported, endangering the children involved.

The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Child Abuse

Child abuse may cause a range of short- and long-term effects for victims and survivors. Physical abuse may result in acute injuries, including bruises, abrasions, and broken bones. Children who suffer abuse at the hands of a parent may also experience psychological and emotional effects, including feelings of distrust, isolation, and fear. In the short-term, this may cause issues such as low self-esteem, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance.

Untreated, the effects of child abuse may stunt children’s brain development, which may increase a person’s risk for high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse. Suffering abuse as a child may also enhance people’s risk for long-term or future health problems including diabetes, lung disease, brain damage, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, and mental health conditions.

DCFS Failures and Inadequacies Endanger Children

A review of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ operations between from 2016 through 2018 by the Illinois Auditor General showed the agency continues to experience noncompliance issues and deficiencies, which may allow ongoing contact between children and an abusive parent or caregiver. The review’s findings revealed that DCFS does not always initiate investigations into claims of abuse or make determinations on abuse reports quickly enough to protect children. The agency has a mandate to investigate claims of abuse within 24-hours of receiving the report; however, more than 200 cases in the fiscal year 2018 still had no findings after 60 days.

Granting Custody or Visitation to Unfit Parents

As a result of failures to protect children from abusive parents, the courts may unwittingly place children in danger by awarding custody or visitation to parents or caregivers who have mistreated them. Judges may take histories of domestic violence and child abuse into consideration when making custody determinations. However, when inadequate investigations result in reports of abuse getting ignored, the court may not have adequate information to decide what is in a child’s best interests.