April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, though helping abused and neglected children is a year-round mission for Bob Runke, a volunteer for CASA Kane County.
"The number of cases surprised me and the severity of the cases surprised me," said the Batavia man, who has volunteered for more than five years. "There are no boundaries in any of this. It can be anybody in any situation."
Contact information ( * required )
Authorities and child advocates say people need to trust their instincts and report suspected abuse.
"It's as simple as going with your gut," said Gloria Bunce, executive director at CASA Kane County. "You lose nothing by making a hotline call. But a child can lose so much more."
The Department of Children and Family Services hotline is (800) 252-2873 or (800) 25-ABUSE.
Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Lark Cowart said perceptions that child abuse and neglect are predominantly a crime committed by low-income minorities are false.
"It's not a poor minority problem. It's an everyone problem," Cowart said, noting that more cases of physical and sexual abuse against children are being reported each year, but the number reported from mandated reporters has remained constant.
Certain professions, such as medical and school personnel, are mandated to report suspected child abuse so DCFS can investigate. Most of the time, the abuse comes from a person the child knows, authorities say.
More information about signs of abuse can be found at childwelfare.gov.
Bunce, Runke and other authorities speaking at Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon's monthly media meeting Tuesday said it's especially important for residents to be observant and to act on their instincts.
"You need to have the same level of courage that the kids have," Bunce said. "Speak out. Prevention is the only way we're going to cut down on these tragedies."
The Kane County Child Advocacy Center investigates crimes against children locally; CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, helps abused and neglected children by appointing a specially trained guardian to work in the child's best interests through court proceedings.
Runke has handled three cases for CASA, one for a 3-year-old girl and two others involving 16- and 17-year-old boys.
"These young people need to trust somebody. My opening statement is, 'I will never lie to you,' " he said.