Report: Early support for stressed parents can cut crime down the line

  • If we want to keep people out of jail, we need to pay more attention to them when they are in the cradle.That includes making sure young parents get the support they need to raise their child without abuse or neglect, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law-enforcement leaders, prosecutors and violence survivors.

    If we want to keep people out of jail, we need to pay more attention to them when they are in the cradle.That includes making sure young parents get the support they need to raise their child without abuse or neglect, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law-enforcement leaders, prosecutors and violence survivors. Getty Images

 
Updated 9/25/2020 9:15 AM

If we want to keep people out of jail, we need to pay more attention to them when they are in the cradle.

That includes making sure young parents get the support they need to raise their child without abuse or neglect, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national organization of law-enforcement leaders, prosecutors and violence survivors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart spoke at a news conference this week announcing the report, "Reducing Child Abuse and Neglect Through Evidence-Based Home Visiting: Parent-Coaching Programs in Illinois Improve Academic and Health Outcomes."

It says parent coaching programs can break multigenerational chains of abuse and neglect in families that have issues with drug addiction, poverty and single parenthood.

"Every parent can tell you they need support. And for new and very young parents, that support can be very hard to find," McMahon said.

During home visits, trained professionals such as nurses and social workers can show parents how to manage the stress of child-rearing, teach them ways to guide toddlers away from problem behaviors rather than lashing out, help them understand their child's development, encourage parent-child bonding and help parents find other support.

Home visits can start as soon as the mother is pregnant.

Effect on crime?

McMahon said the criminal justice system treats the symptoms of violent crime, "not the root of the problem." Victims of child abuse or neglect are twice as likely as their non-abused peers to commit a crime by age 19, he said. The report also cites a study that showed that adults who had four or more childhood traumas were three times as likely to abuse prescription pain reliever, and five times as likely to use injectable drugs.

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The study also noted that in a survey of Illinois adult prisoners, 49 percent had not completed high school or obtained a GED. Home-visit programs, the study said, result in better academic outcomes for children.

"The evidence is startling. It is so clear that prevention is the key solution," Dart said. "There is no arresting your way out of problems."

The organization wants state leaders to give more money to agencies that visit homes, so they can see twice as many people. The agencies saw 17,000 clients in 2019, according to the report.

An agency that could benefit is Teen Parent Connection in DuPage County. Rosy Barrera, one of its family support specialists, said Teen Parent aids parents ages 12 to 22.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

One of her clients is Maria Medina, 19, who has a 2-year-old son. "It is just really great to have someone in my corner at the end of the day," Medina said. She consults with Barrera about stressors such as her son being upset while teething, or when he didn't seem to eat enough, or wouldn't sleep at night. Especially since Medina suffered from postpartum depression. "She helped me to push through," Medina said. "She helped me to get a job, she helped me to understand my kid."

"We are here to take a stand for families across our state," McMahon said.

Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Mary Lu Cole was named the Outstanding Assistant State's Attorney for 2020 by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists -- Illinois.
Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Mary Lu Cole was named the Outstanding Assistant State's Attorney for 2020 by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists -- Illinois. - Courtesy of the Lake County state's attorney's office
Lake prosecutor honored

A big congratulations to Lake County's Mary Lu Cole, who's been named the Outstanding Assistant State's Attorney for 2020 by the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists -- Illinois.

The award is a recognition of Cole's dedication to delivering justice for impaired-driving crash victims and their families.

"I am truly honored and privileged to receive this prestigious award from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists," Cole said. "It's an honor to work alongside this group in our continued effort to reduce the number of deaths due to people who drive while impaired or distracted."

Cole has been an assistant state's attorney in Lake County for just under two years, prosecuting misdemeanor DUI cases.

"She is the consummate professional and one of the hardest workers in our office. This award is very well-deserved," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said in an announcement of the award.

Cathy Stanley, court watch director for AAIM, said Cole's work routinely stood out in 2020.

"Mary does a great job of helping victims and attorneys," she said. "She's very fair, honest, and treats everyone extremely professionally."

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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