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Education campaign highlights need for residents to report abuse

GloriBunce (center) executive director CASA Kane County speaks with board members Dan Dolan Jackie Rosenfeldt about 'Grow A Healthy Child

Gloria Bunce (center), executive director of CASA Kane County, speaks with board members Dan Dolan and Jackie Rosenfeldt, about the "Grow A Healthy Child Garden" currently under construction at the rear entrance of the Kane County Courthouse. The CASA garden, along with an endowment program, are underway in an effort to create awareness as well as long-term funding, for abused and neglected children in Kane County | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 17, 2014 6:10AM

ST. CHARLES — A new educational campaign aims at reminding the public that everyone has a responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

CASA Kane County is leading a collaborative effort to not only increase awareness of the importance of reporting a child in trouble, but also to identify groups which can work with CASA to get the word out within the community.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, trains volunteers who are appointed to represent children involved in juvenile court.

“There are a lot people who don’t understand ... what our role is,” CASA Kane County Executive Director Gloria Bunce said recently during a press briefing with Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon.

CASA is already working with, among others, the Kane County Regional Office of Education and the Child Advocacy Center on a game plan for next year which involves meeting with school groups and churches to share the fundamental aspect of protecting children — if you see something, say something. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services hotline at 800-252-2873 takes reports anonymously.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t realize they can call DCFS,” McMahon said. “The sooner that call is made, DCFS can begin its investigation.”

Mandated reporters, such as teachers and medical personnel, are required to report their abuse or neglect suspicions directly to authorities. However, members of the public also have an obligation, even if it isn’t legally required, to do something if an issue involving a child presents itself, the officials said.

“Go with the gut,” Bunce said. “If you suspect abuse or neglect, you make the call.”

McMahon said abuse/neglect filings are up in 2013, and noted that such reports spike toward the end of the school year and around the mid-year point. He acknowledges there are no simple answers to working around the reluctance some people might have about getting involved if they suspect trouble with a child.

“They need someone to speak up for them,” he added.

CASA, which has served 550 kids this year, has already begun dispersing flyers and bookmarks with the simple message of everyone working together to keep children safe.

“It’s one child at a time,” Bunce said.

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