Pediatric Resource Center needs help

DeWayne Bartels
This is one of the examination rooms for children at the Pediatric Resource Center.

Since 1874 some things have changed and some have not when it comes to child abuse.

That is the assessment of Lisa Schwab, executive director of the Pediatric Resource Center in Peoria.

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and Schwab wants to illustrate the scope of the problem here.

Unchanged

In 1874, Schwab said, a woman in New York City became aware of a little girl in her neighborhood who was being abused.

She learned many in the neighborhood were aware, but turned a blind eye.

“That woman became a pseudo social worker. She got involved. You have to realize in this country at that time we had animal protection laws, but no child welfare laws,” Schwab said.

“This woman went to court arguing the little girl was a member of the animal kingdom and, therefore, deserved protection.”

That was the start of child protection laws and child advocates.

“But, it’s still a tough subject for some people,” Schwab said.

“To some extent people, even today, are still uncomfortable getting involved. Some still want to believe people are not capable of this.”

Changed

What has changed is the approach taken here when child abuse is reported.

“We’re not talking about kids being spanked too hard. When it is uncovered it is treated seriously,” Schwab said.

PRC case managers work with doctors, police, DCFS, counselors and the state’s attorney.

Another thing that has changed is the realization that child abuse has a profound impact on society at large.

Schwab said it is now known that untreated child abuse can lead to long-term illness, loss of productivity and emotional problems with children growing up in a constant state of “crisis.”

Schwab said studies show that if the 895,000 abused children in the U.S. annually were ignored the cost to society in lost productivity and other ways would hit $124 billion annually.

“This is a societal issue,” Schwab said.

“Today kids are getting comprehensive care from people who are trained to help them. We have helped bring accountability for actions.”

At risk

The children in this equation, however, are not the only ones at risk, according to PRC Board President Mike Graham.

The East Peoria man says funding dependence on the state leaves PRC, itself, vulnerable.

“We need to be more like a business with diverse sources of income. We need rainy day funding,” Graham said.

While there is no imminent threat of state funding drying up, Graham said he worries as the state looks at austerity measures.

“We need only watch the news about what the state is doing to be concerned,” Graham said.

“We need to take steps to protect ourselves,” Graham said.