This exploratory study examines child abuse and neglect by concentrating on one aspect of this complex public issue: the current state of advocacy in Illinois. Following a review of the literature, this paper explores the vital role of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and its participation in advocacy for abused and neglected children.

A sample of six demographically similar counties from the state of Illinois is selected for study. Although demographically similar, the counties have statistically significant differences between their indication rates--those children found to be abused and neglected through investigation by DCFS. Current and respected theories in the fields of sociology, social work, and criminology are examined to explain these differences in indication rates. Although there is statistical significance and face validity indicated between some of the variables and indication rates, the small sample restricts this to an exploratory study.

Two final hypotheses are examined. The first regards the possible influence of the organizational structure and cohesion of each individual DCFS office on its indication rate. The second studies the possible effect of public visibility of the individual agency on its indication rate. Data was obtained from telephone interviews of the six agency directors. Of all the variables considered, the visibility of the DCFS office in the community is found to have the highest correlation to indication rates both statistically and on face validity. These findings are discussed and recommendations are made for continued study in the hope that this information will increase public knowledge of child abuse and neglect, thereby increasing protection of the vulnerable child.



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