Safe at home?

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A story published this week by The Chicago Reporter found that more than half the Cook County children about whom allegations of child sexual abuse are made are black. That’s despite studies showing that black children are not statistically more likely to be sexually abused than white children.

African-American families in Cook County are nearly twice as likely to be subjected to sexual abuse investigations than the share of black children in the county’s population, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of DCFS records of about 110,000 child sexual abuse cases from 2005 to 2009.

Yet, when the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services investigates these allegations, a lower percentage of them are found to be valid than those about white and Latino children, the analysis shows. This means that thousands of black children and their families during the past five years have gone through an investigative process that can take a big toll.

Another major finding: A little more than a quarter of all children in Cook County are African American, but black children were the subject of more than half of calls made to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services abuse hotline between 2005 and 2009.

Close to 2,200 of the 31,400 calls made to the hotline in Cook County over that period were made anonymously, the fourth-highest total among different groups of callers. But of these calls, just 6 percent were ultimately deemed valid after investigation.

In ZIP codes where African Americans made up more than 80 percent of the population, anonymous calls made to 1-800-25-ABUSE had a particularly low rate of allegations being deemed valid. In ZIP codes 60621, 60637 and 60644, which cover parts of South Side neighborhoods such as Englewood, Hyde Park and Woodlawn as well as the West Side’s Austin, DCFS deemed just two of the more than 200 anonymous calls as valid.

To read the entire story by Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, with contributions from Rebecca Freitag, Samantha Winslow and Brittney Wong, click here.

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