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Advocates say extended time away from school could expose some children to abuse

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Children throughout the state of Illinois remain home from school due to COVID-19. While many students are engaged in E-learning or spending quality time with family, others may be at risk for abuse.

"Imagine if you're a parent of children who are home right now and you have limited resources and quite possibly have anger management issues,"
says Carrie Lynn Center Executive Director Kathy Pomahac. "That could be a recipe for disaster."

The Carrie Lynn Center is a child advocacy organization that intervenes and brings aid to children who've experienced physical or sexual abuse.

"We get about 700 referrals every year of both types of cases," says Pomahac. "The majority of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know. Very often in their homes. "

Pomahac says of those hundreds of cases throughout Winnebago and Boone County, she estimates more than 50% come in thanks to referrals from teachers.

"With kids at home there's no extra eyes on them. There's no teachers watching over them, there's no one else that can intervene."

Pomahac says her office typically sees an uptick in cases after breaks from class. For example following Christmas, summer, or spring break.

"Now we've placed children back in their homes all day, every day," says Pomahac. "Giving offenders more access to their victims."

So what can the public do to help? Pomahac says it's as simple as if you see something, say something. She stresses that authorities can't intervene and help if they aren't made aware of what's happening.

"You have to make the phone call, you might be the child's only voice that can advocate for them."

The DCFS Hotline is 1-800-252-2873. Pomahac says you can also call your local police department to report abuse. If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden is the Investigative Reporter at WREX. She joined the team in December 2014 as the evening producer. In 2015 she made the move to evening reporter before joining the 13 Investigates team in May of 2018.

She grew up in Woodstock, Illinois and graduated from Woodstock High School in 2009. Mary graduated with a degree in Journalism and Marketing from Loyola University Chicago in 2013.

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