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TMCNet:  State upgrades child abuse hotline

[November 28, 2012]

State upgrades child abuse hotline

Nov 28, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The state launched a new computerized phone system this week to improve its clogged child abuse hotline.

The hotline -- considered Illinois' front door in protecting battered and neglected children -- had been operating with the original phone system from 1980.

The Tribune reported in July that more than 60 percent of more than 250,000 hotline callers last year weren't able to make a report on their first attempt. Instead, someone had to call them back.

Authorities said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which operates the hotline, lacked the ability to track average callback times. Hotline workers as well as police, teachers and doctors told the newspaper it could take several hours during peak periods to get a response.

They said the system was fraught with potential risk for children who could be left in dangerous situations.

The phone system was so dated that when the equipment to record calls broke down, replacement parts to fix it couldn't be located, officials said. Calls have not been recorded for quality assurance purposes since May 2011.

Money for the new $474,000 system was included in the agency's budget, but approval for its release was stalled in bureaucratic red tape.

DCFS officials said they finally received the green light to buy the new system after the newspaper highlighted the problem. After several months of installation and employee training, the first call was answered under the new system Tuesday, an agency official said.

"As with any new system, it's going to take some time before we can reach our goal of answering 100 percent of calls," said DCFS spokesman Dave Clarkin. "It is our front door, and it should always be open with every call being answered." ___ (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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