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DCFS Director Jess McDonald and Roy Harley, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois, hold a joint press conference announcing "The Paramour Project."


The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services today unveiled a series of public service announcements developed by some of Illinois’ top advertisers to launch a new attack on child abuse, with a focus on abuse by live-in boyfriends.
The announcements, to be distributed to broadcast and print media statewide, were developed in partnership by DCFS and Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois.

The announcements stress the importance of reporting abuse and neglect when suspected, and incorporate a new campaign called "The Paramour Project," which highlights the disturbing number of children abused at the hands of live-in boyfriends.

"We need to work together to make Illinois a safer place for children," said Governor George H. Ryan. "Violence inflicted on children is intolerable. If you suspect it, report it."

In fiscal year 1998, 114,002 children were reported abused or neglected statewide -- 37,045 of those cases were confirmed by DCFS investigators. In fiscal year 1997, 119,445 children were reported abused or neglected -- 41,922 were confirmed. Here in Cook County, 46,752 children were reported abused or neglected in fiscal year 1998 -- 14,434 were confirmed. In fiscal year 1997, 49,613 children were reported abused or neglected -- 17,871 were confirmed.

In the past five years, 24,860 children have been victims of substantiated child abuse in cases where the parental substitute was identified as the person responsible for inflicting the abuse. Of these children, 59 died from their injuries.

While parental substitutes (90 percent of whom are males) are the indicated perpetrator in cases involving about 11 percent of all children abused during this time period, they were responsible for causing 14 percent of child deaths due to abuse or neglect.

"Single mothers, in particular, need to know the danger of leaving their children in the care of untrained, unrelated male caregivers," said Department of Children and Family Services Director Jess McDonald. "One moment of uncontrolled rage has too often resulted in the injuries and deaths of children. These public service announcements are one more way to make the public aware of the role that ‘mother’s boyfriend’ plays in some of the most heinous child abuse cases."

Under state law, child deaths resulting from abuse or neglect are reviewed by a child death review team in the region where the death occurred. "The Paramour Project" evolved from the alarm expressed by review teams over the high number of child abuse cases involving live-in boyfriends.

The project was managed by Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois, which worked directly with Chicago Creative Partnership and Euro RSCG Tatham, both of Chicago, to develop the announcements.

"We can’t reinforce enough the importance of combating this social tragedy.

These announcements are jarring and effective," said Roy Harley, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois.

In late 1997, Prevent Child Abuse – Illinois sought proposals from Illinois advertising agencies to produce "The Paramour Project." Euro RSCG Tatham, the successful applicant, developed the pro bono campaign. Euro RSCG Tatham’s public service announcement features images of a boy with increasing injuries and several voice overs suggesting the abuser’s resentment toward the child: "He says your kid needs a firm hand…He’s too old to be wetting the bed." The final scene depicts the child with bruised face and lip. The abuser’s explanation: "He fell down the stairs."

A second Euro RSCG Tatham announcement features a tricycle slowly coming into view, until the image dissolves into a picture of a headstone: "This is what she asked for on her third birthday (tricycle). This is what she got (headstone)."

Also developed pro bono, Chicago Creative Partnership’s 30-second television contribution, entitled "Make It Stop," depicts a toddler stepping off a street curb and into heavy traffic. Just as the child is about to be struck by a car, the camera stops. "Would you stop? Would you help save a child’s life?" the voice of actor Anthony Edwards of the television show E.R. asks. This powerful metaphor underscores the importance of reporting suspected child abuse to the DCFS State Central Register (1-800-25-ABUSE).

The advertisements developed for print media make use of similar themes. One, for example, depicts an injured child alongside a baseball bat: "A rounded wooden club used to strike a ball…Sometimes other things."


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