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Springfield IL 62701-1498
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SPRINGFIELD, IL, SEPTEMBER 5, 1997 --The Department of Children and Family Services has initiated its first child abuse investigation to be partly based on an e-mail message sent to its web site.
An e-mail message about a possible child abuse incident in the Chicago area was sent by an out-of-state visitor to the Departmentís web site on August 29, according to Department spokesperson Maudlyne Ihejirika. Within minutes, a copy of the message was delivered to a DCFS Child Abuse Hotline worker, who called the reporter back by phone and collected sufficient information to begin a child abuse investigation. The investigation is still underway.

"This was a unique call and we were able to respond quickly," DCFS Director Jess McDonald said. "However, we strongly discourage the use of e-mail to report child abuse or neglect. Timeliness and confidentiality are the two most important reasons why our Hotline should be called directly. E-mail messages sent during evenings, weekends or holidays will not likely be read until the next business day. And thereís always the worry about unauthorized Internet users gaining access to e-mail systems."

The DCFS web site now contains new directions cautioning visitors not to report child abuse or neglect by e-mail. Instead, Illinois visitors will be asked to call the Hotlineís toll-free number, 1-800-25-ABUSE. Out-of-state callers should call the Hotline at 217-524-2606.

The DCFS web site ( has welcomed numerous visitors since its May 1 opening date. Its most popular attraction is a photo listing of adoptable children. The site also includes child welfare brochures and newsletters, a phone directory for DCFS offices, and a variety of information about the stateís child welfare system.

New offerings at the DCFS web site will soon include links to related child welfare sites on the Internet, several new brochures, plus an on-line version of the Departmentís popular guide, A Manual for Mandated Reporters, which details the process of reporting child abuse and neglect cases in Illinois.

"Our Department serves many audiences and our web site is being redesigned to meet a diversity of interests," McDonald said. "Students, foster parents, child care providers, child welfare professionals and members of the general public should all feel at home here. We are working hard to make our site a place people will visit for valuable child welfare information again and again."



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