WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) – New numbers out today show there were more than 600 new child abuse and neglect cases reported in Winnebago County last year, which has forced the courts to open another juvenile courtroom to handle the startling number of cases.
Taryn Marko says she sees thousands of kids coming through the Winnebago County Juvenile Courts as victims of child abuse and neglect. One judge in the courtroom wasn’t enough to handle the more than 600 reported cases.
“With anew courtroom, there’s new staff, very trained and able to give each family and each child the wrap around services they need.”
Starting this month, the Winnebago County courts are using a third juvenile courtroom for judges to hear the overwhelming number of child abuse and neglect cases.”
“We’ve been able to staff the courtroom fully in order to enable us to hear these very serious cases and they have to be heard on a very time-sensitive basis.”
Chief Judge Joseph McGraw says it costs about $650,000 to hire everyone from new bailiffs to public defenders. McGraw says it’s all worth it to make sure thousands of kids are protected.
“I’m hoping a year from now we’ll be able to have some measurable outcomes that show that prompt intervention in the lives of children makes a difference long-term.”
Judge McGraw says the third courtroom will handle the overflow of cases. There are two other juvenile courtrooms, one for delinquency and the other is for child abuse.
Right now, there’s an interim judge while the permanent judge is trained to take over this third courtroom. It hasn’t been announced who will take over that courtroom. Right now, Judge McGraw says it’s important to have consistency.