WMBD/WYZZ TV - PEORIA -- One day after a Peoria father was found guilty for the murder of his infant son, dozens of people gathered at the Peoria County Courthouse to join hands to fight child abuse.
On Wednesday, James Sargent was found guilty of neglecting his son and causing his death. The child's mother, will be tried in August. This is something child advocates say is unacceptable.
Thursday morning, dozens of people joined hands for the second annual "Hands Around the Courthouse". They shared stories and expressed the importance of bringing the issue of child abuse to the forefront. To highlight the many children who suffer abuse everyday, advocates place life-size pictures of children on the courthouse lawn. There are 1,240 pending child abuse and neglect cases in Peoria County.
Peoria County Judge Stuart Borden says, "What we need to do is get the public more involved, we need to change the culture that exists. Between the breakdown of traditional family, the presence of drugs and mental illness, particularly in poor areas, society has disintegrated to the point these children are left unprotected."
Tiera Claudin is a survivor of abuse and she says, "I was born with crack cocaine in my system. I have brothers and sisters who were born with heavier dosages than me because my mother used the entire time. They both have mental disorders and it hurt that a lot of times we didn't know where to look for help. Now that I'm older I know resources and it feels good to let people know I made it."
"Hands Around the Courthouse" kicks off a series of free public workshops held every month to offer solutions to child abuse. For more information on ways you can fight abuse call Peoria County CASA at (309) 669-2939.