DCFS honors Jo Poshard’s humanitarian work

By Elizabeth zinchuk


Jo Poshard has earned a reputation of being dedicated to helping abused children, but she said she gets just as much from giving back.

“Service is an award in itself,” Poshard said. “It’s very meaningful to me.”


The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services presented Jo Poshard and her organization, the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, a humanitarian award Aug. 25 in recognition of her 14 years of service to families and children of southern Illinois. Despite her husband Glenn Poshard’s upcoming retirement, Jo Poshard said she is still planning on showing up in the foundation’s office every morning ready to work.

The foundation started after her husband, SIU President Glenn Poshard, lost the race for governor in 1999 and the two were deciding what to do next.

“We are both pretty good about not looking back, and I had experiences in my campaign that influenced me to want to help children,” Glenn Poshard said.

Jo Poshard taught elementary education for 34 years at a public school where she realized many children were in situations of crisis or need. She said even when she was teaching, she was not as acutely aware of how many children are in poor circumstances.

“I look back with what I know now and I think how many kids came into the classroom every morning who slept on the floor the night before, listened to the adults in the house fighting, witnessed domestic violence, witnessed drug abuse, or didn’t get a hot meal,” Poshard said. “And then I was expecting them to have all their homework done and have their books and be ready to go for a full day of work and activities.”

Poshard said seeing children without coats in the winter or without appropriate shoes were easier to spot compared to other types of abuse or neglect that are often harder to recognize.

The Poshard foundation provides anything from eyeglasses to medical equipment, she said. It also provides specific counseling needed for a sexually abused children or therapeutic camps that couldn’t be afforded otherwise.


“What I’ve come to believe is that there are a lot of children who are hurting and in difficult situations,” Poshard said. “Our mission was always be to help abused, neglected, and abandoned children in southern Illinois and that is still our mission.”

Poshard said she is passionate about helping abused children because when identified, abused children avoid falling into systematic behaviors like drug abuse, depression, violence and live happy lives.

“If you can support the child, get them into counseling, and deal with the family, then these children can begin healing and lead productive lives,” Poshard said.

Poshard said specifically southern Illinois has an issue with abuse.

“DCFS has had a lot of articles out in previous months that we have about ten counties in southern Illinois where the child abuse rate is double,” Poshard said.

Besides her work with the foundation, Poshard also plays an active role in the Prevent Child Abuse Illinois Board, Children Advocacy Centers of Illinois, Women for Health and Wellness Board, Carbondale Community Arts Board, McLeod Theater Board, and the American Association of University Women, Carbondale branch. Poshard said she is involved in these organizations by helping with their conferences and fundraising.

In the first years of the foundation, Glenn Poshard initiated projects to help create the Cairo’s Women Center and the Night’s Shield in Frankfurt.

Jo Poshard said after she retired from teaching in 2005, she became the director of the foundation and her focus has been contacting agencies in southern Illinois since then. She said there are about fifty in the region she will be in contact with.

“And these agencies never have enough money and they generally do a difficult and often thankless job in a situation where they are dealing directly with children who have been mistreated,” Poshard said.

Because the foundation is purely run on donations and volunteers and John A. Logan offers a free space for the foundation’s operations, it has been able to do a lot more, she said.

“It really helps us a lot because all the money turned in gets to the children,” Poshard said.

Poshard said the agencies contact her when they can’t afford a need for an abused or neglected child.

Betti Mucha, director of the Perry-Jackson Child Advocacy Center in Pinckneyville, said Jo Poshard has been a huge asset at the center. Poshard has helped provide training for how methamphetamine usage, domestic abuse, and trauma affect children Mucha said.

“She’s always there to help,” Mucha said. “She’s a great person.”

Poshard said another thing her foundation does is offer free training, for caseworkers, community members, and anyone willing.

Mucha said the Poshard foundation also provided new furniture for the police station, so there is a comfortable space for children to be interviewed.

Sheryl Woodham, the director of the Guardian Center in Carmi, said the Poshard’s foundation donated funds to the center which is used for transportation and buying supplies for children.

“Jo is delightful and has been a large help for child advocacy,” Woodham said.

Woodham said without the foundation’s help, they would have to seek other resources for the center.

“Jo is deserving of all the honors she has received,” Woodham said. “She is committed to the cause of helping abused children.”

One of the greatest needs for those who are abused, is a bed, Poshard said.

“Within the agencies, I found out that they often can’t afford to give a child in need a bed,” Poshard said. “We are not talking about new beds or mattresses either, we are talking about getting the children off the floor.”

Since 2010 the foundation has given out more than $50,000 in beds alone, she said.

“And I believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg with the bed situation,” Poshard said.

Poshard said her foundation is asking the public to pay attention to the children around them and be their advocate.

“Everyone needs to be involved,” Poshard said. “The people in southern Illinois are caring people and they need to recognize that they may be the only safety line for a child.”