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More Than 120 Kids Under 18 Have Been Shot In Chicago So Far This Year, In A Crisis With Wide-Ranging Effects

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Police on Wednesday were questioning someone in the shooting of a 1-year-old boy and his mother by someone who fired into an apartment window in the Austin neighborhood.

The little boy was shot in the legs in the apartment in the 5200 block of West Congress Parkway and underwent surgery, while his mom suffered graze wounds.

That shooting got us looking into how many children are falling victim to gun violence - whether targeted or by accident. CBS 2's Steven Graves looked into the numbers Wednesday.

Data show that almost halfway through the year, the number of children shot in the city is lagging compared to last year. But that number is still concerning as we look toward summer - especially to doctors who see the lasting effects on these children beyond the bullet.

Children keep getting shot in Chicago – in cars, in apartments, during a bike ride, and even walking down the street.

For the very youngest victims, they are never the target.

Yolanda Fields does grassroots work in Garfield Park, counseling families and child victims of trauma.

"You think about the most vulnerable lives," said Fields, of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. "It's heartbreaking."

Chicago Police data show so far this year, a total of 121 kids and teens under the age of 18 have been shot. That pace is on track to be lower than the 330 young people shot last year.

That number in turn surged from the 275 children shot in 2019.

While figures vary from year to year, doctors at Cook County Health see one thing getting worse.

"Now we're seeing a lot more severe injuries and lethal injuries [to children] - from what we've seen, from gunshot wounds - that was not necessarily true in years past," said Dr. Faran Bokhari of Cook County Health.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office data show at least 22 young people have died from gun violence this year.

And for those kids who survive - doctors point out physical and mental effects like stress disorders, on what pediatrician Dr. Deanna Behrens of Advocate Health classifies as toxic stress response.

"They have a risk of developing this toxic stress response that can lead to lifelong repercussions just by being in a community where gun violence is present," Behrens said. "This is a problem that can be resolved, and it isn't something that has to be a permanent reality."

That is what Fields is working toward, by partnering with multiple other community groups that are focused on the South and West sides.

"The way that we address that is still the same - engaging the community - that people are stable economically; that there are parks and libraries and resources," she said.

It is an effort she says involves police and the health care system.

Cook County Health provides a service of counseling for repeat gunshot victims, because they say it's likely a child or teen shot will be injured again in five years.

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