Report calls attention to children’s education, care
By Tony Graf email@example.com February 14, 2013 4:08PM
Kipling Elementary School teacher Amy Karasick supplies each desk in her classroom with writing utensils as she prepared for the first day of school. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:24PM
The child poverty rate is up in Will County, and the median income for families with children is down, an advocacy group said Thursday, highlighting concerns for young people here and across Illinois.
Voices for Illinois Children included these local research findings in its report, “Illinois Kids Count 2013: Moving Policy, Making Progress.” On Thursday, a panel discussed the newly released report at the downtown branch of the Joliet Public Library.
“Illinois Kids Count informs state leaders who make policy decisions that affect the well being of children,” said R. Dale Evans, forum moderator. “We want them to make smart decisions that set the course for a prosperous future for all.”
In the last 25 years, Illinois has made significant progress in policy areas such as preschool access, health-care coverage and child-care services, the group said. However, that progress is now at risk, particularly with a lagging national economy and a state fiscal crisis.
Progress in Illinois
“Illinois should be proud — we all should be proud — of the significant strides made in several areas to improve the lives of our children,” said Evans, family self-sufficiency coordinator for the Housing Authority of Joliet.
Evans reviewed the new report, listing areas of improvement in the state.
Preschool: “Illinois has been a nationwide leader in expanding access to early learning opportunities,” Evans said. “Between 1998 and (fiscal year) 2009, participation in state-funded preschool programs doubled.”
Health-care coverage: “Over the past several decades, there has been a quiet revolution in health care coverage for Illinois children,” Evans said. “As a result of coverage through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance, the CHIP program, and All Kids expansion, Illinois has one of the lowest rates of uninsured children in the nation.”
Child care: The Illinois Child Care Assistance Program now serves 170,000 children a month, Evans said.
Threats to progress
Evans also reviewed setbacks in the three policy areas:
Early learning: “In the last four years, deep budget cuts have resulted in an estimated 20,000 fewer children attending state-supported preschool,” Evans said.
Access to care: “The Medicare stabilization plan enacted last year includes some provisions that can jeopardize the access and quality of the care of Illinois children, particularly those with special needs,” he said.
Child care: “Stricter eligibility requirements have led to substantial increases in child-care costs,” Evans said. “For a single-parent family with two children at 150 percent of the poverty level, co-payments rose from $85 a month to $180 a month.”
In Will County, the child poverty rate rose from 5.6 percent in 1999 to 11.2 percent in 2011, the advocacy group said. Between 1999 and 2011, median income for families with children, adjusted for inflation, declined by 10 percent in the county.
For a detailed state and local overview, visit online at www.voices4kids.org.