This week, Voices for Illinois Children (VFIC) delivered its annual wake-up call to Illinois policymakers by unveiling their latest "Kids Count" report. Not surprisingly, Illinois' youngest are also bearing the burden of historic unemployment rates, the foreclosure crisis, and the state budget catastrophe.
This week, Voices for Illinois Children (VFIC) delivered its annual wake-up call to Illinois policymakers by unveiling their latest "Kids Count" report. This year's research offers a unique glimpse into recession's toll on children across the state. Not surprisingly, Illinois' youngest are bearing the burden of historic unemployment rates, the foreclosure crisis, and the state budget catastrophe.
A whopping 17 percent of Illinois children -- or one in six -- were living in poverty in 2008. (The threshold is set at $22,000 for a family of four.) And food stamp enrollment climbed by 22 percent since 2007. More troubling, though, is that based on previous recessions, child poverty is expected to continue climbing, according to VFIC director Kathy Ryg. By 2012, she predicts that 24 percent (more than 650,000) Illinois children will have fallen on the wrong side of the poverty line.
On the up side, the study heaps credit on Illinois lawmakers for adopting some progressive education and health care policies in recent years. As a result, the rate of uninsured children fell to 6.5 percent in 2008 from 10.4 percent three years earlier. And Illinois' early childhood education programs rank among the most comprehensive and inclusive in the nation.
But the budget crisis could reverse that progress. Already education and human services -- the resources Ryg sees as the best hope for helping children emerge from poverty -- are being eyed for further cuts. "Chronically weak state revenues ... adds to the challenges and increases the likelihood of life-long harm to today's children," Ryg said at a Springfield press conference yesterday. "An entire generation, here in our own state, right now, face the prospect of a life filled with struggles because of what is happening with their families today." Watch:
"Our call to action is to remind people that inaction is a choice," Ryg said. "And if we choose to do nothing, children will suffer today and tomorrow."