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New Report: Illinois Parents Can't Find Work, Kids Can't Escape Poverty

GRAPHIC: Kids count data wheel.
GRAPHIC: Kids count data wheel.
July 30, 2012

CHICAGO - When it comes to providing education and health care to children, Illinois has been doing fairly well. But, according to a new nationwide report, the state has not been doing enough to lift them out of poverty. The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds more and more Illinois children doing without.

The foundation's Associate Director for Policy Reform and Data, Laura Speer, says the numbers give cause for worry.

"In 2005, 16 percent of children were living in poverty in the state. In 2010, it was 19 percent. One out of three children in Illinois did not have a parent who had full-time year-round employment."

The report ranked Illinois among the top four states for health-care coverage for children, and Illinois is leading in early childhood education. Still, 300,000 children in Illinois live in poverty, the third-highest number in the country. Numbers are higher only in Michigan and Ohio.

Illinois KIDS COUNT Director Anne Klassman says the high poverty rate is disturbing.

"We know that children who grow up in concentrated poverty, regardless of their families' income, are more likely to experience harmful levels of stress, more likely to struggle in school, and less likely to achieve economic success as adults."

Illinois made progress in early childhood education, ranking fifth in the nation for the number of children in preschool. However, Klassman says, without a renewed commitment Illinois children will fall behind.

"The 2010 data on preschool participation doesn't reflect the effects of the state budget cuts for early childhood education over the past several years. Unfortunately, this progress is wearing away and we're going to see the effects of this in our kids going forward."

More children gained health insurance coverage under the state's CHIP program. But recent cuts in Medicaid cut off health care for their parents, and Klassman says those higher health care costs and lack of access to health care for parents will hurt the entire family.

The report is at voices4kids.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL