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Report: African-American Children Lag Behind in Illinois

Illinois ranks 21st among states in the latest national Kids Count Data Book. The research shows children of color continue to face serious challenges to education and other opportunities. (iStockphoto)
Illinois ranks 21st among states in the latest national Kids Count Data Book. The research shows children of color continue to face serious challenges to education and other opportunities. (iStockphoto)
June 23, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois is a mixed bag when it comes to children's well being, and a new report says there's plenty of work to do, especially for children of color.

In the latest national Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Illinois ranks 21st, down one spot from last year.

But on a positive note, the state now has the third lowest rate of uninsured children in the country.

The numbers also show the state has seen a big drop in the rates of teen drug abuse and child and teen deaths.

But Leslie Helmcamp, a policy analyst with Voices for Illinois Children, says the state now also is struggling with a higher number of children living in high poverty neighborhoods than in 2008, and that’s especially true for African-American families.

"Nationally, African-American children were twice as likely as the average child to live in high poverty neighborhoods,” she points out. “But, here in Illinois, African-American children are more than three times [as] likely to live in high poverty neighborhoods."

Helmcamp says Illinois could help ease the financial burdens on these families in several ways, including setting up a statewide paid family leave program and boosting child care assistance.

The Data Book ranks each state on 16 benchmarks, including health and education.

While Illinois saw improvements or held steady in most areas, five indicators did get worse, including a higher number of young children not enrolled in school. Also, the rate of children living in poverty is now at 20 percent, up from 17 percent in 2008.

Helmcamp says the nearly year long state budget impasse isn't helping these problems.

"What we want to see the state invest in and make a commitment to is passing a budget that includes these programs that help us improve our education and health outcomes for kids around the state," she stresses.

The report says 58,000 more Illinois children were living in low-income homes in 2014 than in 2008.

Helmcamp says state lawmakers could expand the state's Earned Income Tax Credit to help lift more families out of poverty.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL