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State of Babies Report: Illinois Has Room to Grow

From birth to age 3 is a crucial time of development for children, experts say. (sathyatripodi/Pixabay)
From birth to age 3 is a crucial time of development for children, experts say. (sathyatripodi/Pixabay)
February 28, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois has room to grow when it comes to ensuring its youngest residents have a strong start in life, according to a new report.

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 looks at the well-being of children from birth to age 3, and measures how they're faring in the areas that can impact their development.

Sarah Daily, senior research scientist for Child Trends, said Illinois received particularly poor marks for Positive Early Learning Experiences, with just 7 percent of eligible children receiving early Head Start or child-care subsidies.

"Children are not accessing those supports and services as much as they might be able to," Daily said. "So, as a policymaker, I might be looking at those existing programs and services to see if there's a way to expand access to those programs in Illinois."

Illinois scored best in the area of "Strong Families," and is doing quite well in reducing the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and improving permanency rates for infants and toddlers exiting foster care.

The state scores better than the national average for housing instability and family resilience.

Daily noted Illinois is in the "improving outcomes" category for infants and toddlers receiving early childhood mental-health services.

As she put it, "This is a really strong and powerful indicator because, from a developmental perspective, having strong, early childhood mental health really sets the foundation for children's learning and development later in life."

When it comes to Good Health, Illinois is ranked as "working effectively" for percentage of low-income infants and toddlers who are uninsured. However, Daily notes that Illinois' infant mortality rate, at 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, is still higher than the national average of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.

"This speaks to me about health-care access for not only infants and toddlers, but also for their parents," she said. "To what extent are the mothers receiving timely prenatal care is a key indicator that might be a cause of this high rate of infant mortality."

The yearbook estimates there are more than 460,000 infants and toddlers in Illinois, representing 3.6 percent of the state's population.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL