Child poverty, unfortunately, is a growing epidemic in the state of Illinois. No one wants to see a child suffer. No one likes reading or hearing about a child being abused or neglected. We are aware of programs, services, and even policies at both the state and federal level that have been effective reducing child poverty and providing children with a safe, secure, and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, certain trends continue to exist which directly contribute to child poverty such as: generational poverty, underage parenting, community distress, unemployment and I must add the proposed state funding cuts.
According to Larry Joseph, Director of Research from Voices from Illinois Children, “child poverty is a complex problem that must be confronted with a comprehensive set of policy strategies.” I agree with that quote. I would also add that action must be implemented immediately because children grow up quickly. Having a soon-to-be 21 year old daughter in the next three months, I can say firsthand, they grow quickly.
Reports from Illinois Kids Count 2015 state, 21% of Illinois children lived in households with income below poverty level. That’s roughly a little over $18,000 for a family of three. Compare this stat to the percentage of children in 2007 which was 17% and in 2000 being 15%. The number of children living in poverty increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 663,500 in 2012, according to the Aledo Times Record. If that’s not an epidemic, please explain to me what is.
For 18 years, I worked for private foster care agencies mandated by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, who are under pressure of financial cuts every year. Making deep cuts in health care, child care assistance, and child protection services will increase child poverty and crime rates, which overall will increase the prison population. Child poverty rates are the highest for the youngest children (under 6), and remain present through adolescent and young adult stages, according to Joseph. Child poverty distracts academic achievement, health outcomes, and economic opportunities in adulthood. For the 18-21 age group, services like financial literacy, college assistance, employment resources, mental health care PLUS stable food and shelter are necessary, especially for children who experience and continue to experience traumatic events in their life. It’s my belief, by my own experience, that a small percentage of 18 years old even know how to write a check or complete a housing or job application.
I work for an anti-poverty organization that focuses on providing food, prevention, education, and wellness services to families throughout DuPage County. Over 70% of the families we service have children present between the ages of 0-18. Children have the right to receive programs and services that will empower their lives.
A couple solutions listed by Larry Joseph to expand opportunities for children and families are:
-Enhance tax credits for low income working families
-Strengthen food assistance
-Promote healthy families
-Renew investments in early childhood education
I agree with these solutions. What are your thoughts?
Director of Empowerment Programs
For more information about child poverty, click here.