Report reveals progress, setbacks for Illinois children

August 1, 2012

Staff Report

CHICAGO — Illinois is among the nation’s leaders in health insurance coverage for children, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Illinois also ranks high in preschool enrollment, but investments in early childhood education are being eroded by state budget cuts. The recession has produced higher child poverty rates in the state, as well as more children living in communities with concentrated poverty.

The 23rd Annual KIDS COUNT Data Book, released July 25, tracks the well-being of the nation’s children on a state-by-state basis. With support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Voices for Illinois Children publishes an Illinois Kids Count report each February.

The 2012 Data Book has been updated with a new index that provides an even more robust and comprehensive portrait of how U.S. children are faring. It assesses states based on how they do on 16 indicators of child well-being — a change from previous annual rankings based on 10, reflecting the tremendous advances in child development research since the foundation’s first KIDS COUNT Data Book in 1990.

In addition to ranking states, the 16 indicators are organized into four domains: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community. The report also provides state rankings in each of these domains.

In 2010, Illinois ranked fourth among the 50 states in health insurance coverage for children. Only 4 percent of children in the state were uninsured, compared with 8 percent nationwide.

Illinois also ranked fifth among the states in preschool participation. In 2008-2010, 54 percent of Illinois children ages 3 and 4 attended either public or private preschool.

The national report shows that more than 300,000 Illinois children live in high-poverty communities (poverty rates at or above 30 percent, according to the Census Bureau), compared with 262,000 at the beginning of the decade. The proportion of Illinois children in high-poverty communities (10 percent) is the third highest in the Midwest after Michigan and Ohio.

Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children, explained that the state’s high rating on health insurance coverage reflects successful efforts to expand access to health care through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and All Kids.

We are disappointed that the state has recently restricted Medicaid eligibility for low-income parents,” said Gieseke. “Challenges that parents face through higher health care costs impact the whole family, including the children. And it’s important that children have healthy parents to care for them.”

Gieseke noted that the 2010 data on preschool participation does not reflect the effects of state budget cuts for early childhood education over past several years.

Illinois had become a leader in early childhood education,” said Gieseke. “It’s unfortunate that progress has been eroding, especially since we know that children who receive support early have a greater chance of success in school, at work and throughout their lives. Investing in kids makes sense from both social and fiscal perspectives.”

Participation in state-funded preschool programs dropped from more than 95,000 in Fiscal Year 2009 to an estimated 77,000 in FY 2012. Additional budget cuts in FY 2013 could result in the loss of access to preschool for another 8,000 children.

For the most recent Illinois Kids Count report, “Investing in Opportunities for Children — Now,” visit www.voices4kids.org/publications-multimedia/kids-count-reports/illinois-kids-count-2012.

From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue

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