Illinois launches 3 youth-centered social-services initiatives

Officials in the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Youth are moving forward with three programs that not only will help Illinois’ youth, but they hope will also save taxpayers money down the line.

Department of Public Health Director Dr. Nirav Shah said one initiative focuses on reducing lead exposure in children.

“There are currently up to 18,000 children in Illinois who have elevated blood-lead levels,” Shah said. “Reducing that number, bringing that number back down to where it should be, would reduce benefits that are manifold.”

Shah said the project will require participation from several different state agencies from public health to housing and beyond.

Secondly, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity acting Director Sean McCarthy said the youth-apprenticeship initiative will offer a proven pipeline from education to employment “and offer these young people a pathway to marketable skills, a quality job, career pathway and earnings that will allow them to be economically self-sufficient.”

The third cross-agency initiative focuses on increasing the early-childhood education workforce. Illinois Community College Board Executive Director Karen Anderson said there is a need for 69,000 early-childhood educators to serve over 950,000 children under 5 years old.

“We don’t just need the numbers, however, we need the quality. We need to ensure the quality and professionalism are there.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner said it was difficult for the agencies to choose just three initiatives.

“One thing we’ve got to do is make sure that the things we take on, we get big, concrete, positive results.”

The agencies chose the three initiatives from a total of six. Rauner said that doesn’t mean the agencies can’t revisit the other three initiatives in the future.

–Illinois News Network

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