Shift services to where kids live The first step to solving a problem is naming it. Next, you number it-quantify how big it is. Once things are named and numbered, then you find out what others are doing. Are there programs out there where people are headed in the right direction? Finally, comes the hard part: Rolling up your sleeves and taking action.

The recently-released Chicago Kids Count 2004 report from the advocacy group, Voices for Illinois Children, does all of the above. It provides lawmakers and bureaucrats with enough information to cast informed votes and develop good programs for children and families.

This report should be required reading for anyone in political office or a policy-making position.

The key finding: There are not enough services out there for the children who need them and those that are there need to shift with the population.

The particulars: The number of children living in Chicago is down only slightly-about 750,000 children, or one of every four Illinois children under age 18, live in the city, according to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau-but where they live has shifted. Fewer live on the North, West and South sides, more on the Southeast, Southwest and Northwest sides. The bigger shift is to the suburbs. The number of families with children rose by 40 percent in McHenry and Will counties, by 30 percent in Lake and Kane, by 15 percent in DuPage and by 10 percent in suburban Cook.

Chicago is actually losing families with children, and gaining emptynesters.

The kids may be in the suburbs, but all is not necessarily well. Regardless of where they live, kids need to be safe and healthy, to have a home, parents who support them, another chance if they make a bad choice and an education to provide them with opportunities. There are programs that can help them achieve all of this.

This report profiles 10 that work-all of them in Chicago.

Thanks to Voices for Illinois Children, we know the numbers and we have named the problem. Now, comes the hard part-the rolling-up-the-sleeves-and-moving-into-action part. We need to make sure the programs are in the same place as the kids.

Just that simple, just that difficult.

Thank you and adieu There are so many words to say good-bye. "See ya." "Adios." "So long." "Ciao." But having choices doesn't make it easier to say good-bye to people you love and respect.

So, we've made a choice-we won't say good-bye to Marc Stopeck, who has been drawing our cartoon "A Dad's Life" since 1999.

Stopeck will continue to illustrate feature stories for us with wonderful drawings such as the one on page 53. So, this talented man and wonderful father of Isaac will stay in the family. Stopeck chose three of his favorite cartoons, which you'll find on page 11. It's a tribute-not a good-bye.

We also won't say good-bye to Dave Jaffe, who has been our award-winning humor columnist for five years. Jaffe, a gifted writer and someone we have long admired, isn't really leaving either. He will still write occasional features but not the Laughing Matters column.

A Chicago newsman, Jaffe has a wickedly smart sense of humor mixed with kindness and compassion. Add a bit of self-deprecation and you have a column that has been making parents laugh since 1999-and making all his editors laugh out loud.

We also bid adieu, not good-bye, to video columnist Jennifer Mangan. She recently received a degree as a parent coach-a job that leaves her less time for videos. The former Chicago Tribune children's TV reviewer stepped in when we needed help and we are very grateful.

While we are at it, a belated farewell to Darcy Lewis, our award-winning Healthy Child columnist, who left Chicago Parent in December. Lewis is a dedicated writer and an amazing woman.

Thank you, Marc, Dave, Jennifer and Darcy.

There will be new names in the magazine. You have already met Susan Dodge, the new health columnist. You will meet: Dan Baron, a parenting columnist; Luis Contreras, Wonder Dad cartoonist, and Sylvia Ewing, phenomenal video woman.

Wanted: Humor columnist

Even though we are losing Dave Jaffe's monthly column, we don't want to lose a sense of humor.

So, if you are interested in writing Laughing Matters, please send Susy Schultz three sample columns of about 800 words each on parenting.

The criteria is simple: Just make the editors laugh out loud.

Kids Eat Chicago

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