By Susy Schultz
Regina Green is on probation at work. This Chicago mother of an asthmatic has missed too many days visiting her son, Myron, in the hospital.
"What am I supposed to do?" she asks. "I could let him die. Then I'd have a job and no baby."
Hilary Godwin is a chemistry professor and knows about the dangers of lead. Even so, she didn't realize she was putting her infant son, Jake, at risk for lead poisoning simply by renovating her family's home in Evanston.
"As a parent you know you want to give your child every advantage. And here I knew about this problem, I studied this and I couldn't protect my child," she says.
Godwin and Green want the same thing: happy, healthy children. Both struggle with the reality that their sons are not yet healthy.
They are not alone. Far too many children in the Chicago area suffer from asthma and lead poisoning. In fact, the city of Chicago leads the nation with the highest percentage of lead-poisoned children while the metropolitan region is the nation's epicenter for the asthma epidemic. Public health and government officials have known this for years.
Children are suffering, growing up with disabilities and dying-all needlessly. Lead poisoning can be prevented and asthma can be managed. But it's not happening. Public health officials say they have many pressing problems and, despite state mandates requiring concentrated efforts to gather data and fight these diseases, little has been done.
As we enter our 20th year of bringing you the parenting news you need, we thought it was natural for us to take up these two major health issues. It is the first salvo in what we hope will be a long term partnership between Chicago Parent and The Chicago Reporter looking at the State of the Child.
It's not like Chicago Parent to spend nearly 20 pages on one package of stories. We know you turn to us for quick, concise parenting news and information that you can digest amid your already too busy days.
But we also know that for 20 years Chicago Parent has been your window into the way the world cares for our children-all of our children. We see these stories as a service to readers and to the children who have been sickened by their environment and aren't getting the help they need.
We bring these stories to you in conjunction with The Chicago Reporter, Chicago's premier investigative monthly magazine. This investigation finds asthma and lead poisoning throughout the Chicago area, but concentrated in low-income minority areas.
Reading this well-reported and beautifully-written package takes a commitment from you. But we know it is worth it, since you have told us time and again you read Chicago Parent because you, like us, are committed to children.
Susy Schultz is editor of Chicago Parent and was lead editor on this investigation.
Mick Dumke is a contributing writer to Chicago Parent and The Chicago Reporter. He plays father to many cats and is about to become an uncle.
Sarah Karp has been covering children's issues as a reporter at The Chicago Reporter for about five years. She is also the mother of Devonte, 6, and Josiah, 4, and lives with her husband, Daniel, in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Also contributing to this report are: Interns Jessica Young, Brandon Davis, Nicole Drummer, Mayra Rocha, Kimberly Evans, Norell Giancana, Latricia J. Taylor and Matthew Tripodi; and the fact checkers: Alissa Calabrese, Ashley Ernst, Jennifer Mesich, Erin Meyer, Matthew Tripodi and Drew Carter.