Fewer Illinois teenagers are having children and more are staying in school, which is great news. But the bad news is that many children are still living in poverty-more than one-third are in families where no parent has a full-time job, according to a recent study released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Each year the foundation gathers available statistics to issue the KIDS COUNT Data Book. The 2006 version looks at 10 sets of numbers to measure child well-being, where states are succeeding and where they need more work. (It is confusing because the report was issued this year, yet the data-the most recent available-is from 2004.) Illinois has made progress, moving up from 28 last year to 24. Yet, it still remains in the middle.
"To improve the quality of life [for children] we need to focus on the long-term," says Julie Parente, representative for Voices for Illinois Children. "We need health care, quality education, including preschool, and efforts like tax credits targeted to help low-income working families."
The study shows the state improved in six of the 10 areas of child well-being including teenage birth rates, high school dropout rates and child deaths.
Among teenage girls (ages 15-19), 40 out of every 1,000 gave birth, or 4 percent. That rate is down 1 percent from 1999 when 50 in 1,000 gave birth.
High school dropout rates fell 4 percent in the past three years. And the rate of deaths among children dropped as well. Most current numbers put it at 19 per 100,000 children rather than 22 in 1999.
But Illinois did not perform as well in other categories. More low-birthweight babies are being born, butnot many more. The number increased from 8 percent in 1999 to 8.3 percent in 2003.
In 2000, 15 percent of children were living in poverty. Four years later, it's 17 percent. Also, 32 percent of children are living in families where no parent had a full-time, year-round job-a jump of 3 percent from 2000.
"Parents struggling with part-time jobs can't provide everything their kids need," says Parente. "What we think this data shows is the need to continually provide support for families." For the complete report, visit www.kidscount.org.