Kathy Ryg remembers how tough it was raising four kids as a working single mom even though she had lots of help and access to good child care and schools. She's in a position now to know how tough it is for parents without that support-and do something about it. All of her energy is focused on Illinois' kids, making sure they have the best opportunities even before they are born.
Ryg, 58, of Vernon Hills, is "the voice" behind Voices for Illinois Children, a statewide policy and advocacy organization that works to keep policy makers' attention riveted on kids and their future. "I'm such a fan of kids. I'm so passionate about kids having every opportunity to be successful," she says.
She's seen her share of "heart-breaking" living conditions and too many families struggling. There are real kids behind sad black and white statistics such as those that show by 2012 one out of every five Illinois children will be living in poverty. "Kids are really the voiceless victims in those situations because the statistics don't really talk about what it means to kids," she says. "We have to support those children and be their voices."
Home visits, quality child care and education and after-school activities, along with a focus on kids' development are all among priorities that need attention and financial commitment even in times of scarce state dollars, she says.
"We do know the right things to do; we know what works. We have to continue to pay attention and I think we always have to ask ourselves, how are the children and then work to ensure that the answer is that they are always doing great," she says.
Ryg says she believes there is reason to hope for all of Illinois' kids. "It's so doable."
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.