Our state legislators should be ashamed of Illinois' rankings
when it comes to people with special needs and those who love
The numbers are simply appalling. Illinois ranks 47th in the
nation in spending on community services for special needs and dead
last in the development of community living options.
Unlike more progressive states that have moved funding and focus
to more community-based solutions, Illinois relies on state
institutions, even for those who may be better served by a
community living environment. Yet thousands who need residential
living arrangements languish on institutional waiting lists because
that's their only option.
Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc of Illinois, a
disabilities advocacy organization, believes the issue comes down
to leadership. (Click here
to see the Blueprint for System Redesign in Illinois.) "They've
made disabilities and human services a pawn in a game to increase
taxes but when the funding comes we are always at the end of the
Despite the attention on the current budget crisis, Paulauski
has seen at least a decade's worth of inattention to special needs
funding. On the upside, he's also seen an upswing of grass-roots
coalitions of parents and advocates demanding solutions.
Illinois' officials know what they need to do. A seven-year
plan, called the Illinois Blueprint for System Redesign, created
for the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, details the
path from an underfunded system to one that actually puts money
where it's needed and builds communities tailored to the specific
needs of all of our children.
As you've discovered already from the day your child was born,
you must be an advocate. You must find a way to get involved in
public policy. "Quite frankly your life and the life of your sons
and daughters depend upon it," Paulauski says. "The quality of
those services are directly related to how our legislators vote in
terms of funding special education, human services, community
living, public benefits, health care, just go right down the
In an ideal world, then, you could focus on loving your children
and not those questions that keep you up at night about their
future: Who will care for them when you die, where will they live
and work when they grow up and how can you get all the services
they need to have the best life possible.
Unfortunately in Illinois, we're a long way from an ideal
What to do with your weekend, delivered every Thursday.
Great deals and chances to win prizes, delivered every Monday.
Exclusive offers from our partners,usually delivered twice a week.
Resources for parents of children with special needs,delivered the second Tuesday each month.