Children in Illinois are doing better than in recent years, and advocates are calling on state and federal leaders to avoid reversing those gains.
The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Annie E Casey Foundation ranks Illinois 19th overall, with families doing a little better economically, and shows gains in health and education. It says 95-percent of children in the U.S. now have health-care coverage, a historic high.
The report credits key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as investments in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
Anna Rowan, the Kids Count manager at Voices for Illinois Children, says providing more families with health insurance is key to a child's overall well-being.
"Particularly children of color, African and American and Latino children where we reduced the percentage of uninsured children from six percent to three percent over a five-year period," she explains.
Even though the financial picture for families is slightly better, four percent of the state's low-income children live in a household where no adults work, six percent of those families have only one adult working, and 17 percent experience food insecurity.
Rowan says lawmakers need to make sure those children keep health insurance because the money spent on medical bills could go toward putting food on the table.
"If we're talking about having a healthy state and a productive state, this really needs to be a continued part of the conversation and we want to protect the progress that we've made and then continue to lessen disparities, not cause them to grow," she says.
When it comes to education, Rowan says the higher-education system in Illinois is struggling because there's a possibility of a third year without a state budget.
"The MAP program that we have here in Illinois, which allows low- and middle-income students better afford college in Illinois has seen reductions," Rowan adds. "We've seen large numbers of students in Illinois leaving the state for school."
The report ranked Illinois 13th in the nation in education, Rowan says that's due to the expansion of early-childhood education. Fewer than half of three- and four-year-olds are in a Pre-K program.