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The recession has hit Illinois children and their families hard. Unemployment and foreclosures remain high, and child poverty continues to increase.

Key findings of this year’s National 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation include these figures, specific to Illinois. The data complements many statistics presented in the latest Illinois Kids Count report that Voices for Illinois Children released earlier this year:

  • Nearly 390,000 children, or 11 percent, had at least one unemployed parent in 2009.
  • The number of children in poverty increased from 525,000, or 17 percent, in 2007 to more than 590,000, or 19 percent, in 2009.
  • 225,000 children were impacted by home foreclosures between 2007 and 2009.

“The effects of poverty, unemployment and foreclosures on children’s lives go far beyond these current, and devastating, economic times,” said Voices President Kathy Ryg. “They can last a lifetime. It’s critical that we do everything we can to support families now, so that children have every opportunity to achieve success in school today and in the workforce tomorrow.”

According to the new national report, the economic and social gains for children that occurred across the 1990s stalled even before the economic downturn began. In fact, the U.S. child poverty rate rose from 17 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2009. This increase means that 2.5 million more American children are living below the federal poverty line ($21,756 for a family of two adults and two children in 2009) – effectively wiping-out earlier gains.

Throughout much of the past decade, Illinois made significant policy strides in providing quality early learning opportunities and expanding health insurance coverage for children. During the state budget crisis, however, funds for critical, research-based programs to advance children’s education, health, and well-being have been cut substantially – hurting not only kids and families, but Illinois’ economic stability.

Among other things, this year’s budget cuts have stripped preschool services from an additional 4,000 three- and four-year-olds and taken after-school programs away from youths – compounding the ill effects of similar cuts made in previous years.

“Large numbers of Illinois children live in families that continue to face deep economic insecurity,” Ms. Ryg said. “Programs that both help children and assist the state’s economic recovery efforts include income supports, child care assistance, and health care for children and families. We don’t want to further jeopardize Illinois’ economic recovery by withholding the kinds of supports that will help kids grow into healthy, well-educated, productive adults.”