Some Preschoolers In High-Risk Illinois Areas Aren’t Getting Services

CPS Building Blocks Preschoolers
Susie An / WBEZ
CPS Building Blocks Preschoolers
Susie An / WBEZ

Some Preschoolers In High-Risk Illinois Areas Aren’t Getting Services

Updated 8 pm

A new report shows government services and resources don’t always match up with areas of high risk across Illinois when it comes to care and development of young children. 

On Monday, the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in childhood development, offered a sneak peek of its “Illinois Risk and Reach Report.” Per county, the report shows 15 risk indicators young children under 5 years old face, including poverty, maternal education, parental employment, homelessness, lead exposure, violence exposure and kindergarten readiness. 

The analysis found 81 percent of counties had at least one high-risk indicator. Only 12 percent of counties had a low overall risk, while half the counties had either high or “high-moderate” risk. About 68 percent of the state’s young children lived in counties that are considered high or high-moderate risk.

“This report is designed to be a much deeper understanding with a level of precision that does not exist about how our children are doing and what’s happening for our youngest children,” Geoffrey Nagle, President and CEO of the Erikson Institute, said at the City Club of Chicago.

But Nagle also noted that every county had at least two indicators that were low and “low-moderate.” For example, Cook County, which is considered to be at an overall high-moderate risk, is at low to low-moderate risk for child maltreatment and lead exposure. The county is at high risk when it comes to violence exposure.

The report overlays the risk factors with the government resources and services available in each county. It shows that high risk does not mean more services are offered. 

“Cook, Kane, DuPage, DeKalb and Will, you see fairly good amount of higher quality care there for these subsidized children,” Nagle said. “But as we head south to Kankakee down to Vermillion, Edgar and Douglas and even Coles — all with moderate-high or high risk in the county — there’s no high quality childcare there available.” 

The report also breaks down the state’s 2018 budget and shows about 5 percent is dedicated to spending for families with young children. Less than 1 percent of that spending was allocated to mental health services. 

Nagle hopes the new annual report will influence how lawmakers negotiate next year’s state budget.

“For the first time you have the information to ask a lot more insightful, detailed questions about how the children and families are doing in your community so that you and your community can make much more informed and hopefully better decisions,” Nagle said to a crowd of civic leaders.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton responded to the report by saying the state can’t take a “one size fits all approach” when considering the budget for early childhood programs. She said the governor’s administration will rely on community engagement to make these funding changes.

“Families, people who are caregiving, those who are with young people on the ground every single day, that policy is made from the ground up,” Stratton said.

The Erikson Institute will release its full report on March 29.

Susie An covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @soosieon.

This story was updated to clarify statistics cited in the Erikson report.