Growing poverty and economic struggles will last long past recovery and are forcing more families to seek help from non-profit groups to keep a roof over their heads. That's the grim news from the Illinois Kids Count 2010 Report, released Thursday by advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children that warns of major, long-lasting problems for children and families throughout the state.

Growing poverty and economic struggles will last long past recovery and are forcing more families to seek help from non-profit groups to keep a roof over their heads.

That's the grim news from the Illinois Kids Count 2010 Report, released Thursday by advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children that warns of major, long-lasting problems for children and families throughout the state.

Carol Harms, with Springfield Catholic Charities, said the organization saw 1,494 new cases of people who never asked for help before. More than 6,500 families received help from the organization in fiscal year 2009.

"Many mothers and fathers have stated a sense of embarrassment because they used to be donors and now they're actually having to receive the community services," Harms said at a Statehouse news conference.           

Catholic Charities provided food, rental assistance, utility assistance, emergency medications and other services to families throughout the year.

Income and poverty

The needs will keep growing, even with an improved economy and unemployment rates over the next few years.

"Children represent one-fourth of Illinois' residents, but they make up more than one-third of the state's population that finds itself in poverty," Voices president Kathy Ryg said. "The child poverty rate in Illinois reached 17 percent in 2008."

Ryg said as 2009-2010 data develops, the poverty rate will continue to climb.

The report shows how the economic recession is hurting state children and families in a variety of areas, from poverty to education and health care. Childhood poverty is expected to top 24.2 percent nationwide by 2012 – the highest level since the 1960s.

"We know from past recessions, including one in the early 1980s, that child poverty levels increase for several years after the economy begins to recover," Ryg said.

The median income in Illinois has not kept up with inflation, the group found. Median family income fell by more than 12 percent from 1999 to 2008 in some downstate counties, and Sangamon County saw a drop of 6 percent during that period.

More people are also seeking help from the state. Food stamps went to 1.5 million Illinoisans in June 2009 – up 22 percent from 2007. Half of those recipients were children.

Education and health care

Ryg added that Illinois shows signs of progress, including access to early childhood education and the health care coverage of children.

The uninsured rate for children fell to 6.5 percent in 2007-2008, from 10.4 percent in 2004-2005.

But with the state facing a more than $12 billion budget deficit, programs to support children have already been cut, and many have not received payments from the state.

"We know what those cuts mean when a child is unable to attend quality childcare or preschool," Ryg said. "We know that sets them off for a less likely opportunity to do well in school, to land a job with a decent wage, they'll have poorer health outcomes."

New revenue sources need to be located to keep programs alive or it could be disastrous to children and family services across the state.

"It would create serious, even more devastating harm to the children and families who are already experiencing struggles because of the recession and the state's failure to have a sustainable budget," she said.

The full report is available online at www.voices4kids.org/library/KC10_education.html.

Matt Hopf can be reached at (217) 782-3095 or matt.hopf@sj-r.com.

GateHouse counties

A look at key categories in Sangamon, Peoria, Winnebago and DuPage Counties from the Illinois Kids Count 2010 Report, put out Thursday by advocacy group Voices for Illinois Children.

Child Poverty Rates

Illinois
1999-2000      14.8 percent of all children in poverty
2003-2004      16.2 percent
2007-2008     16.8 percent

Sangamon County
1999-2000      14.8 percent of all children in poverty
2003-2004      15.0 percent
2007-2008      17.1 percent

Peoria County
1999-2000      19.8 percent of all children in poverty
2003-2004      19.5 percent
2007-2008      20.5 percent

Winnebago County
1999-2000      14.8 percent of all children in poverty
2003-2004      18.4 percent
2007-2008      20.6 percent

DuPage County
1999-2000      5.2 percent of all children in poverty
2003-2004      6.6 percent
2007-2008      6.5 percent

Median Household Income

Illinois
1999-2000      $45,771
2003-2004      $47,539
2007-2008      $55,186

21 percent increase in income since 1999, but a 1 percent decline when inflation is factored in

Sangamon County
1999-2000      $43,587
2003-2004      $45,450
2007-2008     $50,869

17 percent increase in income since 1999, but a 4 percent decline when inflation is factored in

Peoria County
1999-2000      $40,791
2003-2004      $41,992
2007-2008    $48,392

19 percent increase in income since 1999, but a 3 percent decline when inflation is factored in

Winnebago County
1999-2000      $43,555
2003-2004      $43,325
2007-2008     $48,020

10 percent increase in income since 1999, but a 10 percent decline when inflation is factored in

DuPage County
1999-2000      $67,567
2003-2004      $65,537
2007-2008    $75,429

12 percent increase in income since 1999, but an 8 percent decline when inflation is factored in

2008 Median Income of Families with Children

Illinois
Married couples      $84,196
Single mothers      $25,815
Single fathers      $40,168

Sangamon County
Married couples      $82,693
Single mothers      $23,970
Single fathers      $36,348

Peoria County
Married couples      $84,025
Single mothers      $23,280
Single fathers         $42,621

Winnebago County
Married couples      $73,072
Single mothers      $21,298
Single fathers      $31,188

DuPage County 
Married couples      $107,821
Single mothers      $38,023
Single fathers          $41,989

Food Stamp Recipients

Illinois
Recipients              1,503,680
Percentage of population      12 percent
Percentage of children      Not available
Change between 2007-2009      22 percent increase

Sangamon County
Recipients              24,528
Percentage of population      13 percent
Percentage of children      25 percent
Change between 2007-2009      11 percent increase

Peoria County
Recipients              27,559
Percentage of population      15 percent
Percentage of children      29 percent
Change between 2007-2009      13 percent increase

Winnebago County
Recipients              47,361
Percentage of population      16 percent
Percentage of children      30 percent
Change between 2007-2009      24 percent increase

DuPage County
Recipients              41,881
Percentage of population      4 percent
Percentage of children      9 percent
Change between 2007-2009     50 percent increase