The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

July 16, 2013

Discussion to focus on plight of children

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — State legislators, local officials and community members are invited to participate in a roundtable discussion about the plight of local children.

The Vermilion County Mental Health Board will host staff from Voices for Illinois Children to discuss its 2013 Illinois Kids Count report’s findings specific to Vermilion County.

Voices for Illinois Children also will present its vision for the future of all children in Illinois to stimulate discussions among local community leaders and to develop shared solutions in these difficult times.

The roundtable discussion will take place 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 23 at Danville Area Community College, 2000 E. Main St., Vermilion Hall, Room 306.

According to new national data released last month by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, indicators of child well-being in Illinois show some signs of improvement in education and health, but the nation’s prolonged economic crisis continues to have a negative impact on the state’s children.

The 2013 Kids Count data book identifies three troubling trends: the lingering effects of the recession on employment, growing disparities in well-being between low-income children and their middle-class and more affluent peers, and the disproportionate effects of these negative trends on young children.

“We want to have a discussion about what our local children face. We have children living in poverty and that are victims of child abuse and neglect,” Dee Ann Ryan, executive director of the Vermilion County Mental Health Board, said.

Voices for Illinois Children is a statewide, nonpartisan, multi-issue advocacy organization that is committed to building better lives for children.

“They are a statewide task force,” Ryan said of Voices. “They want a presence throughout the state.”

Voices engages in a range of activities — including policy research and analysis, policy advocacy, strategic communications and community engagement — all in support of policies and programs that enhance the well-being of children, families and communities in Illinois.

At the July 23 roundtable, Voices will highlight its annual Illinois Kids Count report, which examines the quality of life facing children and families throughout the state. County-level data on demographic changes, child poverty, family income, child abuse and neglect, children in substitute care, medical assistance enrollment and state-funded preschool, as well as some educational data will be presented to demonstrate trends, illustrate needs and support policy proposals.

Last summer, in an effort to increase foster care opportunities for local children, Voices came to Danville for an afternoon forum as a part of its “Where’s the Love?” campaign, which illustrates how kids in foster care are more likely than their peers to become homeless, drop out of school, or become incarcerated because they often don’t receive the love and support that all kids need to help them live up to their full potential.

For reservations

The public is invited to attend a roundtable discussion on the plight of local children. Lunch will be provided for those who RSVP to the Vermilion County Mental Health Board at 443-3500 before Friday.