Child poverty up state-wide, budget gridlock makes problem worse


Kendall Downing

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Voices for Illinois Children released its annual Kids Count study Thursday. In 2010, one out of every five children in the state lived below the poverty line.

The numbers are higher for counties in southern Illinois.

The state's budget problems aren't helping, since social services usually bear the brunt of the budget ax. Child advocates, community leaders and parents are worried about future cuts.

"Three boys and a girl, and it's a challenge raising them," said Catherine Mitchell.

Mitchell has two sets of twins. Twin boys Jahi and Jawhar are both 18. Justice and Jamila are 15.

"I raised them ever since I had them by myself. Their father was ill," said Mitchell.

Mitchell works as a substitute teacher when she can. Her kids spent a lot of time at their local community center. They even worked there. But those programs have been cut.

"Illinois had really progress in those areas in the past few years and then we've moved back," said Cathy McClanahan, Executive Director of The Women's Center in Carbondale.

The agency provides social services. In two years, one-fifth of their state money vanished, even as needs increased.

The organization has been told to expect at least a 10 percent cut in state funding next year.

"The money that they need for help isn't anything basic or extravagant. It's for the basic needs: food, beds, clothing," said Jo Poshard with The Poshard Foundation For Abused Children.

Poshard said the needs of children in Illinois are greater now than ever before.

New numbers in the study show more than 33,000 children enrolled in Illinois public schools are homeless.

"Through our foundation, our number one request is for beds," said Poshard.

Catherine Mitchell said she did the best she could to provide a home for her kids.

"That's the least they can do because the kids need it," she said.

She believes it's up to lawmakers to make cuts that won't hurt children.