Though the economy continues to show signs of recovery-have you navigated a mall parking lot lately?-reminders persist that many families must still watch their quarters closely.
Recently, the folks watching the recession's effects on Illinois families predicted continued tough days ahead for our most vulnerable children. In the new Illinois Kids Count 2010, released by Illinois Voices for Children, researchers found child poverty on the rise.
Consider this from the report: In 2008, about 530,000 Illinois children were below the poverty level. Experts believe this number will only continue to grow. Already, 20 percent of kids age 6 and younger are living below the poverty level in this state, the report found.
Among the state's 10 largest cities, child poverty was highest in Rockford (34 percent), Chicago (31 percent) and Peoria (27 percent).
Poverty affects the ability of kids to get even the most basic things they need to develop-exposure to high-quality early education, adequate medical care and the best nutrition to fuel their young brains. With the state's own budget woes, programs that might boost these kids continue to face potential cuts and delays in adequate funding.
At the same time, foreclosures continue to trouble our state. While market watchers are tracking declines in other parts of the country, Illinois again posted double-digit foreclosure rates.
That's why our story this month, "For Rent: No Kids," is particularly timely and important to consider. As families are forced, by any number of circumstances, out of their homes due to foreclosures, they are finding spots in the rental market that might not be as welcoming as we might expect.
As parents, it matters that all children-not just our own-have their needs met, from food in their bellies to a safe place to live. So many of you already get that. You have shared with us how you donate your energy and money to helping others in our community who need a hand-and are teaching your kids to do the same.
Moms like Michelle Habrych, Natalie Stover and Elizabeth Cambray are just a few Chicago Parent readers reaching out to care for our most vulnerable population-and realizing that all of our futures depend on it.
Habrych, who is very involved in her church, says her family is always trying to share the extras they are blessed with, whether it be toys, food or clothes.
"The kids are always trying to figure out how they can help others," she writes. Stover's family participates in food drives, community cleanups and other efforts through the Boy Scouts. "It's rewarding to give back to the community and knowing you are making a difference in other people's lives, as well as your own," she writes. And Cambray is starting lessons early with her 2-year-old daughter, helping families on Saturday mornings apply to become citizens and walking dogs through a local animal shelter. "My hope is that she will learn early how rewarding it is to help others," she says.
You show us every day how powerful neighbors helping neighbors can be. Keep pulling together and in the end, we all benefit, long after the memories of the recession fade.
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.