More DuPage County children are living in poverty even as they become insured, according to a new report from advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children.
The finding was part of the Illinois Kids Count 2014 report, presented at a press conference Thursday at the DuPage County Health Department.
"There is no single predictive factor that is more accurate when it comes to assessing health status than that of income status," said health department Executive Director Karen Ayala. "So as the income status of our children decline, we must combat (it) and really focus our efforts on supporting these families."
The number of DuPage County children whose households are at or below the poverty line increased from 13,301 in 2006 to 22,111 in 2011, a more than 66 percent change. That translates to a growth in the county's child poverty rate from 6 to 10 percent, the report said.
Positive Parenting DuPage Executive Director Courtney Simek joined Ayala and representatives from the nonprofits Teen Parent Connection and the People's Resource Center at the conference.
Simek said the shift was due to the large demographic change the county has seen recently, which has provided new challenges to area service providers.
"We're bringing in wide varieties of cultural backgrounds, different ethnicities to this community that ... in the past we've not been as familiar in working with," Simek said. "The face of poverty has changed."
Ayala said there has been an exodus of poverty from urban environments into the suburban collar counties.
"This is not an issue of health care alone," she said. "It's an issue for educators, it's an issue with housing, it's an issue with workforce development, it's an issue for all elements and sectors of our community to really come together and address."
People's Resource Center Senior Director of Programs Melissa Travis said her organization had seen a rise in the number of people served in recent years. Many still hadn't recovered from the 2008 recession, she said, a problem exacerbated by last year's cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
"(The cuts) really negatively and disproportionately affect children," Travis said. "Because when there's less money for food in the household, something gets cut somewhere. It might be health care, it might be after school activities, but somewhere that money has to come for food."
However, more children had health insurance in 2011 than 2006, with numbers of uninsured children dropping to 3.3 percent from 9.2 percent, the report said.
DuPage County's average rates of child abuse and neglect, teen births and reported crimes against children all stayed below statewide levels, according to the report. There was also a slight decline in body mass index rates and oral health improved, Ayala said.
The increase of substantiated cases of abuse and neglect increased 46 percent between 2006 and 2013. That was actually a good sign, Simek said, as it meant law enforcement was following through in investigating and reporting such cases.
"DuPage County looks pretty good," Travis said. "When you compare it with other counties in the state, we look really good. But good isn't good enough when we're talking about children."
DuPage County by the numbers
• Percentage of children without health insurance down to 3.3 percent in 2011 from 9.2 percent in 2006
• Children's enrollment in Medicaid and related programs increased by 138 percent from 2005 to 2012
• Child poverty rate rose from 6 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2011 compared to a rise of 17 to 21 percent statewide
• Number of children living in poverty increased 66 percent from 2006 to 2011
• Number of substantiated cases of abuse and neglect increased 46 percent between 2006 and 2013
• Number of children in substitute care increased 133 percent between 2007 and 2013
• 4.2 percent of all births were teen births in 2009, compared to 9.5 percent statewide
The full report can be found at www.voices4kids.org .