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Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois

2013 Policy Recommendations


Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois is a bipartisan, nonprofit anti-crime organization led by 300 police chiefs, sheriffs, state’s attorneys, leaders of police officer organizations, and victims of violence.  Our mission is to take a hard-nosed look at the research about what really works to keep kids from becoming criminals and to share that information with the public and policymakers.  Among the strategies proven to be effective are quality early care and educational programs for preschoolers, after-school programs and prevention of child abuse, as well as programs that nip delinquency in the bud by getting troubled kids back on track.  We are still far from meeting the need in all these areas.  Continued failure to do so is a crime prevention disaster.  Adoption of the reasonable recommendations outlined below will keep us moving in the right direction.

I.  Provide All Families Access to Quality Early Learning Programs Proven to Cut Crime.  A wide body of research from some of our most esteemed academic institutions tells us that expanding these investments will significantly cut the numbers of kids who grow up to become criminals.  Our solid progress in this area has been halted over the past few years and we need to renew this as a priority in Illinois.  2013 (FY14) Policy Recommendations:

A.  Maintain full funding in the final FY 14 Early Childhood Education Block Grant (ECBG) line item in the Illinois State Board of Education budget and seek to restore the 8% FY 13 cut.  Restoring last year’s cut would fund the block grant at $325 million and allow Preschool for All to serve about 80,000 three- and four-year-olds.  The ECBG in the Illinois State Board of Education is the funding stream for Preschool for All and a number of family strengthening programs through the Birth-to-Three set-aside portion of the block grant.  The Block Grant has been cut by $80 million over the past four years and we are now serving 20,000 fewer preschoolers.  Many programs have been forced to close, and we are concerned that many that stayed open had to cut or eliminate components that we know are crucial for quality, including parent outreach coordinators.  Further cuts will force even more programs to close their doors and tarnish our standing as a national leader in this area.

B. Maintain support for the child care assistance program for working families.  Our goals in supporting this are to stabilize child care access and quality for children of low-income working families.  This will help to preserve parents’ choice of a variety of quality care settings for their youngsters – both home-based and center-based care.  Cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) in the Department of Human Services last year led to a 37% average increase in copayments for low-income working parents.  We support efforts to mitigate those cuts.

II. Reinforce the Role of Parents As Their Child’s First Teacher
Without the support of extended families and robust communities, many new and expecting parents feel isolated and unprepared even though they are their children’s most important teachers.  Low-income parents, particularly, face hurdles just to provide the necessities of life for their children. There are a number of model programs that provide voluntary intensive home-visiting and parent education.  Lack of funding in Illinois leaves current home-visiting programs only able to reach 1 of 5 kids in poverty ages 0-3. Reaching more at-risk families with these proven programs will cut child abuse and neglect significantly.   2013 (FY14) Policy Recommendations:

A.  Prevent child abuse and neglect and help more parents to promote healthy child development and nurture social-emotional development—key components of early learning—by maintaining the current funding of $20.5 million for evidence-based home visiting programs in the Illinois Department of Human Services final FY 14 budget.  

B.  Support Illinois’ new federal funding for home visiting programs – Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. Illinois must maintain state funding at FY 2010 levels in order to qualify for the MIECHV funding.

III.      Shut down “Prime Time for Juvenile Crime” by assuring families access to youth development programs for the after-school and summer hours. Research and evaluation across the country show that quality youth development programs can cut crime immediately and transform the Prime Time for Juvenile Crime (3:00 to 6:00 PM) into hours of constructive activities that teach youngsters the values and skills they need to become good neighbors and responsible adults.   2013 (FY14) Policy Recommendations:

A.   Support restoration of funding for the Teen REACH after-school program in the Illinois Department of Human Services.   FY13 (current year) funding is $8.2 million serving 15,600 kids.  As recently as FY 10, Teen REACH funding was almost twice that level ($15.7 million).  .  

IV. Identify and Help Troubled Kids Early on to Get Back on Track. Law enforcement is doing a good job addressing juvenile crime and making sure offending juveniles are taken off the streets – almost 45,000 juveniles get arrested every year.  The most dangerous of these young people are put behind bars.

The problem – a problem with disastrous consequences for public safety — is that police officers and sheriffs find themselves continually arresting the same kid again and again.  Our state’s attorneys are forced to prosecute the same kid again and again. About 3,000 juveniles are committed to a state facility every year and, after they are released, 73% of them are arrested again within two years.  Forty-eight per cent of them wind up right behind those same bars within three years.

These extraordinarily high rates of re-offending indicate that troubled kids with mental health problems are not being properly identified and treated; our secure corrections facilities are not effectively counter-acting and correcting criminal behavior; and that kids who serve time are not being adequately monitored with proven interventions when they return to their communities.

The good news is that there are many innovative, proven, evidence-based approaches that, if implemented well, will reduce re-arrests of juveniles, increase public safety, and save money.  2013 (FY14) Policy Recommendations:

A.  Implement strategies in the Department of Juvenile Justice that will reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders.  Specifically, allocate the resources necessary for the Department of Juvenile Justice to achieve a robust system of after care services and supervision.   The current system has been crippled by a lack of the resources necessary to assess, develop, and carry out an after-care plan for every youth exiting secure facilities.  This needs to be addressed in a comprehensive evidenced based manner if Illinois is serious about reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders.

B.  Support community-based interventions with troubled youth.  There are a number of community-based interventions that we believe deserve continued funding in FY 2014.  Along with well-run high security youth centers, effective community-based interventions are essential if we are to turn the lives of troubled youth around.  Redeploy Illinois is a promising strategy to use fiscal incentives to encourage counties to use a small portion of the state dollars currently spent on expensive corrections beds to build local continuums of care and accountability for youth in the juvenile justice system.  We support at least maintaining funding for Redeploy as we look forward to expansion into more of the many counties which are not able to participate.