A new report shows some good and bad news on how children are faring in Illinois.
Child poverty continues to be a stubborn problem in Illinois.
One in five Illinois children still lives below the poverty line, and more are living in high-poverty neighborhoods across the state, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2016 Kids Count report.
The report examined 16 indicators of child well-being in four areas -- economic stability, education, health, and family and community. Illinois ranked 21st in the nation for overall child well-being, down one spot from last year.
Of the 16 well-being indicators, five have worsened in Illinois since 2008. Child poverty remains a weak spot in the state.
Twenty-percent of Illinois children lived in poverty in 2014, up from 17 percent in 2008. The state's 2014 child poverty rate was, however, lower than the national figure of 22 percent.
Between 2010 and 2014, 12 percent of Illinois children, or 362,000 total, lived in concentrated areas of poverty. That's up from 10 percent between 2006 and 2010.
In Illinois, African-American children are three times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than the average kid.
The number of Illinois children whose parents lack secure employment also ticked up from 26 percent in 2008 to 29 percent in 2014, representing 858,000 total kids.
"Every child in Illinois counts no matter where they live, their racial or ethnic background or their income," Voice for Illinois Children's President Tasha Green Cruzat said in announcing the report findings. "Poor economic conditions for families pose risks to children and are associated with diminished prospects later in life. Raising the incomes and increasing job opportunities of low- and middle-income families remains an important challenge for the state."
The good news is that Illinois has improved on 10 well-being indicators, including all four health-related measures. Illinois earned the nation's 9th best ranking for children's health.
Only 3 percent of Illinois children lack health insurance coverage, compared with 6 percent nationwide. Illinois is doing well in this area largely because of the state's decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and its investments in the Covering All Kids health insurance program, Green Cruzat explained.
Illinois also saw a statewide drop in the number of low-birthweight babies, child and teen deaths and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs.
When it comes to education, more Illinois kids are graduating on time and some progress has been made on reading and math indicators.
Even still, Green Cruzat said greater improvement is needed on education measures.
"While the percent of Illinois' fourth graders scoring below proficient in reading fell from 68 percent in 2007 to 65 percent in 2014, this level is still too high and leaves too many kids ill-prepared for higher educational achievement and career success," she stressed.
It's important to note that the latest Kids Count report measured child well-being in Illinois before the state's ongoing budget impasse began nearly one year ago. Green Cruzat said the budget stalemate has taken a toll on many programs important for children.
"Unfortunately, the current budget impasse is dismantling key parts of Illinois' health and human services infrastructure as well as vital programs that would ensure Illinois continues to improve outcomes for our kids," she said.