Thursday, July 23, 2015

Illinois State Budget Impasse is Hurting Families

by Christy Serrano, Education Program Officer

The Governor and Illinois General Assembly have a deadline set by the state constitution to pass a budget by the end of the legislative session in May of each year. To date, they have not passed a budget. As the Illinois state budget impasse drags into the summer, families have already started experiencing major hardships due to new program restrictions and unresolved government contracts that have compromised essential child and family supports in health and human services. More specifically, families who rely on the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and the Early Intervention (EI) program to support their children’s educational development and family well-being have already been denied services due to new eligibility rules designed to cut services or are just not receiving services because the absence of a state budget has forced programs to shut down.

One of the biggest changes to CCAP is that the state is now restricting eligibility for new families to four priority populations - families on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), children with special needs, families earning below 50% of the federal poverty level, or teen parents. Illinois Action for Children estimates that only about 10% of the current CCAP families fall within one of the priority populations. This means we expect that approximately 90% of new CCAP applicants – who otherwise meet the state’s income threshold and work requirements – will be denied child care services. They also estimate that approximately 2,000 new families have already been denied since July 1, 2015. Since early childhood programs rely on blended funding models in order to offer high-quality care and education, the families who have been denied also may not be able to access early learning opportunities through Preschool for All and Head Start.

Families seeking EI services are having an increasingly hard time accessing Child Family Connections (CFC) Offices in their area, the entry point for receiving any EI services. CFCs manage and coordinate all aspects of the EI program for families and children from birth to age three. According to the Children’s Medical Legal Partnership, three Child and Family Connections Offices closed on July 1, 2015, and they are expecting that more CFCs will have to close their doors due to a non-existent budget and lack of funding. Moreover, individual providers such as speech, developmental, occupational, and physical therapists, are not being fully paid for the EI services they should be providing to families and very young children at-risk for long term developmental delays. A recent court ruling forces the state to reimburse providers for EI evaluation services through Medicaid starting on July 1, 2015. However, the ruling only applies to providers in Cook County and CFCs across the state are still at risk for closures since most of their costs are not reimbursed by Medicaid. 

What you can do?
I am deeply concerned about the short and long-term effects of a budget that restricts access to critical human services including, but not limited to, EI, health and mental health, housing supports, child welfare, mentoring, CCAP and other workforce supports. Call on Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan and members of the Illinois General Assembly to advance a Fiscal Year 2016 budget that provides adequate funding for early childhood programs like EI and CCAP so that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Robert R. McCormick Theater Dedication

by Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications

Thanks to a grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, visitors to the Chicago History Museum (CHM) will now get a chance to step into the newly renovated, state-of-the-art Robert R. McCormick Theater, which was designed in keeping of the historical style of the original auditorium.

The theater features a dynamic new film presentation entitled “The Great Chicago Adventure” that transports visitors through major events in Chicago’s history. Feel the intensity of the Great Chicago Fire and splendor of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Explore the sights of bustling Maxwell Street in the 1950s and peer down from an I-beam of the Sears Tower in the 1970s. Relive Chicago sports victories and cheer on President Obama during his Grant Park victory speech.

New audio, lighting, and video equipment bring the theater’s technology to the cutting edge of the 21st Century, led by the installation of a 4K digital projector and supporting playback devices. Most commercial cinemas with digital capabilities operate 2K projectors. Only a small number of Chicago cinemas currently have 4K projectors, which double the number of pixels across the screen for ultra-realistic high definition imaging. CHM’s new 4K projector will also output at 22,500 lumens, an impressive cinematic level.

On Saturday, July 4, leadership from the Museum along with its closest friends and supporters gathered for the theater’s dedication and the official inaugural screening of the film.

“It’s an honor for the McCormick Foundation to be part of such a tremendous museum that educates and entertains people through the stories that make Chicago a great city,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “It is our hope that everyone coming to Chicago gets to experience this updated theater in all of its glory.”

The film runs 27 minutes; admittance is free with Museum admission.

Ellie Danisch and Othel Owen, stars of "The Great Chicago Adventure".

Monday, July 6, 2015

Save Illinois' Early Intervention Program

by Meg Leonard, Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago

Meg Leonard, a clinician with Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago, discusses how the 2016 state budget cuts will significantly impact Illinois’ Early Intervention (EI) program that assists infants and toddlers, birth to three, with diagnosed disabilities, developmental delays or substantial risk of significant delays.

The proposed state budget would cut $23 million from EI services statewide. Additionally, there is talk about increasing the definition of a developmental delay from 30% to 50%, which would deny thousands of children services in Illinois. Only three states, Arizona, Alaska and Missouri, have implemented such a restrictive definition of eligibility for EI.

EI Fast Facts:
  • Illinois provides EI services to approximately 20,000 infants and toddlers, about 3.5% of all birth to three year olds. Research indicates as many as 13% of birth to three year olds have delays that make them eligible for EI.
  • Restricting eligibility for EI to children who exhibit at least a 50% developmental delay will create a huge increase of children who need more intensive and costly services when they enter preschool and kindergarten.
  • Children with mild and moderate delays (30-40% delay) make the most significant gains in EI.
  • Nearly half of children leave EI functioning at age level and do not need special education at kindergarten age.
  • EI services are 2 ½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years.

How can you help?
Here is how you can advocate for Illinois' youngest residents:

Lost in Translation

by Eli Williamson, Director of the Veterans Program

As our nation honors our returning Veterans we must not forget those who served valiantly by their side. During my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan I had the honor of working with some of the bravest men and women I have ever known. While our interpreters did not wear our uniform they became an integral and indispensable part of our team.

Like many of my fellow Veterans, I cannot express the loss that I felt when two of my interpreters where killed in the line of duty. These translators worked alongside us in combat and saved our lives multiple times through their critical role in intelligence gathering, troop education, and cultural competence.

Today, branded as traitors by the Taliban and groups like ISIS, the lives of local translators and their families are at constant risk. To help these individuals, the U.S. government established a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). This program is designed to grant citizenship to Afghan or Iraqi translators, and their families, who worked with the U.S. military over the last decade. However, many of these individuals will never make it to the States. Obtaining these visas is long, exuberant, and ultimately ineffective process as the majority of these translators remain in refugee camps for years without visas.

Created by: VICE News

In June, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in partnership with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation hosted a program Lost in Translation: The War on Terror’s Forgotten Interpreters, to raise awareness about this important issue. Held in the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, the program included a lively panel discussion with topic experts on how not fulfilling our obligations will impact future American security and what can be done to bring these individuals home.

Panelists included: Becca Heller, Director and Co-founder of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, Erik Malmstrom, Former Infantry Officer of the United States Army and Business Development Manager for Cargill, Khalilullah Farshad Yewazi, a former interpreter of the United States Army, and Craig Bennett, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Recycled Energy Development, LLC.

Here's how you can help:
  • Contact your state legislators to let them know you support the 3,000 additional visas for Afghan interpreters currently included in this year's National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Visit the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project website and sign-up to get updates on legislative efforts.
  • Share this blog with friends and family.

Veterans Impact Pledge Marks One Year

by Don Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy

On May 12 a special event at the Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. marked the first year anniversary of the Philanthropy – Joining Forces Impact Pledge supporting veterans and military families. The Impact Pledge consists of more than 160 grant-makers, non-profits, policymakers and service providers banding together to help veterans successfully reintegrate to civilian life.

The first anniversary marks an important milestone in an ongoing effort to build the philanthropic sector’s commitment to providing vital services to veterans and their families. This year, we expanded our efforts by raising more than $106 million in new commitments. This is in addition to the $170 million that was raised in 2014. It has been very rewarding to help this initiative grow. The McCormick Foundation has been a leader in this effort since the inception several months ago, and we are proud to continue working with colleagues around the country to help our warriors return home.

To advance this collective work, the Council on Foundations created the Veterans Philanthropy Exchange to provide a platform for funders to share best practices, identify and address emerging needs, leverage resources and investments for maximum benefit, and grow collaborations. By doing so, we can simultaneously support vital partnerships enabling funders, operating nonprofits, and policy makers to identify and fill gaps in resources and opportunities and to provide innovative solutions for our veterans.

Civics Legislation Awaits Governor's Signature

by Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar

Civics legislation—HB 4025—requiring that Illinois students take a civics course to graduate from high school, was delivered to Governor Rauner on Thursday, June 25. The Governor has 60 days from the day he received the bill to sign it into law.

On May 30, the Illinois Senate approved HB 4025 with strong bi-partisan support. The bill previously passed the House, and now goes to Governor Rauner for signature. Representative Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park) and Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) championed the legislation in their respective chambers.

Illinois is one of only eleven states that does not have a civic education graduation requirement. As a result, “Many students graduate without even basic knowledge of current events and how to become active members of their communities,” said Rep. Conroy.

The proposed legislation will help fill this civic empowerment gap, and bring civics back to all our schools.

"Good government is a result of public officials and residents working together to make informed decisions,” said Sen. Cullerton. “We need to ensure our young people know how government works to make sure government is working for them."

To help with implementation of the civics course, the McCormick Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, and other leading business and civic organizations from around the state, have pledged at least $1 million annually for three years to address professional development needs for teacher training throughout Illinois.

Celebrating 60 Beautiful Years at Cantigny

by Jeff Reiter, Senior Communications Manager

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation is marking 60 years by inviting visitors for a special day at Cantigny Park on Thursday, July 30. Annually celebrated as the birthday of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the day will offer guests extra special experiences including behind-the-scenes tours, and a free evening concert by the renowned Chicago Sinfonietta.

As McCormick’s former home located in west suburban Wheaton, Cantigny enriches our community every day and is enjoyed by more than 350,000 visitors each year. On July 30, visitors will get a special glimpse of everything Cantigny has to offer: including the formal gardens, the walking trails, the McCormick Museum and the First Division Museum, dedicated to the history of the Big Red One, the famed 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.

“This is our birthday celebration with the community,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “Sixty years ago, Col. McCormick gave Cantigny to the residents of Illinois for education and recreation. It is only fitting that we celebrate this milestone year on his birthday.”

There will be activities throughout the day that the whole family can enjoy including performances from Miss Jamie & The Farmhands (2 pm) and Barefoot Hawaiian (5:30 pm), a vintage baseball game, living history performances, remote control plane demos and much more.

The celebration will be capped off with a performance with Maestro Mei-Ann Chen and the Chicago Sinfonietta (7:30 pm). Music performed in front of the First Division Museum will include Saibei Dance, Carmen Fantasy and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, along with some surprises tailored to the festive occasion.

Whether you join us on this particular day or any other, you’ll enjoy every moment you spend at Cantigny. Admission is free. For a complete list of events on July 30th visit