Our Story

The Problem

In the last decade, the percentage of low-income working families with children in Chicago has stayed stubbornly unchanged.

In spite of the economic turnaround in recent years, more working families are finding their paychecks don’t even cover a month’s expenses. For these families, it’s challenging to afford basic shelter and nutrition, let alone child care, education, or health and dental care.

America’s lowest-income families spend 1 in every 3 dollars earned—32% of their household incomes—on child care.

Job growth has been concentrated in low-wage jobs, and most don’t include the basic benefits that families need, such as paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, flexible work schedules and predictable pay.

Inequities on Greater Display

In 2020, the inequities that disproportionately affect low-income families and people of color were made even more painfully obvious by the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the ongoing police brutality toward Black people.

In Chicago, the neighborhoods with the highest proportion of essential workers, who carry increased health risks, also have the highest proportion of workers facing economic risks during the pandemic—those in labor and customer service.

Mortality risk from COVID-19 has been sharply increased for Black and Latinx Americans, while communities with higher proportions of residents who are uninsured or undocumented tend to have higher test positivity rates, indicating a lack of access to testing compared to the general population.

These inequities take a toll on Illinois children, most tragically as a spike in gun violence across many communities has resulted in unnecessary deaths of even infants and toddlers.

The Promise of Powerful Communities

Communities fragmented by poverty often lack systems that connect and deliver resources to the families who need them.

Illinois Action for Children exists today because of the recognition that to be self-sufficient, American families need access to high‐quality opportunities that provide the foundation for a lifetime of learning, prosperity, health and happiness.

As a state and national leader in the early care and education community, Illinois Action for Children stands distinguished by its “Strong Families, Powerful Communities” approach to child development, Pre-K and Head Start education, and other family and community supports. We believe that these supports work best to ensure school and life success when administered as part of a comprehensive system that includes parents and communities.

This broad approach to supporting children by supporting families is a proven and effective means to address overarching issues of endemic poverty, which is the root cause of the educational failure of America’s poorest children.