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  • Sen. Julie Morrison

    SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) is raising awareness that traumatic experiences during childhood, including physical abuse, sexual assault or emotional neglect, can affect the development of a child and have a lifetime effect on the physical and mental health of a person’s life.

    In response to the growing public health concern, Morrison recently passed a resolution declaring May 15 as Trauma-Informed Awareness Day to highlight the importance of prevention and effective responses to dealing with trauma. Morrison joined with Attorney General Raoul, fellow colleagues and health advocates at a press conference in Springfield today to further highlight the issue.

  • Sen. Rachelle CroweSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon) is pushing legislation for stronger sentences on those who intentionally harm a child’s physical, mental or emotional health.

    The measure creates a mid-level offense for a guardian who knowingly deprives a child of food, shelter, supervision and health care.

    “Deliberately punishing a child to the point of starvation is despicable,” Crowe said. “This legislation is critical to holding parents and guardians accountable for their actions for the well-being of the child.”

  • Martinez

  • Homeless youthSPRINGFIELD – School districts will now be allowed to help students who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless under a plan passed the Illinois Senate.

    Under House Bill 261, schools will have the option to use their own transportation funds to provide housing assistance to students in need if they determine it will be more cost-efficient.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is the legislation’s sponsor in the Senate.

    “This legislation allows schools to take steps to use existing funds to help these students add some stability to their lives,” Bennett said. “A student whose family is going through tough circumstances should be able to stay in their school, which will provide stability.”

  • Sen. Lightford discusses HB 2663

    Children in public preschools are more than three times more likely to be expelled than children in kindergarten through 12th grades, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois. Today, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined a group of law enforcement officials and colleagues from both chambers to discuss a proposal that would keep more at-risk preschool students in the classroom.

    The proposal, which was approved in the House with significant bipartisan support 95-20, would prohibit the expulsion of children enrolled in early childhood programs receiving grants from the Illinois State Board of Education. The legislation focuses on transitioning children to programs that better fit a child’s needs.

    “Disrupting academics is the last thing we should do,” Lightford said. “Children’s time in the classroom is vital, and we need to make sure we are connecting children with the right support.”

    House Bill 2663 not only serves young children, but it also acknowledges that educators need more support when instructing children with behavioral and mental health issues. There are a number of programs that work with teachers and parents to prevent further difficulties and build on children’s social-emotional skills.

    “Expulsion should always be a last resort, not the first option,” Lightford said. “This measure is a good start to ensuring the success of young children by focusing on their comprehensive development.”

    The plan is currently in the Senate and will be heard in the Education Committee in the coming weeks.

  • Van Pelt secures greater protection for youth during custodial interrogation

    SPRINGFIELD — A key legislative initiative introduced by Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), giving children in police custody for certain crimes would have greater protection when being interrogated by police under legislation was signed into law by the by the governor.

    Senate Bill 2370, which passed in the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives with bipartisan support, would require any child 15 or younger to have an attorney present during custodial interrogations by police when accused of murder and sex offenses. It also would require police to recite a simplified Miranda warning for youth.

    “I consider this a huge win for those who are underrepresented in this state. As this bill was signed today let us reflect on those lives who have been negatively impacted, prior to this legislative, specifically Trevon Yates,” Van Pelt said.

    Trevon Yates, then 17 years old, was arrested in 2013, by St. Clair County deputies and questioned in connection with a robbery of a couple that was lured to a parking lot in Belleville, where they expected to meet someone who had advertised an iPhone for sale on Craigslist. A two-hour interrogation video shows the East St. Louis teen repeatedly professing his innocence, begging for his mother and praying to God, before being coerced into confession by sheriff’s detectives.

    Yates, who has diminished cognitive ability, was charged with armed robbery and spent nine months in jail before the charges were eventually dismissed after additional evidence cleared him of any wrongdoing. He was later awarded a $900,000 settlement in a federal lawsuit alleging the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department violated his civil rights.

    Previous law only required minors under 13 years of age who are charged with murder or sex offenses to be represented by counsel during custodial interrogations.

  • biss martinez raoulSPRINGFIELD — State senators Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) and Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) announced today that they will be working with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on a legislative agenda designed to protect children, working parents and seniors.

    “At a time when working families are being attacked by the governor’s policies, it’s important to find ways to strengthen our state’s child care and home health care programs,” said Martinez, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 2536, which would safeguard existing health insurance for child care providers and ensure they receive appropriate training.

  • TC att stpaul grantVILLA PARK- To help give more children access to quality child care, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) nominated St. Paul Outreach, Inc. for the AT&T* “Investing in Illinois Award” for its nonprofit work.

    “St. Paul Outreach is improving the lives of families throughout our district,” Cullerton said. “It’s important to make investments in organizations that have proven to strengthen our communities and enrich the lives of our children.”

    St. Paul Outreach, Inc. will receive $2,000 from AT&T to be used to support its scholarship program. The AT&T Investing in Illinois Awards provides resources and recognition to organizations and programs that improve lives in their communities and the state. They’re advancing education, economic growth, new technologies and other essential community services.

    PHOTO: State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) and State Representative Deb Conroy (D-Villa Park), presented a $2,000 grant check to  Sarah Friel, Debbie Lake and Karen Egan, representatives from St. Paul Outreach and Villa Park Village President Deborah Bullwinkel

  • DVAMonth

  • kotowski sb274

    SPRINGFIELD – After nine years representing the good people of the 28th District, I'll be stepping down from my position as state senator on October 5th to pursue another, exciting avenue of public service. I am grateful to the residents of our community for the chance to serve and make a meaningful difference.

    I have accepted an offer to be the President and CEO of ChildServ, a nonprofit organization with a 121-year history that helps 3,100 at-risk children and families lead better lives. I am honored to take the helm of this respected organization and look forward to ensuring that ChildServ be a catalyst for change as it makes even more of a difference in the lives of children.

  • New law protects children from harmful "therapy" practices

  • delgado childrens gradCHICAGO- After cuts proposed by the governor earlier this year threatened to shut down a majority of its operations The Children’s Place Association, a pre-K education facility, spent Thursday morning celebrating. State Senator William Delgado (D-Chicago) was in attendance as the facility and staff held a ceremony for their students’ graduation, as some of them will move up to Kindergarten.

    Children’s Place provides a wide variety of services to over 70 children a day. Most of whom come from low income families affected by debilitating diseases and disabilities including autism, HIV, heart ailments, epilepsy, spina bifida and hydrocephalus. For many of the children, this is the only early education facility they can attend due to their illness.

  • bush ccap presserGURNEE - State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, joined parents, child care providers and representatives of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to speak out in favor of restoring full funding and access to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

    The program helps working families afford day care for their children. Under tighter restrictions imposed by Governor Bruce Rauner starting July 1, an estimated 90% of parents who apply for CCAP would be denied.

    “The Child Care Assistance Program is a vital service for working families,” Bush said. “Parents should never need to wonder if it’s better to just stay home. I voted to reinstate CCAP funding, and I urge Governor Rauner to listen to parents and child care providers and do the right thing by signing that legislation.”

  • cunningham dcfs wardsSPRINGFIELD - Wards of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services who run away or go missing from the system will now have additional protections to help find them and keep them out of the hands of predators. Two pieces of legislation, sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham, were signed into law to help create a system to locate missing wards that are reported as well as enhancing penalties for criminals who exploit those missing wards.

    “The protection of our children, regardless of circumstance, is a priority. With the passage and signing of these important pieces of legislation, our most vulnerable children will have better protection and, hopefully, a better life,” said Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat.

    Senate Bill 1775, also known as the Safeguard our Children Act, spells out what is required from DCFS once a youth in their custody is reported missing. The legislation states that DCFS must report the missing youth to local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The Illinois State Police must also develop a network to help with locating missing DCFS wards.

    From 2011 to 2013, residential DCFS facilities reported 29,425 incidents of missing wards, averaging 27 runaway reports per day. Many residential facilities do not report the runaways to local law enforcement.

    “There have been numerous cases of DCFS wards going missing, where, unfortunately, law enforcement was not made aware of the missing child,” Cunningham said. “This new law will help us to find runaway wards as quickly as possible, helping protect them from possible exploitation.”

    Also signed into law was Senate Bill 201, which allows sentencing courts to consider a defendant’s knowledge of a prostitution victim’s DCFS status when sentencing. Many wards of the state are extremely susceptible and are in need of extra judicial protections. The legislation specifically states that judges may consider the fact that a criminal knew their victim to be a ward of DCFS and consider that knowledge as an aggravating factor when imposing sentences.

    "A series of recent articles reported that human traffickers often specifically target and recruit wards of the state who reside in group homes. Predators see them as especially vulnerable and susceptible to being lured into a life of prostitution," Cunningham said. "The new law would enable judges to enhance the sentences imposed on pimps and traffickers in those cases."

    Cunningham has worked closely with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart over the years to help craft good public policy in the criminal justice and corrections field. These two new laws are a direct result of that good working relationship.

    “I’m proud to have worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on this. We will continue to work together to protect our most vulnerable children and make their protection a priority,” Cunningham said.

  • martinez courtSPRINGFIELD — With the goal of protecting youth, Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) sponsored legislation in the Senate that would give child care facilities more authority when providing temporary residential services to children in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

    Martinez’s proposal was signed into law today.

    “I sponsored this legislation because, as a result of many children being cared for in temporary facilities for longer periods of time, it is necessary to institute policies that will keep them safe and off the streets,” Martinez said.

    Under the new law, any organization authorized by DCFS to provide temporary care to children will be required to establish and enforce curfews, maintain appropriate staffing levels and provide activities that engage the youth in its care.

    Additionally, they will be responsible for coming up with a plan to locate and return youth to the facility if they run away.

    House Bill 1530 ensures that temporary residential facilities are more responsible for the children in their care and have more power to protect their well-being.

    The law will be effective Jan. 1, 2016.

  • stadelman fosterSPRINGFIELD–Children in foster care are some of the most vulnerable citizens in Illinois, placed through no fault of their own in difficult situations where their parents aren’t able to provide for them.

    In Illinois alone, nearly 18,000 children are in foster care and too many receive less than ideal treatment. House Bill 3684, which was passed by State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) and signed into law today, looks to change that.  

    Stadelman’s legislation creates the Foster Children’s Bill of Rights, which provides certain guarantees for every child placed into a Department of Children and Family Services foster care program. These rights include freedom from abuse, a safe home and to adequate food and clothing.

    “Too often, we hear about vulnerable foster children being abused or being forced to go without care for days at a time. I commend Governor Rauner for signing this legislation to ensure foster children in Illinois will have the right to a good home and adequate care,” said Stadelman.

    Illinois will now join 15 other states that currently have a Foster Children's Bill of Rights in place.

  • harmon jcar ccapSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to support working parents who cannot afford childcare State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) voted against Governor Rauner’s drastic new rules that have cut the Child Care Assistance Program for needy families. Harmon joined with the rest of his Democratic colleagues in support of these families at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules hearing, but the deep cuts prevailed, however, when Republican members sided with the governor over working families.

    “It is extremely disappointing that not a single one of my Republican colleagues was able to stand up for working families today. These emergency rules, proposed by Governor Rauner, do not respond to an emergency, but they will create emergencies for people all across the state. The legislature should have the will to stand up to the governor and check this overreach of his powers,” said Harmon.

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  • Tom Cullerton's PANDAS initiative signed into lawSPRINGFIELD - Vital legislation to raise awareness on Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) was signed into law today.

    PANDAS is characterized by a sudden onset of symptoms associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome and other tics after a child has had a strep infection. Symptoms range from severe separation anxiety to motor tics that appear similar to seizures and hallucinations. The symptoms are severe enough to prevent children from attending school.

    To raise awareness and educate medical professionals, State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) passed a measure to create an advisory council to make recommendations to the Illinois Department of Public Health on awareness and education among doctors, school-based health centers and mental health providers.