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MISSION & HISTORY

Mission

Voices for Illinois Children champions the full development of every child in Illinois to assure the future well-being of everyone in the state. We work with families, communities, and policymakers across multiple issue areas to help children grow up healthy, happy, safe, loved, and well-educated.

History

In 1987, a dedicated group of civic, business, community, academic, and philanthropic leaders established Voices for Illinois Children to develop and promote strategies that improve conditions for all children throughout the state. As a privately funded organization, Voices for Illinois Children seeks to educate opinion leaders and policymakers on all issues facing children and families.

Over the years, Voices has grown into a powerful and well-respected advocate. Voices unites community leaders and people who care passionately about children into a statewide network that helps establish new policies and implements innovative programs to improve education, health care, and family economics. Now, Voices celebrates 25 years of hard and fruitful work that has yielded many notable accomplishments in building better lives for all the children of Illinois, including:

1991   The Early Intervention program, which provides therapies for young children with developmental delays or disabilities, is created.
     
1994   Healthy Families Illinois, a program that offers voluntary home visits to help new families learn how to have healthy relationships with their children, is created.
     
1998   The KidCare program is created to provide health insurance for children from low-income families. Also, the Early Childhood Block Grant is established to fund preschool for at-risk young children.
     
2000   The Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit is created to benefit low-income, working families.
     
2002   The FamilyCare program is established to offer health insurance to low-income, working parents.
     
2003   The Children’s Mental Health Act is approved, paving the way for work on a comprehensive children’s mental health system. The Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit is made permanent and strengthened. The Illinois Early Learning Council is created to help guide early childhood policy decisions, and income-eligibility guidelines are improved for families in need of child care assistance.
     
2006   Preschool for All is approved, making Illinois a national leader in its plans to provide voluntary, quality preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.
     
2007   The Perinatal Mental Health Disorders Prevention and Treatment Act is approved, to help address postpartum depression among new mothers and improve their babies’ health. Administration of the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit is simplified and strengthened to ensure that all families receive the entire amount of the credit for which they qualify.
     
2008   Authority for the Preschool for All program is extended an additional two years as the state’s six-year total of new investments in early childhood programs nears the $200 million mark. The “Say It Out Loud” community-engagement campaign is launched, to focus more attention on the importance of addressing the mental health needs of kids and families.
     
2009   Voices is a leader in the push for more adequate and fairly raised revenues to solve a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. While education, health, and human services sustain $1 billion in budget cuts, even deeper, “doomsday” budget cuts are temporarily averted. Illinois launches a first-in-the-nation initiative for early learning programs’ construction and renovation needs. Voices President Jerome Stermer is appointed chief of staff to Illinois Gov. Quinn; Kathy Ryg is named second president of Voices for Illinois Children.
     
2010   After-school efforts are strengthened by the passage of the After-School Youth Development Act and the leadership of the ACT Now Coalition. Preschool for All is made permanent, retaining priority status for at-risk children as well as Illinois’ statutory goal of eventually serving all young children whose parents want it. State officials improve transportation resources for preschool programs, as well as early childhood programs’ access to capital funding. Further budget cuts are avoided in early learning and other important programs; however, other services do absorb cuts, and payment delays threaten a wide range of children’s initiatives.
     
2011   General Assembly approves significant new revenues — adding balance and responsibility in solving a multibillion-dollar state fiscal meltdown. The revenue legislation also established state-spending limits intended to keep our focus on further deficit reduction. In the final weeks of the year, the legislature votes to gradually double the value of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which will help low-income families afford basic necessities and serve as an economic stimulus for local communities.
     
2012   Voices launches its Fiscal Policy Center to provide quality policy analysis on behalf of Illinois children and families. Gaylord Gieseke assumes role of president of Voices for Illinois Children.
     
2013   Voices’ 25th Anniversary Celebration marks the organization’s 25 years of building better lives for children. The celebration culminates in a June gala at the Adler Planetarium with breathtaking views of downtown Chicago. More than 300 guests joined the celebration, which raised more than $230,000 to support Voices next 25 years! 


Join us as we build better lives for Illinois children!