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The Costs and Benefits of School Health Centers: A Fact Sheet Prepared for the Illinois Coalition for School Health

February 1, 2006

This fact sheet describes the costs and estimates the benefits to the state of Illinois that accrue from thirty-eight School Health Centers that receive partial funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services. The study focuses on benefits from reduced asthma hospitalizations, reduced emergency room visits, and increased immunizations provided for Illinois school-age children.

Money Management by Low-Income Households: Earning, Spending, Saving, and Accessing Financial Services

August 1, 2005

Opening and maintaining a checking or savings account at a credit union or bank are crucial steps for establishing the kinds of relationships with financial institutions that lead to qualifying for credit and developing assets. An estimated 22.2 million households or 56 million adults in the U.S. did not have a bank account in 2002. The lack of a bank account is more pervasive among low -income families than higher income families: 83% of families without bank accounts earn less than $25,000 per year. Furthermore, as many as 22% of low-income families -- more than 8.4 million families earning less than $25,000 -- do not have a checking or savings account. Families in the lowest income group are even less likely to have accounts. An estimated 29.1% of families with incomes in the lowest twentieth percentile ($10,300 or less) are without accounts, which is more than three times the median of 9.1% for all families. Classifying households as either banked or unbanked is conventional in the literature on the use of financial services by low-income households. However, a continuum that encompasses banked, formerly banked, underbanked, marginally banked, aspiring to bank, and unbanked better characterizes the way low-income persons access the broad array of financial services available to them. For example, approximately one -half of those currently without a bank account had one in the past; people may have a bank account and still use alternative financial institutions such as check cashing outlets (CCOs), known as currency exchanges in the Chicago area; and 30% of persons without an account report some kind of ongoing relationship with a bank. In fact, the terms mainstream and fringe or alternative themselves depend on one's perspective. That is, what may be regarded as fringe or alternative in one community might be ordinary and mainstream in another. A bank account can be a vehicle for maintaining and accumulating savings. However, having an account does not ensure that account holders are able to save. For example, although an estimated 78% of families with an annual income less than $25,000 had bank accounts in 2001, 53.4% of this income group reported having saved in the previous year. For households in the lowest income quintile ($10,300 or less), the savings rate is 30.0%. Furthermore, the reasons for saving differ among income levels, with families at lower income levels saving for more immediate expenditures such as rent and holiday gifts, compared with the longer timeframe of savings by higher income groups for future expenditures such as children's education and retirement.

Wherever I Can Lay My Head: Homeless Youth on Homelessness

March 1, 2005

Research about the issue of homelessness largely has focused on understanding the characteristics and addressing the needs of homeless adults and families in our communities. Much less research has been conducted to document the characteristics and needs of homeless youth. In recent years, a number of studies have come out in Illinois that address the situation of homeless adults and families as well as youth. Yet there remains a lack of data documenting the perspective of homeless youth concerning their own needs. Providing services that youth report they need can serve as a gateway to other needed services. In the summer of 2003, the Chicago Department of Health sponsored a symposium on the needs of LGBTQ homeless youth. Discussions during this meeting made it clear that assessing the needs of homeless youth would require looking beyond those who were living in shelters, and that the needs of subgroups within the homeless youth population were likely to vary considerably. In response to this need for more information about homeless youths' needs, the City's Department of Children and Youth Services (CYS) partnered with the Night Ministry, an agency with a history of addressing the needs of marginalized youth, to commission the Center for Impact Research (CIR) to conduct a study of the needs of homeless youth in the City of Chicago. The purpose of this study was to learn what the youth themselves identify as their needs, and to understand the differences in these needs among a variety of subgroups-those experiencing their first episode of homelessness, those cycling in and out of homelessness, and those experiencing chronic homelessness. Both the non -profit service providers and the City hope that identifying and meeting these needs not only will act as a gateway to other needed services, but also will expedite resolution of problems that result in homelessness and lead to the establishment of permanent, stable, and safe living situations. With guidance from the Homeless Youth Task Group of the Chicago Continuum of Care 3 and an advisory group composed of government policy makers and program personnel and non-profit agency directors,4 CIR conducted a survey of homeless youth in Chicago between the ages of 14 and 21 during April and May 2004. Twelve youth, nine of whom were homeless, were recruited and trained to interview homeless youth for the project. They conducted 400 interviews with homeless youth throughout Chicago -- at bus stops, fairs and festivals, on trains, streets, and basketball courts, in parks, shelters, schools, homes, drop -in centers, churches, and restaurants. In addition to conducting the survey, CIR interviewed homeless youth service providers, advocates, and public policy personnel working at public and private agencies. These interviews provide further information about the needs of homeless youth and the resources currently available to them, as well as ways that the various systems serving homeless youth might be improved.

Medicare Reform: Widespread Confusion, Uncertain Benefits

February 1, 2005

This report presents the data from CIR's 2004 survey of 600 Medicare recipients about their health care options, ability to access services, and choices about health care spending in the wake of Medicare reform. The findings of this report will assist policy makers and community-based organizations to advocate for programs that will best serve the needs of Medicare recipients.

Policy and Practice: Customer Service in Illinois Department of Human Services Local Offices

October 1, 2003

In a single month, as many as 6,400 to 12,500 people visit each of the busiest of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) local offices. Since welfare reform in 1996, TANF caseloads in Illinois have declined precipitously. In the midst of the current economic recession with its attendant high levels of unemployment, Illinois ranks first in the United States with a reduction in its TANF caseload of 39.5% for period March 2001 to March 2003. 1 However, reductions in TANF caseload do not mean that the number of eligible families in need of assistance is declining.2 Nor do they mean that the workload of local offices has been decreasing at the same rate as TANF caseloads. On the contrary, welfare reform policies have made the management of the remaining TANF caseload a time consuming and labor intensive process. As of August 2003 for the five local offices in this study, caseworker staffing was 23.7% less than the allocated level and supervisor staffing was 28.6% less than allocated. These staff reductions resulting in caseloads in Cook County offices as high as 700 to 1,200 per caseworker negatively impact the kind of service that families encounter when they try to apply for and retain benefits. Commenting on the critical shortage of staff, one Cook County Local Office Administrator said, "I've been around a long time and it's very bad now. There are long lines and long waits. The volume is very detrimental to providing efficient services." Over the past two years, members of community-based organizations and advocacy groups have expressed concern about the increasing number of reports of problems facing people who go to Chicago area IDHS offices for public benefits such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, and TANF. For example, the volume of calls to the Public Benefits Hotline has increased from 7,054 calls for the period August 2001 through July 2002 to 8,418 calls for the period of August 2002 through July 2003. During 2003, call volume has continued to expand, with 43% more calls in August 2003 than in January 2003. In response to the need for current data about customer service in IDHS offices, CIR collaborated with community human services agencies and advocacy organizations in conducting a one-day survey to document the experiences of customers in five of the busiest local IDHS offices in Cook County. IDHS assisted with logistics, instructing local offices to allow CIR to conduct the survey in the waiting areas. Working group members conferred on research design and survey development, attended training in survey administration, and participated in administering the survey. Working group members also participated in discussions to interpret research findings and develop policy recommendations. Although the scope of the survey is limited -- information about 199 customers in 5 offices on one day in July 2003 -- the findings offer important indicators of strengths and weaknesses in service delivery. These findings are being used to inform stakeholders such as elected officials, state agencies, community leaders and organizations, and the media about the quality of service delivery.