Moving the Needle in Illinois: New Policies Mean Progress

April 4, 2017

Before it becomes a crisis, Bright Promises is there...

One of the primary objectives for each one of Bright Promises' multiple initiatives is to build the necessary infrastructure around the most urgent, unmet needs of children so that our programs not only immediately benefit children and families, but also continue to generate positive results well after our initial investment.

Some of the best indicators for this kind of lasting infrastructure are changes to training practices, changes to treatment and referral procedures, and perhaps most importantly, changes to policy within an organization and more broadly at the local, state and national level.

We work in areas which significantly impact children's wellbeing, and which are currently under-recognized and underfunded in Illinois. Therefore, we are thrilled to share the announcement of two major changes to policy connected to Bright Promises current initiatives. These new policies indiacte that greater awareness and resources are now being directed to address these critical needs of economically disadvantaged children and will support Bright Promises ongoing work in these areas.

Bill SB0565 - Social and Emotional Screening as part of Required Health Exam

The Illinois House recently passed SB0565 by a vote of 70 – 40 , and is now in the process of being voted on by the Illinois Senate. In summary, the bill focuses on mandatory SEL screening as part of required health exams/immunizations for children to attend school in Illinois.

Here is an excerpt of the bill: "Amends the School Code. In provisions concerning health examinations and immunizations, requires an age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate social and emotional screening to be included as part of the examinations and procedures that constitute a health examination under rules of the Department of Public Health. Sets forth requirements with respect to the rules concerning social and emotional screening."

According to Bright Promises Director and former President of the advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children, "[This is] good news [for] the recognition of the importance of SEL screening in the overall health of the child.  This is an important step forward that many have been working on for a long time.  It is another step in the long walk towards fully recognizing the importance of SEL in the overall health and well-being of children, as well as the impact on their academic performance and education journey."

Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act

The second piece of legislation that has been introduced is sponsored by senior U.S. senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, and 7th Congressional District representatitve Danny Davis. The Senators have introduced legislation to improve coordination and training to identify kids who have experienced trauma and provide them with immediate support. The Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act capitalizes on the amazing, innovative work being done in Chicago and across Illinois.

The good news is that implementing these effective programs won’t break the bank either. This bill ensures that strategies for identifying trauma and connecting kids with care are built into every major federal program that reaches Chicago’s youth: Head Start; formula funding for public schools; social services; health care; home visiting for parents; and child welfare funding, among others.

According to Senator Durbin and Representative Davis, "We must start early and build stable, nurturing environments to support our children and strengthen our communities. Our bill will do just that, and we’ll work to see it through."