Illinois' Youth Express Need For Critical Tools To Prepare For Life As Adults

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Illinois youth ages 18 to 24 lack critical skills and services needed to prepare them for adult life.

"Many Illinois youth are deeply concerned about their lack of access to health care and opportunities to build important job and life skills," said Gina Guillemette, Director of Policy at Heartland Alliance. "It is in our collective interest as a state to provide youth with more opportunities to improve their lives, strengthening Illinois' future workforce and economy."

Illinois Youth- Ready for Life?, the report released today by Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the lives of people threatened by poverty and danger, shows that Illinois youth face major gaps in services critical to their success as adults. Capturing the voice of Illinois youth through a statewide survey and focus groups, Heartland Alliance found:

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-- Nearly one-third of youth surveyed between ages of 18 and 24 lack health insurance, and express concerns about handling serious illnesses, sexually transmitted diseases, and stress. The youth gave a voice to recent trends in the uninsured rate for this age group -- 27 percent of Illinois youth ages 18 to 24 are uninsured.

-- More than half of participating youth expected difficulty in finding a good job as an adult and indicated a need for better money management and decision-making skills as well as job training and access to reliable transportation to be successful adults.

Youth service providers echoed these findings in a poll conducted by Prevention First, a nonprofit organization specializing in drug prevention. More than 600 professionals working with youth statewide indicated increasing concern for Illinois youth's well-being as they grow older. One-third of Illinois' youth service providers, on average, believe that youth ages 11-18 are doing poorly or are in crisis, particularly in the areas of civic and community engagement, work readiness and social and emotional well-being, pointing to a need for increased service provisions in this area.

Heartland Alliance and Prevention First have joined forces to recommend increased state government investment in programs and services that support youth in their transition to adulthood, such as job readiness, health care and life-skills building. Specific recommendations include expanding transitional jobs programs, which give youth paid work experiences over a short period of time to develop skills and receive supportive services. Additionally, the organizations suggest that public health insurance programs should be expanded to include youth between the ages of 18 and 24.

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