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  • youth preparedness month smallJuly is Youth Preparedness Month. When disaster strikes, young people have specific needs during recovery that are often times not accounted for. Your child can make sure those needs are brought to the attention of recovery agencies by joining a youth preparedness program.

    What is a youth preparedness program?

    • Youth preparedness programs teach young people the proper steps to remain safe during and after a disaster. Some programs even give young people a seat at the table when it comes to developing recovery plans.

    Why should my child join a youth preparedness program?

    • Children are positive influencers and can help spread important messages, so by enrolling your child in a youth preparedness program they can help educate their school administration, yourself and even their future families about being prepared in the event of a disaster.
    • Children will grow up to be our next leaders, so placing an emphasis on preparedness will mean a greater focus on disaster mitigation in future leaders.
    • Youth preparedness programs help empower children to advocate for themselves.

    How can my child get involved?

    • Click here to find a program in your area that is right for you.
  • 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 73015SPRINGFIELD — Earlier this year, Senate Majority Caucus Whip Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) passed legislation out of the Senate that would create a commission to help young people find jobs and lower unemployment.

    Today, Martinez’s legislation was signed into law.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois’ youth unemployment rate was 18.5 percent in 2012.

    “I am committed to helping young people in our state who struggle to find a job,” Martinez said. “The commission will focus on bringing together experts to come up with ways to help our youth find and keep employment.”

    Under HB 1490, a 17-member commission will be in charge of identifying concerns regarding the readiness and ability of young adults to find employment after their education is completed.

    Members of the commission are unpaid. Each legislative leader will be able to appoint four members to the commission.

    HB 1490 takes effect immediately.

  • hunter youthjobs signedSPRINGFIELD – Former wards of the state will soon have access to internships and potential employment opportunities. A youth employment jobs plan creating the Foster Youth Summer Internship Program was signed into law today.

    “Our at-risk youth face the harsh challenges of either finding employment or facing joblessness, homelessness and even incarceration. Preventing a pipeline to prison will empower our future leaders and grow our economy,” said State Senator Mattie Hunter, the bill’s sponsor.

    A 2011 Northwestern University study showed Illinois had the third largest number of youth in the country who were aging out of the foster care system without parental support at 21 percent.

    Compounding those figures, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the state had one of the highest unemployment rates among teens aged 16 to 19 in 2012, at 27.1 percent.

    Joblessness among minority youth skyrocketed to 90 percent for African-Americans and 79 percent for Hispanics.

    “Our youth are struggling to find jobs. Internships will give them transferrable skills while fostering their economic independence,” said Hunter.

    Hunter modeled the program after similar foster care internship pilot programs in Maryland, Missouri and Florida.

    The program will begin on January 1, 2016 and operate for a two-year period before being assessed for long-term implementation.

    Senate Bill 1255 gained bipartisan support and passed the Senate 49-1 and the House 115-0 in May.

  • hunter fairCHICAGO – Over the weekend, several hundred Chicago youth, adults and seniors attended State Senator Mattie Hunter’s 12th Annual Health, Fun and Fitness Fair on the South Side. Free health services and back-to-school supplies were offered.

    Mourning families joined the Hunter family for commemorative balloon releases for violence prevention and breast cancer awareness.

    Hunter released pink balloons with Carolyn Adams’ family, the namesake of the Carolyn Adams Ticket for the Cure, in honor of those who lost loved ones to breast cancer. Gatherers released red balloons alongside the Hunter family while calling out the names of victims of violence.