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Park and Recreation Programs Combat Social Issues
by Laura J. Richter

According to a study completed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, profiles of children's well-being show kids in Illinois falling further behind those in other states. Illinois ranks 39th overall on key child welfare indicators, such as rate of child deaths and teenage dropouts. Only the rates of infant mortality and child poverty improved in Illinois since 1991 the latest year for which figures are available.

The violent death rate for teens was startling, with a 42% increase from 1985 to 1991, more than twice the rate of the nationwide increase.

Nationally, nearly 4 million kids are growing up in conditions that threaten their future. They reside in severely distressed neighborhoods, characterized by high incidences of poverty, school dropouts, female-headed families which tend to earn fewer dollars, unemployment, and reliance on welfare.

Though these statistics are grim, research shows that strong recreation-based programs are successful at reducing crime, improving health and quality of life, and creating safer communities for citizens. Park and recreation services can provide answers for many of the serious social issues we face today, including juvenile crime.

This edition of Illinois Parks & Recreation examines some of the social dilemmas facing park districts and forest preserves, while highlighting programs that have been effective in combatting such issues. Given the right support, the success of these programs can be maintained, but it is vital that legislators, policymakers, media and the public understand the role recreation plays in our society.

If you have any comments or would like to share your agency's success stories, please drop me a line at 211 East Monroe Street, Springfield, IL 62703.

Ron Dodd, Director of Parks & Recreation for the Joliet Park District, captured this winter scene just after daybreak in Pilcher Park.

4 llinois Parks & Recreation January/February 1995

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