Child poverty rates impact local agencies trying to help

By WEEK Producer

December 7, 2012 Updated Dec 7, 2012 at 7:27 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- It's part of the season. People just seem to be more generous this time of year, and the need for that giving spirit appears to be growing.

According to a report by Crain's Chicago Business the child poverty rate in Peoria County is 21 percent. It's even higher in Mason and Knox counties.

At the Salvation Army's family shelter in Peoria, they are feeling the impact of those statistics everyday in human terms.

"Our shelter has a capacity of 40 individuals," said Capt. Katherine Clausell, "and (right now) we have 32 children living in our shelter. That's an all-time high for us."

Some families are arriving at the shelter this season without even basic necessities. Clausell says financial donations, and even items like clothing and bedding, would go a long way toward helping.

Meanwhile, the president of Peoria Friendship House reports they are seeing children as young as 8 years old, who are clinically depressed and worried about their survival.

"The story that I often hear is, 'my father just lost his job and my mother is worried that she'll lose her job and then what will we do?'," said Dr. Barbara Hartnett.

What some families do is turn to agencies like Friendship House. But each year, the staff there is having to work harder and harder to make the holidays a happy time for children living in poverty.

One program in particular helps.

"What we need are sponsors for families that we are trying to adopt," explained Hartnett. "That's the name of our program, Adopt-A-Family."

There's more information about the Adopt-A-Family program available on Facebook or by contacting Friendship House at 671-5200.