Service Utilization and the Individual, Family, and Neighborhood Characteristics of Children with Disabilities in Illinois. I. INTRODUCTION


The objective of this research project was to describe the demographic characteristics and human service utilization of all children and adolescents who are identified as having a disability in Illinois, as well as to understand the stability of the care that they receive through childhood and adolescence. Given the recent changes in the Supplemental Security Income program for children and adolescents in the 1996 Welfare Reform legislation, the study can serve as a baseline to assess the impact of the changes on service provision to children and adolescents with disabilities.

Our specific aims for this study were: 1) To describe the trends in demographic characteristics of the disabled child population in Illinois; 2) To describe the pattern of movement and stability of care of disabled children across different service settings; 3) To describe the pattern of multi-service use of disabled children; 4) To determine the extent to which type of disability and demographic factors are related to multi-service use; 5) To demonstrate the utility of administrative data for advancing the state of knowledge on children with disabilities; and 6) To determine the policy implications of these findings.

Illinois provides a geographic unit that contains a range of environments, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses. Four and a half percent of our country's children live in Illinois, and their demographic characteristics are representative of the country overall as well as the larger states. For example, the racial/ethnic distribution of Illinois children is very similar to that of the United States as a whole (69% white in the U.S., 68% white in IL, and 14% non English-speaking in both the U.S. and Illinois). Illinois ranks in the middle third of states in percent of children living in poverty and in percent of children living with both parents.

This study is unique because it is based on statewide service data. All children in Illinois who are identified by a set of agencies as having a disability will be tracked through the use of the Integrated Database on Children's Services in Illinois (IDB), which has been shown to be a reliable source of data for policy makers at both the state and the Federal level. The IDB combines individual child and family level data from the late 1970's through the present and is updated at least yearly. The population under study are those children identified as having a disability from July 1, 1989 through June 30, 1994.

We begin the report with a short summary of the policy context during the time period and the data and methods used for the study. We follow this summary with a discussion of our results, both descriptive and multivariate. We have not fully analyzed the data prepared for this study and intend to use it in the future, not only as a baseline to follow up this population, but also to better understand the changes that we saw during the five year time period. We hope that the implications flow easily from these results and end with an implications and future work section.

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