Government as Family: Illinois’ ‘First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects’

Written by John Biver

The Illinois state government’s fiscal condition has been a national news story for some time – even the butt of jokes and sarcasm as illustrated by this headline:

State That Can’t Pay Its Bills Gets Obama Holiday

(In case you missed that Obama holiday news, click here.)

That means it’s time for a new state-sponsored program, wouldn’t you say?

Back in May, the Office of the Governor broke the news with these four paragraphs (I’ve bolded a few passages for emphasis):

First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects

FREEPORT — First Lady Diana Rauner is celebrating the launch of the Illinois Family Connects pilot program, a universal newborn support system. It is a home visiting program administered by the Stephenson County Health Department and available to new babies and their families.

“I have seen firsthand that all families need some level or degree of support, and believe that offering every new parent a home visit to provide information, supports and resources can help every child thrive,” said First Lady Diana Rauner.

The Illinois Family Connects program is a community-based, universal program. The pilot program is at FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport, Ill. Every family will be offered community-wide support at no cost that will begin with a community nurse meeting them at home after birth. Other support includes wellness checks for the baby and family and help to identify and connect with supportive resources from which any new family may benefit.

The pilot program is a product of the Illinois Home Visiting Task Force which Diana Rauner has co-chaired since 2009 and is a public-private partnership funded through federal and state grants. The Illinois Family Connects program was originally developed in Durham, N.C. This program makes Illinois a national model for supporting all families from cradle to career.

“Cradle to career.” With Medicaid and Medicare, of course, it’s really “cradle to grave.” Just like our Founding Fathers intended, right?

The redefinition of family continues — now government is part of all our big happy families. Looking out of the newborns. Wonderful, no? How could the Illinois Family Institute object to that?

Diana Rauner has “seen firsthand that all families need some level or degree of support.” All families. Remember the old days when that support would primarily come through the (real) family? Now we “all” “need” support from the government. And just think — it’s going to come “at no cost.”

Why wait until the child is ready to begin pre-school or kindergarten? Our loving state government now would like to see the household of every newborn receiving at least one visit from the caring people at Illinois Family Connects (click here to listen to Diana Rauner say that). “Home visiting” is one of Diana Rauner’s passions (click here to read the quote).

If you thought that our state’s “Head Start” or “Early Head Start” programs were enough, you would be wrong.

Established in 1965, Head Start promotes school readiness for children, ages three to five, in low-income families and enhances children’s social and cognitive development by offering educational, nutritional, health, social and other services.

Early Head Start (EHS), launched in 1995, provides support to low-income infants, toddlers, pregnant women and their families. EHS programs enhance children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development…

It has been fifty-two years since the birth of Head Start, and twenty-two years since “EHS” was hatched, so it is time for yet another new program to be conceived by members of our loving, caring government.

We can afford it, right? Our state is flush with cash and “all families” need help from the government, right? (Or is Illinois in a “death spiral”? You decide.)

Head Start has been controversial for a long time — Google “head start debate” and you can learn more. Spoiler alert: conservatives don’t like it; liberals love it.

Now with Illinois Family Connects, “what we really hope is that every baby and every family will benefit from the opportunity to speak to and learn from a trusted home visitor,” says Diana Rauner.

Will the new program help? It might be easier to guess if we took a look at the existing ones?

Three years ago, the Cato Institute’s David J. Armor wrote about some of the studies examining whether Head Start and Early Head Start were effective. You can read his report here.

This is the pull quote from the page with the report’s introduction:

The most rigorous studies of contemporary preschool programs show no lasting gains for preschool students after they enter regular grades.

Illinois Family Connects will no doubt help address that issue, right? Mrs. Rauner said that every child will now “thrive” because of it.

Let’s amend that since Mrs. Rauner supports abortion: Every child that escapes the abortion knife will now thrive.

Image credit: Screen shot,

John Biver is a Christian, an American citizen from Illinois, and works in the arena of applied political science. He is a writer, activist, and analyst with over twenty-five years of experience in the political arena. John has worked in politics and government in Washington, D.C., and in Illinois at the state and local level.

His personal website is  You can follow him on Twitter at: @jbiver1

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