Standing Behind the United States Police Reform Bill

April 27, 2021

The televised murder of George Floyd, the protestors, and the conviction of formal police officer Derek Chauvin has brought exposure to a larger problem when policing communities of color. Now we have the police killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant and 13-year-old Adam Toledo to add to a long list of victims.

Of course these cases have unique and individualized circumstances, and investigations are currently being conducted, but the systemic problem when policing black and brown communities continues.

H.R.1280, 117th Congress (2021-2022) George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 has passed the United States House of Representatives. According to the website:

 “the bill enhances existing enforcement mechanisms to remedy violations by law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:

  • lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
  • limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer, and
  • grants administrative subpoena power to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in pattern-or practice investigations.”[1]

This bill also provides a whole host of remedies to ensure communities of color receive equitable, fair and just treatment whenever this is police engagement. This essential and critical bill is currently in the United States Senate. To protect communities of color and children like Adam Toledo and Ma’Khia Bryant, this bill needs to be passed into law. It is up tous to contact our lawmakers to advocate for fair and equitable treatment whenever police officers are engaged with adults and children of color. Collectively, we can work together and with our local police departments to ensure all communities are safe.

Contact your lawmakers today and tell them the H.R.1280-George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 needs to be passed into law. Click here to visit to find your representatives and their contact information.


Rev. Beverly Dukes,  Policy Coordinator
United Voices for Children


[1] “H.R. 1280-George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021,”  Congress Government, accessed 4/23/2021,


There’s still time to nominate a hero!

April 21, 2021

We’ve extended the deadline to May 15 for nominations for our three annual awards!

Do you know someone in the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) who provides extraordinary service or advocacy efforts on behalf of children, youth and/or families? All NIC United Methodists are encouraged to nominate someone in their church or community who is doing this good work and deserves recognition. Click here for a detailed description of these awards, information about past award winners, and a nominations form. Nominations must be received by May 15, 2021.

Questions? Please contact Diane Strzelecki, UVC Communications Coordinator, at

Join the Fight for Equal Health Care for All Illinoisans

April 12, 2021

doctor's officeAs recently as March 26, 2021, HB 158 bill had made its way through the Illinois Senate.

This bill is critical in the ongoing fight to address the barrage of health and human service disparities directly affecting low-income and communities of color. According to Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), this bill targets several layers of inequalities. “This bill addresses the disparities in behavioral health services, which includes mental health and substance abuse services,” Hunter said. “Further, this bill provides improvements in children’s health care services, women’s health care services, care for older adults, public health, the accessibility of health care services and addressing racism which includes implicit bias in human and health care services.”

This bill is part of the continued and assertive efforts of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus to combat systemic racism. The bill also looks to provide the needed and equitable assistance to communities that have historically been harmed by systems of injustice.

This bill now sits on the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker. As concerned citizens and the broader faith-based community, I implore you to contact your state lawmakers and representatives. Tell them that Governor J.B. Pritzker needs to sign this bill into law to level the playing field for all Illinoisans. Information regarding HB 158 bill can be obtained at the official website of Illinois Voices for Children and Illinois Senate Democrats.

Rev. Beverly Dukes, Policy Coordinator
United Voices for Children

[1] Mattie Hunter, “Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Celebrates Passage of Health Care Reform Measures, Marking the Final Pillar of an Agenda Addressing Systemic Racism,” Illinois Senate Democrats Senate President Don Harmon, published March 26, 2021,

Past UVC President Featured in Sun-Times Article

March 3, 2021


photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times

On February 15, Chicago Sun-Times posted the article “COVID a killer for the obese: ‘Like pouring gasoline on top of a fire’” by Brett Chase featuring Rev. Robert Biekman, former United Voices for Children Board President. 

The article highlighted the efforts of Chicago churches to target obesity in their community because it leads to a higher risk of lethal complications from COVID-19. Rev. Biekman spoke to his own experience contracting COVID-19 in January and how it would have been a different story for him if he would have gotten sick when he was at his top weight of 360 pounds. After a major life change in 2017, Rev. Biekman is currently at a healthy 190 pounds. 

According to the article, obesity is a major health concern for all demographic groups: 40% of Blacks, 30% of whites and 34% of hispanics are considered obese.

Together with Rev. Otis Moss of Chicago: Trinity UMC, Rev. Biekman has been involved in instituting a major initiatives to improve preventative health care on Chicago’s South Side. The article illustrates how religious leaders can inspire and move their congregations to better choices for their health. 

Click here to read the article. 

Our Cup Runneth Over!

March 3, 2021

cup of teaOn Sunday, March 14, DeKalb United Methodist Women (UMW) will gather together on Zoom for their annual Spring tea meeting, and United Voices for Children will have “a seat at the table.”

We are humbled and honored to learn that DeKalb UMW has named United Voices for Children (UVC) as their mission project for the event, called “Cups of Tea and Kindness.” Donations will be collected during registration for the event and will directly support our three agencies. During the meeting, DeKalb UMW will honor those who have made contributions to the work of UMW, highlight the work of UVC and its agencies, and participate in short book talks on several of the books in their UMW Mission U Studies Reading Program.

We are grateful that this wonderful organization will be sharing our work with their members. We thank DeKalb United Methodist Women in advance for their support and look forward to March 14!

JFON Celebrates Anniversary

February 20, 2021

NJFON Feb. 4 eventOn Sunday, February 21 at 4 pm, Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors (NIJFON) will celebrate 10 years of helping immigrant families find Justice and love in their chosen home. NIJFON will be joined by special guest speaker Nestor Gomez, immigrant storyteller, and State Representative Delia Ramirez, who holds NIJFON special to her heart as she helped to start the Chicago clinic back in 2014. 

In addition to honoring their 10 years in special ways, they will be kicking off their “More Justice, More Love” campaign. This event will be held via Facebook Live. Please click here to RSVP. 

The first decade of JFON is full of stories of hope from clients, volunteers and staff who were the first to encounter JFON and have made it what it is today. Justice and Love are at the center of their work as we celebrate a decade of providing high quality immigration legal services. JFON has now become the stories of justice and love as we seek a world where immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are welcomed, supported and able to live without fear.

Click here to join the Facebook Live event. 

Upcoming Voices for Illinois Children Webinar

February 18, 2021

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021 at 11am, UVC partner Voices for Illinois Children will present a webinar on the State of Illinois Finances. This webinar will provide an overview of the Governor’s budget proposal, the latest on the federal debate over a new stimulus package, and the outlook on the FY22 budget and FY21 payments from the state comptroller and state legislators. We encourage you to attend!

Click here to register for the webinar. Visit Voices for Illinois Children at

Celebrating Child-Serving Agencies & Giving Churches

August 6, 2020

United Voices for Children (UVC) presented an online celebration on August 5th to highlight the valuable services that its affiliated agencies provide to at-risk children, youth and families in Northern Illinois.  At the same time UVC honored 69 congregations in the Northern Illinois Conference that provide financial support to those agencies through UVC.

Kids Above All (formerly ChildServ), MYSI, and Rosecrance–UVC’s affiliated agencies–provided information about the array of services they provide for needy children and youth.  Video presentations dramatized the many ways these agencies make a difference in the lives of struggling families.  

UVC presented $3,000 checks to each of these agencies from the funds collected from Northern Illinois congregations in the Fifth Sunday Appeal.  Rev. Jane Eesley (Christ UMC Rockford), Carey Bebar (Gary UMC Wheaton), and  Rev. Barbara Good (First UMC Evergreen Park) gave testimonies the importance of their congregation receiving a special offering on fifth Sundays so they can support UVC and its affiliated agencies.  UVC sent certificates to all 69 congregations that have provided financial support in 2019-20 and honored them by name at this event.

UVC also recognized its partnership with Illinois Voices for Children to encourage congregation and community members to complete the 2020 U.S .Census.  UVC affirms that the U.S. Census brings resources to kids and families in your neighborhood, so we can all help to make sure our communities get a full count and their fair share.

You can view a recording of the UVC Celebrates online event at this link.  You are encouraged to share it with other members of your congregation, and join together to make a donation to support these critical services to children and youth on the next fifth Sunday–August 30, 2020.  

UVC Celebrates Agencies & Church Giving

July 17, 2020

United Voices for Children (UVC) announces a special online gathering on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 at 1:00 pm: UVC Celebrates: Kids Above All, MYSI, & Rosecrance.  This event will feature the three affiliated agencies in the Northern Illinois Conference that advocate for and serve at-risk children, youth, and families:
Kids Above All                           MYSI                      Rosecrance
Participants will also have a unique opportunity to hear about the outstanding work being done by each of these agencies.
UVC will also recognize and honor the 69 congregations who supported UVC over the past year through the 5th Sunday Appeal. The generous, faithful giving of these congregations enables UVC to make a difference in the lives of needy children, youth and families.
In addition, there will be a special time of dedication for Kids Above All, formerly ChildServ. Bishop Sally Dyck will officiate this important marker for this 126-year-old child welfare age that began as the Methodist Deaconess Orphanage in Lake Bluff, Illinois.
Here is the link where you can register for the UVC Celebrates event:
After you register you will receive an email with details about how to join this Zoom webinar on August 4th.   You can also find the event livestreamed on UVC’s Facebook page.
Please download the flyer below and send it to colleagues and other members of your congregation.
CELEBRATE flyer with registration link

Count All the Kids

June 30, 2020

United Voices for Children has released Count All the Kids: A Call to Action to Faith Community Engagement in the 2020 U.S Census.   The report encourages faith groups to educate and empower  their communities to complete the census.  Since census information affects how federal funds and resources are distributed to local governments and communities, ensuring a full and accurate count in a community safeguards the well-being of children’s lives.

Count All the Kids, prepared by the Reverend Robert Biekman, UVC board president, and Reverend Beverly Dukes, UVC policy coordinator, looks at theological, biblical and sociological perspectives for this census campaign.  The report also includes an interactive map that someone can use to check on the census response rate in their community.  Finally the report proposes concrete action steps that individuals and faith communities can take.

You can download a copy of Count All the Kids here.