CEJA: a way to care for God’s earth

September 13, 2021

Scientists now agree that the repeated use and emission of fossil fuels has negatively affected the planet. Because of our behavior, the temperature of the earth has increased at an alarming rate, causing more wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes to occur than in the past. The abundance of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will harm future generations if we do not intentionally take the necessary steps to care for God’s earth. Together with the effects of climate change, environmental injustices and the COVID-19 pandemic have had a devastating effect on struggling families and children.  

As stewards of God’s resources, we are charged with the responsibility to care for God’s earth and all creatures—and there are ways we can collectively care for God’s planet and the struggling residents of Illinois. The Clean Energy Jobs Act of Illinois addresses the issues surrounding climate change, environmental injustices, and the pandemic, and how these issues have affected struggling families. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition notes that “with the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), Illinois can create long-term answers to the public health and economic challenges posed by the novel coronavirus. In addition, the CEJA would improve air quality, which reduces risks and susceptibility to COVID-19 and put people back to work, especially in communities of color and places where coal-fired electricity plants operate. CEJA was created with equity and environment justice at its core.”[1]  

Today, we can advocate for the Clean Energy Job Act and collectively fight against global warming, environmental injustice and COVID-19. Talk to your congregations, constituents and community organizers about the CEJA. In addition, contact your elected officials and tell them to pass this bill into law, so that we can slow global warming, stop the spread of COVID-19 and create clean energy jobs for vulnerable families and their children.

Beverly Dukes, Policy Coordinator
United Voices for Children

[1] “Clean Energy Jobs Act” Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, accessed September 1, 2021,

Child Tax Credit Payments a Welcome Respite

July 21, 2021

young boyFamilies who qualify for the Child Tax Credit began to receive checks on July 15, 2021. Under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the monies available to eligible families through the Child Tax Credit have increased substantially. In her article “Child Tax Credit 2021: Payment to be disbursed starting July 15- here’s when the money will land” CBS Business Reporter Aimee Picchi explained, “the expanded Child Tax Credit provides a $3,600 credit for each child under six years old and $3,000 for each child ages 6 to 17.” She noted that the monthly payments from July through December represent half of the total credit, explaining “For example, a family with one child under six years old will receive half of the $3,600 credit in cash or $1,800, which will be spilled into six monthly checks of $300 each.”

As we have noted before, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated this country’s longstanding and chronic poverty pandemic. Persons and families living in poverty are most like to experience additional stressors, which can have long-term negative effects on their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. These monies available through the Child Tax Credit for low-income and struggling families will lift many out of poverty.

As advocates and concerned persons of children and families, it is our responsibility to let our local congregations and other constituents know about the timeframe for the Child Tax Credit payments for eligible families. It takes all of us to work together to change the trajectory of our most vulnerable children and their families. Contact your local church leaders, and community organizers to determine ways to get information out to eligible families about Child Tax Credit payments.

Beverly Dukes, Policy Coordinator
United Voices for Children

[1] Aimee Picchi, “Child Tax Credit 2021: Payments to be disbursed starting July 15-here’s when the money will land,” CBS NEWS, accessed July 13, 2021,





The Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program

July 6, 2021

An old West African proverb originating in Nigeria states, “It takes a village or community to raise a child.” Throughout the pandemic, our “villages” were abruptly interrupted with an urgent alert to stay home and many parts of our communities—churches, schools, libraries, sporting events—were shut down as we collectively tried to be safe.

Even though our cities and communities are now opening back up and our lives are beginning to see some normalcy, we still feel the impact of the pandemic. Like the old West African Proverb, our youngest and most vulnerable citizens still need the loving hearts of an entire village. As such, state agencies have received federal dollars for their efforts to support this vulnerable population.

The federally funded Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) provides needed help and assistance to qualified families.

“This program pairs families who often have limited support and resources with trained home visitors such as nurses, social workers, and educators. Home visitors meet with parents in their home from pregnancy through their child’s kindergarten entry to help lay the foundation for the health, education, development, and economic self-sufficient of the entire family.”[1]

These caring professionals can make a world of difference for a family’s survival, particularly in our multiple-complexed world. 

State agencies receiving federal funding in support of families include the Illinois Department of Human Services, Healthy Families Illinois, Parents Too Soon, the Illinois State Board of Education Prevention Initiative, and the Illinois Head Start Association. As we continue advocating for healthy children, it is essential to share this  information with our constituents and communities. 

For more information about the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, please visit

[1] “Maternal, an Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV)” in First Five Years Fund, accessed on June 4, 2021,



We’re “Raising Our Voices” on Aug. 11!

June 23, 2021

Raising our VoicesOn Wednesday, August 11, at 11 a.m. United Voices for Children (UVC) will host “Raising Our Voices,” an online event celebrating our agency partners, honoring Northern Illinois Conference child advocates and thanking our supporters. 

“Raising Our Voices” will celebrate the ways that individuals and congregations are making a difference in the lives of children and families in need in Northern Illinois. You’ll also hear about how you can get involved through advocacy, financial support and working with lawmakers to protect the most vulnerable of their constituents.

In addition to thanking donors and the churches and individuals who support UVC through Fifth Sunday offerings, “Raising Our Voices” will also honor our annual award winners who were nominated for their extraordinary work in advocating for children and families in Illinois. Deaconess Catherine Inserra, Kids Above All Manager of Faith and Community Relations, notes that these awards can be life changing. “When I received my UVC award in 2019, it confirmed God’s calling in my life and where I wanted to devote my energies and skills,” she says.

Four heroic leaders will also join UVC on August 11 to share their insights for advocacy moving forward. Deacon Kathy Wellman (Naperville: Wesley) from the Northern Illinois Conference Disabilities Ministry will inspire us with her efforts to meet the needs of ability-challenged individuals during the pandemic. Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer, Prairie North District Superintendent will discuss the needs of children in agencies as we transition from a full-on pandemic and creating a new normal. We also welcome, David Gomel, President and CEO of Rosecrance Health Network, to share his perspective on what the future looks like for the children served by his organization. Finally, Rev. Norval Brown (Cary UMC) will inspire attendees to take action and join with agencies, partners and UVC to serve the children!

The UVC Board put forward a big challenge to raise $7,000 through “Raising Our Voices” to continue to support our affiliated child-serving agencies—Kids Above All, MYSI, and Rosecrance—as well as the advocacy work of UVC. If you’re unable to attend the event, it’s easy for you to make a gift at or you can mail a check to: United Voices for Children, 77 W. Washington Street, Suite 1820, Chicago, IL 60602.

We hope you can join us for this memorable and inspiring event! Register today!

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.