Karen Hawkins, the deputy director of the division of communications for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services provided the following statement regarding NBC 5 Investigates' story about Aunt Martha's shelter.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services contracts with Aunt Martha’s to provide youth shelter and health services to some of the state’s most vulnerable children. Children whose home situations have been disrupted due to abuse and/or neglect are taken to the facility at 5001 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago. The youth housed at the shelter range in age from 0 to 20. The length of a youth’s stay at the facility depends on the time it takes to secure appropriate resources for them.
Recently, Representative Dunkin and neighbors to the facility raised concerns with Aunt Martha’s and DCFS. Both Aunt Martha’s and DCFS responded quickly by participating in community meetings to collect input and develop solutions. The alderman and the Chicago Police Department have participated in the community meetings in order to implement multiple approaches to address contributing safety hazards to the youth that are outside of the control of the facility. This has resulted in boarding up two vacant buildings that are adjacent to the facility and, collaborations between the Illinois State Police and CPD to provide additional patrols along the perimeter of the facility and the surrounding area at targeted times on the weekend.
Aunt Martha’s has also established community outreach efforts and has started an ongoing dialogue with community residents to update them about the status of concerns and address them as they arise. Under state law, the CRC is not a locked facility. The only locked facilities for youth in Illinois are psychiatric treatment centers and Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. The facility is in compliance with the requirements of its state contract. Licensing inspections are required annually and at any instance of an alleged violation. Monitoring visits are conducted monthly.