Maryville Academy to End Residential Care at Chicago-Area Shelters

Maryville Academy will no longer take in children at its Chicago shelter and two suburban facilities as it continues to face funding cuts amid an ongoing state budget crisis.

Officials with the child care center, in existence for more than 130 years, sent a letter to donors this week announcing it will no longer offer residential care once its contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ends next month.

Executive Director Sister Catherine Ryan cited a "significant change in focus" as well as cuts to the amount of money the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services budgets for residential and instutional care. 

"Within the last two weeks, DCFS informed us that it would reduce the contracted funds to Maryville even more in [fiscal year] 2017," Ryan wrote. "This has become a financial burden we can no longer sustain if we are to continue serving Illinois' at-risk children."

The change is both a budget reality and a change in philosophy as the state turns to emergency foster parent homes and phases out more costly residential services.

"The key is not to just move kids out of deep end residential care; our goal is to improve the outcome for kids," George Sheldon, the Director of DCFS, said.

Sheldon said Illinois DCFS has one of the longest lengths of stay with 33 months compared to states like Florida, which is 7 months. He noted the reason for the new direction for Illinois teens was that "kids do better when there is some level of permanence."

Longer term care or "deep end residential care" costs the state approximately $120,000 a year, per child, officials said. 

Ryan said as the state plans to cut funds to longer term institutional care by $23 million, Maryville will restructure its mission and focus instead on its Crisis Nursery, Children's Healthcare Center, and other early childhood programs.

While Maryville ends its residential program, Sheldon told NBC 5 "we will continue month-to-month contracts" as the transition begins, so that no children are left without care."

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