A major resource for low-income families in McLean County is ending.
Children’s Home & Aid announced Wednesday it is phasing out its foster care and intact family services, effective immediately, in the Central Region serving the Bloomington-Normal and Champaign areas.
In a statement, Children’s Home & Aid President and CEO Nancy Ronquillo the current child welfare environment in Central Illinois has posed “increasingly difficult challenges,” making it “unsustainable” for the organization to continue offering those services.
McLean County site director Mendy Smith said that the main reason for the ending of the program is due to the lack of funding from the Department of Children and Family Services.
“The stagnant rate of pay That we received to do the services, it hasn’t changed in 10 years and the program for the last 3 years has averaged a deficit of 150 thousand dollars a year.” said Smith.
Smith also said the lack of funding has created a crisis of labor, tricking down to the kids they serve.
“When you lose good staff and you have staff that are having to take bigger case loads because the kids still need to be seen and the deficit continues to get higher and higher and the children don’t get access to the quality of services that you want to be able to provide.” said Smith
The site director said find foster parents is already a statewide issue.
“To find families that are willing to be foster parents and to go through the licensing procedure and be reimbursed, so that rate impacts them as well of what they’re getting paid to purchase food, to be able to provide that things the child needs to get to school … all of these things are impacted by that not just the staff rate.” said Smith.
The CEO said the decision will impact 19 staff members, 170 foster care cases, and 11 intact families who will need to seek services at other community-based providers by the end of May.
Andrea Durbin, the CEO of the advocacy group Illinois Collaboration on Youth, said this is just the latest example of “a child welfare system in crisis.”
“Illinois was once a national leader in child welfare, but today, we rank last in the nation on important measures of child safety and permanency. For too long we have asked providers to do the impossible with shockingly insufficient funding,” said Durbin. “We cannot continue to ignore their warnings. The child welfare workforce does difficult and demanding work. They deserve to be fairly compensated for it, and to receive adequate supervision and training so they can do their jobs well.”
Durbin said two bills moving through the General Assembly, HB 2524 and SB 1730, would provide $37 million in emergency funding for child welfare agencies across the state.
Children’s Home & Aid serves 3,000 children a year in McLean County and the surrounding communities. The group has served the region for over 136 years.