Child, Youth and Family Services: Hope and Light
Thursday, March 01, 2012 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

Those of us who endure the darkness and cold of a Cook or Lake County winter really look forward to Spring. We can’t wait for the sun to shine, the weather to warm up, and spending time outdoors instead of cooped up inside the house. During this Lenten season, it’s all about new life: the expectation of something better, of being able to come and go freely.

I think this is what it must be like for our Catholic Charities clients who live in the isolation of poverty or abuse or a family crisis. Except that they are not sure that Spring will ever come.

Children and youth are espe­cially vulnerable. They cannot vote; they do not hold positions of power; they do not have a voice. They are not able to advocate for themselves. Yet, they are our fu­ture. At Catholic Charities, we are their voice. In 2010, 32% of chil­dren in Chicago lived in poverty. Here are some of their stories, as reported by Catholic Charities’ Youth and Family Services Vice- President, Laura Rios.

Last year, Catholic Charities therapists in our Child, Youth and Family Therapeutic Services Program served over 670 children and adults, including children and youth exposed to violence and trauma. Staff in our maternal and child health and pregnant and par­enting teen programs are devoted and dedicated, going above and beyond. In addition, 700 children and 306 families received frequent home visits for case manage­ment and counseling from our Family Based Services workers who helped them to address the factors contributing to child abuse and neglect, as well as the result­ing trauma.

Our Child Development Centers continued to help prepare chil­dren for a successful transition to kindergarten and provided a safe, nurturing educational envi­ronment for children while their parents were at work. More than 1,500 children were served at our centers in 2011, which provided numerous activi­ties to strengthen and sup­port families. As a result of these efforts, more than 580 fathers participated last year throughout all our Child, Youth and Family programs, a highly successful outcome. Catholic Charities Maternity, Adoption and Post-Adoption services staff provided support in times of crisis, placed children in “forever families,” and helped to pre­serve and strengthen adop­tive relationships.

Several successful new programs have been initi­ated. Funding was sought and received from the Latino Policy Forum to hold the Abriendo Puertas parent involvement curriculum at St. Joseph Child Development Cen­ter and Our Lady of Tepeyac in Chicago. The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership award­ed Catholic Charities a grant to receive Infant Mental Health con­sultation for our Roseland Adoles­cent Parent Program; the Chicago Community Trust awarded us a grant to pilot a father’s group in Roseland; and the Children’s Advocacy Center awarded our counseling department a grant to provide support for child victims of sexual abuse in the Roseland community.

Catholic Charities remains com­mitted to our mission of provid­ing compassionate, competent and professional services that strengthen and support individu­als, families and children. As we look forward to the beauty of spring and Easter joy, please keep the children and families we help in your prayers. God bless you!

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