The Baby Fold's Residential Treatment Center for children and teens who suffer emotional difficulties due to abuse and neglect will close at the end of the month -- another casualty of the Illinois budget impasse.
The facility in Normal currently has 14 residents between the ages of six and 13. One resident will return home and the others will transfer to other residential facilities throughout the state, Baby Fold Vice President for development Aimee Beam said. After that, their future is uncertain.
Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Beam said the state of Illinois provides the bulk of funding for the center. It is "moving away" from residential care because of its high cost, she added.
"If this is not something they are not going to continue to support, what will they support?" Beam asked.
"The future, like the future of the state, is uncertain. We would like some solutions to be brought forth."
Speaking on GLT's Sound Ideas, Beam said the children and teens in the residential center have complex emotional and mental health issues that require around-the-clock care.
"This isn't something that a family can typically handle at home, even a loving and willing adoptive family. This is something we specialize in, and we feel these children need this type of service," Beam said.
The state has not increased the fees it pays for each resident's care in 10 years, although costs have increased, Beam added.
She said Baby Fold has spent $1.6 million over the past two years to subsidize the operation of its residential center and make up for a funding shortfall.
"We have had countless conversations in a decades-long battle about the consequences of not increasing the rates" the state pays for residential care, Beam said. "It seems to have fallen on deaf ears"
She said Baby Fold left no "stone unturned" in seeking alternative funding for the residential center. However, "it comes to a point where we just can't support a program anymore," Beam added.
Baby Fold said it currently is owed approximately $911,000 by the state.
It is unlikely the agency will see those funds anytime soon. Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois lawmakers this week failed to agree on a budget for the third fiscal year in a row, impacting agencies like Baby Fold, that serve some of society's most vulnerable members.
Beam said Baby Fold has become increasing dependent on its cash reserves. "The challenges seem not to cease with the state of the state," she said.
Baby Fold plans to continue its other programs. Those include the Hammitt School which runs from elementary through junior high grades, as well as adoption supports, foster parent and family intervention services.
In all, the agency oversees 15 programs and serves about a thousand children and families each year.
"We have a responsibility to all of the programs we have. This is a time where we refocus and make sure we preserve what we have," Beam said.
Baby Fold said it is attempting to expand its donor base and look for new lines of revenue so that it is not so dependent on state funding.
To lessen the need for residential care, she said the agency is focusing on preventing trauma from taking place in families that are at risk through early intervention programs.
Healthy Start is one of the Baby Fold programs, Beam said, that tries to break the cycle of abuse and neglect in families.
"To have a family in that program for five years costs about $5,000 and that is so much less than what it costs at the other end of the spectrum where the problem has reached the point where children end up in residential care," Beam said.
Baby Fold has offered residential care since 1964. The current Residential Treatment Center opened in the 1990s.
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