Chicago Tribune: Program to help special needs children closed due to budget cuts


From the Chicago Tribune:

by Phil Kadner

The largest provider of respite care services in the south suburbs, Good Shepherd Center headquartered in Hazel Crest, has laid off all of its employees who provide in-home care for individuals with cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy and other developmental disabilities due to the state budget crisis.

These are trained care givers who for a few hours, one or two days a week, come into the home of a family with a developmentally disabled child so their parents can go grocery shopping, attend the soccer game of another son or daughter, go to a family wedding or simply have a rare night out for themselves.

Fifty Good Shepherd staff members, three full-time, were notified that as of July 1, due to state funding cuts, the respite program would be shut down. Brendan McCormick, executive director of Good Shepherd, said his organization serves about 300 families from Chicago’s Beverly and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods on the north and to the Indiana border on the south, including suburbs in Will County. McCormick said his organization received approximately $425,000 a year in state grants to provide respite care for all of south suburban Cook County.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services said Good Shepherd Center is the primary provider of respite services in the south suburbs, received a contract for fiscal year 2016, which started July 1, signed it and returned it. However, Good Shepherd will not get reimbursed for any services provided until a state budget is passed, the spokeswoman said. When a budget is passed Good Shepherd will be reimbursed for any services provided.

McCormick said that unlike other not-for-profit agencies trying to make it through the crisis, his organization has no buildings or land which it can use to get bank loans. “We rely on state funding and have no other source of financing until the state provides us with the money we need.”

Jennifer Brown of Oak Forest was one of the recipients of respite care through Good Shepherd. Her 6-year-old daughter Lily has Rett syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the way the brain develops. She can’t talk, use her hands or walk. She also has a feeding tube.

“So it’s not like we can call a teenager down the street if we need a baby sitter,” Mrs. Brown explained. “You have to have someone who is trained with dealing with a child who has a developmental disability and someone you can trust, and Good Shepherd has excellent people who they screen and have special training in this sort of thing.

Read the full story from the Chicago Tribune