Ada S. McKinley Emergency Reception Center in Southeast Chicago: Making a Difference


If you walked past the Ada S. McKinley Emergency Reception Center on the southeast side, you would have no idea that lives are being saved there.

The six-unit apartment building named after the famous social reformer has a well-maintained courtyard and blends in with the other multi-unit apartment buildings in the Quiet Block.

There is no way to tell that the building houses a foster care program that serves neglected and abused children.

Or that it is a place where children come to heal themselves and the young people who love these children come to help them recover from the trauma they have been through.

“Our children are brought here on the recommendation of the Ministry of Children and Family Services,” said Mary Thomas, director of the emergency shelter. “It can be sexual or physical abuse, and there is also a wide range of neglect situations such as educational neglect, medical neglect and drug addiction,

“It’s part of the great legacy of the late and great Ada Sophia McKinley. This program was developed 13 years ago to provide a home-like environment for youth in transition. We are like a hybrid model of foster homes in the community.

I’ve walked around the building, and there’s nothing in the apartments that makes you think of a group hideaway.

Rooms are fully furnished – with sofas, dining and bedroom furniture, flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, and artwork on the walls.

In a downstairs unit, there’s a teenage area to play Xbox, and toddlers can burn out.

“The reason we wanted to put the professional foster care model in place was because we didn’t want our children to be further traumatized,” Thomas said. “It makes him a bit more like home compared to feeling like being in an orphanage.”

Eve Holt, 24, is excited to start her job there as a professional parent.

“I feel like I’m going to live my goal,” Holt said. “I was adopted, so I feel like it’s something I have to do. I went through the system. I’ve been in foster care, I’ve had tutors and all that, and I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.

Professional foster parents live in their units without rent. Everything is planned so that they can manage their household, including the grocery store. They are assisted in the preparation of meals if necessary. They also have access to a 24/7 on-site social worker who can help them in a crisis.

The children “have a bond with their professional foster parent, who then supervises them,” Thomas said. “It’s not a different person who cooks your meals or comes on a shift. The parent ensures that their hygiene needs are met, their nutritional needs are met, and their educational needs are met.

Jalisha Smith, 25, worked for the program for two years as a respite care provider. She does not live in the building but spends a lot of time with the children.

“One of my goals, when I take them on activities, is not only to take them to places to have fun, but also where they can discover new things and learn new things,” he said. she declared. “I want to make a difference. When you think about it, all kids want the same things. They want to feel supported. So if I can provide that, that’s my main goal.

Professional parents are employees of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, paid a salary of $ 32,000 to $ 38,000 per year. They receive a signing bonus of $ 5,000 and benefits including health care, dental care, vision and a pension plan. They also receive sick leave and public holidays.

But there has to be more motivation to take on this challenge than the benefits package, Smith said.

“They have to be compassionate,” she said. “They have to have empathy. A great professional parent would be someone who loves children.

Smith sees her work as a “profession of humility” that allows her to reflect on herself. “

“The number of kids who have asked me to be able to come home with you breaks my heart every time,” she said.

For more information, call the Ada S. McKinley Community Services Foster Parent Recruitment Hotline at (773) 602-2660, ext. 3243.

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