While ChildServ in Chicago dates to 1986 when comprehensive services were offered, the agency’s back story begins in 1849, and the story is fascinating. By 1997, 38 different services were offered at 17 sites in Cook, DuPage and Lake counties.
As the 2019 school year begins programs are in place to enhance the likelihood of improved education and a better life for children in need of special help, from pre-school to college in many locations in Chicagoland.
The Back-to-School Backpack Drive is very effective
2019 Back to School Backpack Drive stats include:
School-aged children served: 1,000
Supporters: 45 (20 faith partners, 12 corporate partners, 3 community partners and 10 individual donors)
About the children:
The children who received the backpacks and school supplies ranged from preschoolers to youth in college. Those served are children and families in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties who live in poverty, are involved in the child welfare system or need stable housing.
About the Youth in Foster Care
Youth in foster care:
Prepare licensed foster care case managers to make sure the youth live in safe, nurturing homes. They advocate and provide support for the youth in school, with legal matters and with both their foster and biological parents.
Youth in ChildServ’s foster care program also participate in counseling to help them heal from trauma so they can become empowered, independent adults.
As they go to college, our case managers make sure they have submitted the necessary paperwork, completed the enrollment process and have what they need for life at school, including dorm materials.
The case workers build strong relationships with the youth and check-in regularly to make sure they are doing well
Challenges for a new school year
ChildServ matches the teens in their group homes with mentors, who provide educational or career guidance.
Challenges: Many of the families in our care have difficulty affording school supplies to ensure their children have the necessary tools to help them be successful in school and reach their potential. As a result, for some children, back-to-school means anxiety and the struggle to fit in without new or any supplies at all.
System challenges: At ChildServ, they treat every child in their care as if they were their own. They try to provide the same opportunities for the children intheir care as other kids. For instance, they recently instituted a new therapeutic model for the teens in group homes, which promotes mental and physical wellness by incorporating new activities such as equine therapy, art therapy and yoga—instead of solely relying on talk therapy and psychotropic medications.
Dan Kotowski, ChildServ President and CEO talks about the new school year:
What does ChildServ do well for kids in their programs, to ensure their success in the school year?
First and foremost, we are their strong and consistent voice in the school system. Many kids in our care have learning challenges and their success requires constant vigilance. So we support them like they were our own children and play a very active role in their education. No matter the situation, our kids will get what they need so they can have every opportunity to be successful.
Why is the back-to-school backpack drive so important?
A child entering school can stick out in an unhealthy way because they don’t have the same resources that other students have. We want our kids to achieve academic success right out of the gate. That’s why we provide them with paper, pens, calculators and any other necessary school supplies to get good grades and reach their full potential. The bottom line is that we’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that children and young people are not held back in anyway because they weren’t prepared.
Chicago Splash Magazine wishes ChildServ and their many recipients a successful school year.
Photos: Courtesy of Childserv