Goal to find common solutions to help vulnerable families and children
Caritas Family Solutions in partnership with the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY), recently hosted a bipartisan legislative tour of its Belleville facilities to educate lawmakers on the services they provide. The tour was designed to give legislators an inside look at the work Caritas does throughout the region and how it supports the children and families they serve.
Caritas Family Solutions CEO Gary Huelsmann said the goal was also to educate legislators on the needs they are seeing in terms of increased child welfare funding. Huelsmann, who served as the past chair for ICOY, said the tour gave legislators the opportunity to hear directly from workers on the front lines taking care of children and families. ICOY is a state-wide organization committed to promoting the safety, health and economic success of Illinois’ children, youth and families. The group acts as a collective voice for Illinois’ child welfare, youth service, and juvenile justice providers to ensure they have the resources they need to help young people from all backgrounds succeed.
“It was very encouraging to see how much bipartisan support we received after the tour,” said Huelsmann. “Both Republicans and Democrats were collaborating together and saying ‘let me know how I can help’ which is amazing because we want to partner with everyone to work towards this common goal. We need appropriate resources to help lift children and families up. It was also great for the legislators to see firsthand how much more effective it is to support families and offer interventional help than ignore problems. I think everyone understood the importance of the work we are doing and how it directly impacts families and children.”
As one of the largest and most comprehensive child and family service agencies in Southern Illinois, Caritas’ programs include traditional and specialized foster care, intact family services, residential treatment, community-integrated housing arrangements, a maternity center, an emergency shelter for youth in care, as well as services for older adults. The tour, which included nearly 40 legislators, staff members and ICOY representatives, focused on the work Caritas does to support children and families through its child welfare services.
Huelsmann said legislators also learned more about Caritas emergency shelter for youth, which is one of the only emergency shelters in Southern Illinois that provides children with a safe, temporary place to go when they are suddenly displaced. His staff also showed them their maternity ward, where pregnant youth in care and children can go when they need assistance or a safe place to sleep. Huelsmann added one of the most important topics that was discussed was the need for higher, livable wages for social workers which he hopes will encourage more people to enter the field.
Illinois representatives Amy Elik, a Republican who represents the 111th District, and Katie Stuart, a Democrat who represents the 112th District, were two of the state legislators who took part in the tour.
“I greatly appreciated learning about the services Caritas provides,” said Rep. Elik. “The home they have for youth in care provides the loving care and shelter that some children unfortunately don’t always have. I commend both the dedicated staff that take care of some of our most vulnerable youth and the foster families that bring them home.”
“I really appreciated the opportunity to see the great spaces Caritas has created for some of our most vulnerable youth,” said Rep. Stuart. “The supportive environment and individualized attention are crucial for our kids’ future success. It’s important to continue to foster partnerships with agencies like ICOY, Caritas, and all the other social services.”
For additional information, visit www.caritasfamilysolutions.org.
Founded in 1947, Caritas Family Solutions is a nonprofit social service agency whose mission is to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of individuals and families in order to create healthy relationships, loving homes, and strong communities. Services include adoption, pregnancy care for women who are homeless, foster care, counseling, residential treatment for children healing from abuse and/or neglect, independent living for adults with developmental disabilities (CILA), and assisted living and employment assistance for low-income seniors. Caritas serves more than 7,000 individuals annually across Southern Illinois from offices located in Belleville, Carterville, Mount Vernon, Olney, Glen Carbon, Alton, and Effingham as well as satellite locations in Highland and Sparta.