On September 6 #ReadABookDay, sit back, relax and read a good book. Here are three recommendations by LCFS’ VP and Chief Program Officer Beverly Jones.

  1. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (journalist) is an open book to his son (African-American father to his child).
  2. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (attorney and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) discusses his journey in legal practice defending the poor, wrongly condemned and juveniles.
  3. The Color Bind: Talking (and Not Talking) About Race at Work by Erica Gabrielle Foldy and Tamara R. Buckley explores how color blindness and “color cognizance” can influence professional interactions.


Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) is privileged to oversee the care of approximately 1500 children and youth a year in partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). These are “our” children, and we want the same success and joy out of life for them as we do for our own children.

Two recent changes have occurred that are consistent with this thinking. They are the passing and signing into law by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner of HB 5665 (related to “normalcy” for youth in care) and the executive proclamation to refer to DCFS-covered children as “youth in care” as opposed to the legal term of “wards.”

You can read more about these important actions here.

– LCFS President & COO Mike Bertrand

August represents the end of summer “vacation” for children and youth as they return to school. I believe it is very important to reflect upon the role of education in our society within the context of the children and youth that we serve. Good educational opportunities which educate, build self-esteem, develop marketable skills and incorporate key societal values are in reality one of the few pathways for upward mobility and escape from poverty.

In recent years, as part of our sustainable-funding initiative, I often have opportunity to speak of my vision for the agency. For me, the bottom line is always helping the people we serve develop to their potential, which is often achieved by providing educational opportunities commensurate with abilities, as well as removing social barriers, including injustices.

When I began my social work career as a public-assistance worker for the Iowa Department of Social Welfare, the book, “Common Human Needs,” by Charlotte Towle of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, was required reading. It is as relevant today as it was then. She wrote of achieving our potential and the important role of education and of the implications for the individual as well as society when educational opportunities are not available and potential is not developed. First, there is a loss to society of the richer contribution that might have been made; second, the loss to the individual for a more productive and satisfying life and third; the frustrations that can occur when aspirations are not met, sometimes leading to embitterment or other actions that are costly to society.

As important as it is, returning to school is more than new clothes and backpacks. It is removing barriers; it is providing stability; it is developing relationships, which foster growth and promote well being; and it is helping children and youth achieve their potential. As a child-welfare agency, that is our calling and what our work is all about!

– Gene Svebakken, LCFS Chief Executive Officer

May is National Foster Care Month and a time to salute staff and foster parents, who play an important role in the lives of these children. Nor should we forget the parents of the children who are working hard to bring these children home and care for them there, and those who have successfully done so.

LCFS’ foster care program was started in the 1980s in response to a need, which we know all too well exists today.

According to the latest country-wide numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in FY14* (October 1, 2013-September 1, 2014):

  • Point in Time. On September 30, 2014, there were an estimated 415,129 children in foster care.
  • Entries. During FY 2014, 264,746 children entered foster care.
  • Exits. During FY 2014, 238,230 children exited foster care.
  • Trends. The numbers of children in foster care on September 30 of 2014 (415,129) remain lower than those in care on the same day in 2005 (513,000). However, FY 2014 saw an increase in these numbers as compared to FY 2013 (400,989).

* Information from: www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/foster.pdf

More than 14,500 children are in foster care in Illinois and our FY15 numbers show that LCFS:

Supervised the care of 1,480 children in foster homes

  • 478 in Northern Illinois
  • 333 in Cook County
  • 359 in Central Illinois
  • 310 in Southern Illinois

Helped 339 foster children achieve permanency

  • 209 by family reunification, 102 through adoption, 28 through private/subsidized guardianships

Provided 9,615 hours of clinical services to 406 cases involving children in foster care

  • 3,163 hours in 112 cases in Northern Illinois
  • 3,503 hours in 185 cases in Central Illinois
  • 2,949 hours in 109 cases in Southern Illinois

Numbers can tell you a lot, but what they don’t really give a picture of is the hard work, long hours, love and care that go into these cases. I have seen it from our dedicated staff, foster parents and biological parents as they work together to make better lives for these children in our care.

Don’t forget the numbers, but never forget the people behind them.

— Gene Svebakken, LCFS Chief Executive Officer

Last month in our state capital, hundreds of people representing social-service agencies demonstrated to draw attention to the devastating state of our community-based non-governmental social-service agencies. One impact of the political gridlock is the sad news regarding Lutheran Social Services of Illinois program closures and staff reductions. Time will not permit a litany of the unconscionable funding cuts and the deterioration of our social-service safety net, which now has many holes.
But despite the challenging environment, I am pleased to say we continue to take on a leadership role in nurturing and protecting children, strengthening families and transforming communities.
In an era in which the validity and effectiveness of residential care and treatment as we’ve known it in our premiere Lutherbrook program is being challenged, we’re pleased we’ve been able to serve 65 children through Lutherbrook Child and Adolescent Center. Their average length of stay has been reduced to 1 year, 7 months versus 2 years, 5 months, five years ago. We now strategically see residential care and treatment at Lutherbrook as a short-term experience to facilitate and promote community living. And through the efforts of our domestic and international adoption programs, more than 240 children were placed in permanent homes.
One of our practice values is the importance of children living with their natural parents if at all possible. Placement of kids apart from their natural families is traumatic for the children and families. We are pleased to report in the past year that 209 of the 1,480 children we served in our foster-care program have been able to return to a safe and nurturing environment with their biological families.
Another one of our key values is innovation. Despite the current environment in Illinois, we are able to continue to develop innovative programs just like we did with Intact Family Recovery, which allows children to safely stay in the care of their parents while the family receives substance abuse and other treatments, and the Regenerations program, which we developed nearly 10 years ago and serves youth who are in DCFS and involved with the juvenile justice system.
This past year we were able to develop an innovative pilot program with the University of Illinois-Chicago, the Cook County Juvenile Courts, DCFS and the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall to address the issue of youth languishing in Cook County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Though our efforts, we’ve already been able to return 38 children to community living.
Chicago Uptown Ministry continues its innovative spirit as we develop new programs to provide services to a significant number of homeless people and those dealing with mental-health issues. Included are hospitality and expressive-arts programs.
As a voluntary social-services agency rooted in child-welfare services with an annual budget of more than 35-million-dollars, we are committed to a diversified-funding base, which means we must increasingly look to individual donors, Lutheran congregations and other stakeholders for support.
I’m excited about the achievements of our sustainable-funding initiative. Currently we have 48 members of our Circle of Hope, which is LCFS’ multi-year giving society and includes supporters who have pledged $1,000 or more per year for a minimum of five years. For this support we are most grateful.
As we embark on a new strategic-planning experience, we’re assessing our vision of the future based on the values of Lutheran social ministry. We seek to be an agency in which people of faith can translate their love and compassion into action on behalf of others. The words of the prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” are still our guiding star.
The world-famous anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote many years ago that we can judge a society by how it cares for its children and aged. Jesus said, “Whosoever has done it unto the least of these has done it unto me.”
Our challenge as a society and a Lutheran social-ministry agency is to live up to those aspirations and expectations.

– Gene Svebakken, ASCW, MSW
LCFS Chief Executive Officer