Lester: Nun tells Maryville youths, 'We won't leave you behind'
In her decades of work with abused and neglected children, Sister Cathy Ryan has come to know how much suffering and tumult have taken place in children's lives before they arrive on Maryville Academy's doorstep.
So having those boys and girls ask, "Sister, where am I going to go? Who will be there for me? Will it be safe?" breaks the 69-year-old nun's heart.
"This has been anguishing, I have to tell you," Ryan told me during a meeting in her office this week. "In my head I can understand the direction. In my heart ... the human side of these changes is very painful."
While Maryville is not closing, the 132-year-old Des Plaines-based nonprofit last week announced it will shutter its residential treatment homes and move its 70 youths to foster care, where the state is redirecting funding.
"What I've tried to do is reassure the children," Ryan said. "Tell them, 'We are going to work with you, we want to make sure that you go to the next best place and you're ready for that place. And we're not rushing you out the door."
Ryan, who previously led the Cook County state's attorney's juvenile justice bureau, says she agrees with the shift that foster care is taking in Illinois, based on research that children thrive most in a home with a family.
But she has questions about how to meet the needs of the children who will be leaving Maryville and find and train foster parents that are best suited for them. It's ideal, she says, if children are in their new homes before school starts.
Some of the foster homes could come from a pilot program kicked off by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services last week.
"Intensive therapeutic sites" in Aurora and Rockford will serve as support for foster parents who agree to take a child under a number of conditions, including one parent staying home full time. There are spots for 45 youths, and director George Sheldon has told me he hopes to expand.
How can you become a foster parent? DCFS requires families complete 27 hours of training, undergo a criminal-background check and health screening and participate in a home inspection. The Adoption Information Center of Illinois maintains online pictures and descriptions of children in need. Call (800) 572-2390 or visit illinoiscap.org/.
Out of the shadows
Former Follett Corp. Chairman Mark Litzsinger has published an intensely personal book about his struggle with depression. "Out of the Shadows" takes an honest look at Litzsinger's road to recovery while he balanced life in the corporate world. Litzsinger, of Lake Bluff, has told me he was prompted to write this book after seeing many others struggle with the same condition but stay silent about it.
Superintendents of West Aurora District 129, East Aurora Unit District 131 and Waukegan Unit District 60 joined leaders of 11 other school districts around the state in sending a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner this week urging him to "rise above political games," pass an education budget and overhaul the state's school funding formula.
"This is a disaster that plagues districts across Illinois; it is not a downstate vs. Chicago, or city vs. suburban issue," the superintendents wrote.
After the legislature adjourned May 31 without a budget for the second year in a row, Rauner has been pushing a stopgap plan that would fund schools and social services through the November election.
Beginning my training regimen for the Oct. 9 Chicago Marathon, I've joined the Arlington Trotters' free Wednesday track workouts, run by Dr. Nick Nowicki at 6:30 p.m. at Melas Park in Mount Prospect.
"Nick gives the first person who pukes $5," I was told on my first venture by one of the trotters. I didn't -- but I'll admit I wasn't that far off after a number of all-out half-mile sprints.
Hillary Clinton wore one of Libertyville artist Bonnie Ward Klehr's necklaces last week.
- Associated Press Photo
"Are you near a TV?" was the call Libertyville artist Bonnie Ward Klehr got last Thursday as Hillary Clinton was tearing into Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a speech on national security. But the call wasn't about the speech -- it was about the necklace Clinton was wearing, one of Klehr's signature pieces that Clinton sometimes wears on the campaign trail.
Turning on her TV, Klehr also noticed Clinton had on a pair of earrings that had belonged to Klehr's mother, a gift Klehr had given to her Maine South High School friend many years ago. "When I saw her, that made me cry," Klehr, of Libertyville, said.