Little City breaks ground in Palatine on new group homes for children

Little City officials and other dignitaries gathered Thursday in Palatine to celebrate the groundbreaking for two new group homes for children with severe autism and developmental and intellectual disabilities.

But amid the celebration, staff at the nonprofit agency based in Palatine also called attention to the urgent need in Illinois for the services they provide.

"Right now the state of Illinois is in crisis," said Rich Bobby, Little City's senior chief program officer of children's services. "There are youth who are at home today, who are unable to get the services that they need, because the state of Illinois lacks the capacity to serve them."

Little City officials hope to lessen that need with the new, 5,000-square-foot homes at the agency's Duffey Family Children's Village. They're the last of six buildings added to the site, at a cost of about $8 million.

Built for eight children each, the homes will contain sensory rooms, individual bedrooms and modern bathrooms, so it doesn't have an institutional look and feel, Little City Executive Director Shawn Jeffers said.

Bobby said the homes will serve people from 10 to 21 years old who will arrive from across the state. They'll learn social, emotional and behavioral skills, so they can function as much as possible in society as they can to have meaningful lives, he added.

"Certainly it's going to serve youth who have severe needs," Bobby said. "But ultimately, it's helping more than just the kids that are going to be residing in this home. This is helping many families."

Bobby said because of the lack of services in Illinois, many children with autism are being sent out of the state to receive services. Others age out of children's services at 22 years old and go to state institutions, possibly for the rest of their lives.

"We are here to be part of the solution in addressing this state crisis," Bobby said.

Jeffers said many of those served by Little City have been given up on and have families who were told that there is no hope.

They include Alex, who recently moved to a Little City home after living for more than 100 days in an emergency room.

"And he's going to our school and he's thriving, and he's growing and his needs are being met," Bobby said.

State Rep. Tom Morrison, whose 54th District includes Palatine Township, was among those who attended Thursday's celebration of the new homes.

"When I think of Little City, I just think of the heroes who work here and who make this all happen," he said.

  Officials and staff at Little City in Palatine broke ground Thursday on two new group homes for children with severe autism and developmental and intellectual disabilities. Brian Hill/
A rendering of a new group home for children that will be built at Little City in Palatine. Courtesy of Little City
  Mario's House on the campus of Little City in Palatine. The house sits next to the site of two more group homes that will be built for children with severe autism and developmental and intellectual disabilities. Brian Hill/
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