News

LSSI Expands Therapeutic Foster Care Program: New Peoria Location to Serve Children with Severe Emotional/Behavioral Needs Throughout Central Illinois

Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), the largest statewide provider of foster care services, is expanding its innovative Therapeutic Foster Care Program to Central Illinois, serving children who live within a one-hour radius of Peoria. Started as a pilot program in 2016 through a selection process by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), LSSI’s Therapeutic Foster Care Program now has five treatment teams in Peoria, Aurora, Chicago, and Rockford.

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U.S. Surgeon General Issues Advisory on Youth Mental Health Crisis Further Exposed by COVID-19 Pandemic

As a provider of mental health and prevention services for children, LSSI is sharing an advisory report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. An important gift we can give children and youth is one of strong mental health, and the advisory offers practical suggestions for youth and caregivers on ways to improve their mental health.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide—and rates have increased over the past decade,” said Dr. Murthy. “The future well-being of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially at this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

Surgeon General’s Advisories are public statements that call the American people’s attention to a public health issue and provide recommendations for how it should be addressed. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that need the American people’s immediate attention.

Read the full Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health – PDF.

Community Foundation of Fox River Valley Awards $5,000 Grant to LSSI

LSSI was granted $5,000 from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley to support the organization’s efforts to improve the Fox Hill Prader-Willi Group Home in Aurora.

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Love “Bears” All Things

ST. JAMES LUTHERAN CHURCH, LAKE FOREST

For over 30 years, The Sewing Group at St. James Lutheran Church, Lake Forest, has used their sewing and knitting talents to show “God’s Work, Our Hands” for children in LSSI’s foster care program in Chicago. The group has sewn hundreds of whimsical teddy bears and knitted just as many infant hats. The oldest member of the group is 96 and carefully cuts out all of the bear faces to be sewn. Their sewing/knitting sessions also provide wonderful fellowship as they use their talents for a shared cause.

“Children in our foster care program receive a [St. James] teddy bear soon after they come into our care,” said Debbie Saucedo, Associate Executive Director for LSSI’s Children’s Community Services in Cook County. “It helps soothe each child and gives them something to hug and call their own.”

“God seems to provide the people with the talents to do these different jobs,” said congregation member Ann Anderson, who coordinates the group. “It’s nice to get together, but it’s a social outing with meaning.”

In addition to their “hands-on” work, members of St. James have provided philanthropic support to LSSI over the years, including a $50,000 challenge grant that bolstered programming for the organization.

True Friends Make Celebration a Success

Over 200 “devices” joined the virtual 40th Annual True Friend Celebration: Traveling Route LSSI on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 that raised $200,000 for LSSI’s Foster Care program. Additionally, over 100 people attended small, in-person gatherings in Carbondale, Downers Grove, Geneseo, Glenview, and Rockford.

The True Friend Award was presented to Bev Moody and honored the life of Dick Moody. “It is really a privilege and an honor to be recognized as a true friend of this fantastic, efficient organization that serves so many people in need,” Moody said. “LSSI answers the Gospel direction, ‘Love one another.’”

The keynote speaker was a conversation with travel writer and television personality Rick Steves, “Travel as a Spiritual Act,” moderated by Pr. Peter Marty, editor of The Christian Century. Other offerings included Illinois state trivia hosted by Pr. Brian Wise, and live and online auctions. Special thanks to The Women’s Network of LSSI and those who hosted gatherings.

To see photos and videos from the event, as well as a list of sponsors, visit LSSI.org/TrueFriend.

LSSI Connect: A Vital Resource

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH SERVICES

People can now access LSSI’s Behavioral Health Services through LSSI Connect—833.610.5774—a direct resource number formerly known as Central Intake. LSSI’s professional staff offer compassionate, convenient help for people to access services. The number also enables people to activate mobile crisis services on Chicago’s northwest side.

Supervisor Melanie Fonseca, one of four LSSI Connect staff, might be the person to answer a call. “We’re the first point of contact,” Fonseca said. “We connect people to the resources they need.”

LSSI received grant funding last year from the Chicago Department of Public Health to support awareness efforts for the behavioral health services resourced by LSSI Connect. These programs can vary but include mobile crisis services, counseling and therapy, school-based counseling, mental health group homes, substance use treatment, and services for adults with developmental disabilities.

LSSI Connect staff are prepared for any type of call. Someone could be in an immediate crisis or looking for a first step in finding help. “Over time you gain an understanding of what the call could be,” Fonseca explained. “We do try and decompress with each other. It’s great having a team.”

If a caller needs services beyond what LSSI provides, the LSSI Connect team can help offer the most appropriate resources. “We are whole-person oriented, doing what’s best for the client,” said Nora Hilton,

MSW LCSW, Central Intake Supervisor. “We try to prioritize everyone.”

Emily Gaus, a 2021 Valparaiso University Calling and Purpose in Society (CAPS)Fellow, contributed this story.

Supporting Shared Values

DONOR PROFILE: PASTOR KATHIE BENDER SCHWICH AND PASTOR DANIEL SCHWICK

For over two decades, Pastor Kathie Bender Schwich and Pastor Daniel Schwick have maintained a deep connection to LSSI, whose mission aligns closely with their shared values. It was only natural the ELCA pastors chose to leave a percentage of their estate to LSSI and join its Cornerstone Society.

Dan, pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect, worked at LSSI for 18 years.

“I’ve seen the power of LSSI to impact our communities from the inside,” he said. “I’ve seen people whose lives are very positively impacted because of the work that LSSI staff and social workers do.”

Kathie, who has worked at Advocate Aurora Health for 12 years, currently as Chief Spiritual Officer, serves on LSSI’s Board of Directors and has been part of the Women’s Network since the late 1990s.

“For me, the Women’s Network exemplifies how people of God in congregations who see a need do something to meet it,” said Kathie. “The people of God saying ‘Yes, these people on the margins are God’s people, too, and we are called to assist them.’”

Learn more about LSSI’s Planned Giving Initiative, There’s a Place in Your Heart for LSSI, and how you can join the Cornerstone Society at LSSI.org/PlannedGiving.

Mobile Crisis Team Response Makes a Difference

Suicidal and ready to jump off a Chicago bridge, a man called Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ (LSSI’s) Mobile Crisis Line. The crisis worker simultaneously kept the caller on the phone, while another crisis worker called 911and collaborated with the Chicago Police Department to ping the caller’s cell phone and locate the individual. Once found, LSSI staff drove to the bridge and talked with the man. Afterward, he agreed to be hospitalized for treatment.

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