BLOOMINGTON — Children's Home & Aid will no longer provide foster care and intact family services in Central Illinois by the end of May as a result of stagnant reimbursement rates by the state.
But the human services agency will continue to provide other services, including Scott Early Learning Center, Healthy Start, Family Support Services, Crisis Nursery and Parents Share and Care.
Still, the decision to exit two core programs for children at risk of abuse and neglect was a difficult one, agency representatives said Tuesday.
"This obviously was an extremely sad and difficult decision we needed to make," said Regional Site Director Mendy Smith. "We made a painful decision so we can continue to serve the community" with other programs, she said.
Foster care is for children removed from their birth parents and placed in another home because they have been indicated for abuse and neglect by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
Children's Home & Aid in the Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana areas is working with 170 children in foster care, representing 91 families, said Jassen Strokosch, the agency's director of communications.
Intact family services addresses challenges of struggling families in an effort to keep them together. The agency in Central Illinois is working with 11 families, Strokosch said.
All told, 181 clients representing 102 families will be affected.
"That will impact directly 19 of our staff members," Strokosch said. "We have asked them to stay on through the end of May" to assist with the transition of services to another agency.
Children's Home & Aid has started the process of working with DCFS to transition the families to another agency, he said.
"We anticipate, by the end of May, they will be transferred to other providers," he said.
The two programs are funded by the state but there has been no rate reimbursement increase in two decades, Strokosch said. Children's Home & Aid has been covering the difference.
"In the last three years, we have averaged losing $150,000 a year on foster care and intact family services," he said. "We're losing too much money providing the services ... That's not sustainable."
In addition, the low reimbursement makes it difficult to attract and retain quality staff, he said.
A bill in the General Assembly, House Bill 2524, would provide relief for non-profit providers. "We would be interested in returning to these services if there was a rate increase," he said.
While 181 clients are affected, the agency serves 3,000 people throughout Central Illinois, Strokosch said. The 19 staff members are among 100 employees throughout the region.
"We've been here (in Central Illinois) a long time and our commitment to serve the community hasn't changed," Smith said.