4 Illinois Immigrant Shelters Will Close After Repeated Incidents of Child Maltreatment

For more than 20 years, the Chicago area has been the temporary home to many migrant children detained after crossing the border. Some of these young immigrants were either alone or were taken from their immigrant parents to now be overseen by the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. Currently, the largest caretaker for these children in Illinois is a 130-year-old nonprofit, Heartland Human Care Services, part of Heartland Alliance. ProPublica Illinois published a detailed report on December 21, 2018 which revealed several Heartland facilities had been involved in a series of disturbing federal investigations focused on the alleged abuse and neglect of migrant children.

Heartland is in the news again as the group announced it will close four shelters by the end of May. The shelters to be closed are located in the suburban Chicago community of Des Plaines and located on the campus of Maryville Academy, a Catholic child welfare agency. Heartland officials released a memo stating that the group also plans to add staff, employee care training and other resources at its remaining five facilities located in Chicago’s Rogers Park, Bronzeville, Englewood and Beverly neighborhoods. The closings are likely in response to the current administration’s zero-tolerance immigration push and related challenges, as well as in reflection of an ending lease on these facilities. Heartland officials say they plan to move children out of the Des Plaines shelters starting immediately.

Heartland’s Sad History of Immigrant Abuse

Since the series of ProPublica reports, several multiple independent investigations continue to uncover stories of Heartland’s immigrant children as victims of maltreatment including verbal intimidation, physical abuse, neglect, sexual assault and a staff member who used medical restraints on a young child through sedation, a similar practice found in understaffed nursing homes.

Past, current and former Heartland employees expressed to ProPublica reporters that they felt “overworked in emotionally draining jobs, as they dealt with children and teens who had often endured violence or other trauma in their home countries or on their treks to the U.S.”

Shelter workers may feel helpless because they are stretched too thin to devote the attention vulnerable children under their care require. Staff should not feel helpless though and know that reporting any type of wrongdoing is the right thing to do. No child in the care of others should endure any form of maltreatment, and no person should allow it to continue.

Respected Personal Injury, Abuse and Neglect Attorneys in Chicago

Levin & Perconti has become one of the most widely-known and respected personal injury, abuse and neglect law firms in Illinois, achieving multiple million-dollar verdicts and settlements. If you know of a migrant child who has sustained physical or emotional injury in a facility or shelter, you can help them.

These can be complicated cases for care workers to sort through alone, so please contact us now for a free consultation or schedule a call with one of our skilled attorneys by dialing (877) 374-1417 or (312) 332-2872.