Children staying in foster care or shelters are often separated from their brothers and sisters, but a local Illinois shelter fights to keep them together.
Visiting the Night’s Shield in West Frankfort on Friday, Illinois Director of the Department of Child and Family Services George Sheldon said he’s concerned about its future and the future of others like it in the state.
Inside the bright, happy rooms at the Night’s Shield is the hard truth: Many children in Illinois need a safe place to stay.
"It's tough. You see it here so much, and the kids are resilient," said Night’s Shield Executive Director Lindsey Bullman.
Kids from all over Illinois go to the Night's Shield for a warm bed and a place to stay. But the best part is, they don't have to stay there. They take the kids outside to movies, restaurants, even basketball games, so they have a chance to experience life outside those four walls.
"It used to be 24 to 48 hours was the 'meant to be' stay. But due to lack or resources, lack of homes, kids stay 30-plus days," Bullman said.
Cash may be tight, but some of the funding for shelters like theirs is still coming in through the Illinois budget impasse, thanks to a funding decree. While touring the shelter Friday, Sheldon said he still worries about it.
"I'm concerned about the funding future. Some education services are being handicapped and some of the mental health and substance abuse supportive services," Sheldon said.
Sheldon says passing a budget will make sure shelters like the Night’s Shield stay open. Bullman says they’re lucky that supporters from around southern Illinois are keeping them going for now.
"The community has pulled together to really help us thrive," Bullman said.
Bullman says that support is what lets them keep sheltering kids in need and keeping sibling groups together. Since it opened, the Night’s Shield has served more than 300 sibling groups, from two to nine siblings at a time.
Friday’s visit from DCFS is part of national and statewide child abuse prevention month.
For more information on how to report and recognize the signs of child abuse, click here.
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