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5 Things You Need to Know About the Closing of Immigrant Youth Shelters in Illinois

And what’s coming next.

This story was first published in ProPublica Illinois’ newsletter. Sign up for weekly updates here.

Since last summer, we’ve done a lot of reporting on a secretive network of shelters in Illinois that houses thousands of immigrant children each year. We started looking into the network after the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy; we were part of a broader ProPublica effort to report on the issue. That led us to the nine facilities run by the nonprofit Heartland Human Care Services, where 99 children who’d been separated from their parents were sheltered.

Our reporting, based on dozens of interviews, reports to state child welfare officials and police, and a review of thousands of confidential records, found instances of inadequate supervision, including cases involving children having sex in a common area, an employee in an alleged inappropriate relationship with a detained teen and more than a dozen runaways.

Well, some news: We obtained an internal memo Heartland sent last week to inform staff of plans to close four of those shelters in the Chicago area. Read the full story here.

Who: Heartland Human Care Services is part of Heartland Alliance, a large, Chicago-based nonprofit that works on health services, homelessness prevention and other social issues. Its shelters are part of a federal network of about 100 sites that house more than 11,000 children and teens, according to the most recent data.

What: Heartland said it will close four shelters in suburban Des Plaines, including a complex of three cottages known collectively as Casa Guadalupe. Altogether, the Des Plaines shelters can house as many as 116 children and teens; the change will cut Heartland’s total capacity under state rules a little more than 20 percent, from 512 to 396. In addition, Heartland says it will hire more staff, add training and provide additional resources for its employees.

When: Heartland officials told ProPublica Illinois they plan to move children out of the Des Plaines shelters between now and the end of May.

Where: The suburb of Des Plaines is located directly north of O’Hare International Airport, just past the Chicago city limits on the northwest side. The four shelters closing are located on the campus of Maryville Academy, a Catholic child welfare agency that runs two shelters of its own and is planning to open two more. Heartland will continue operating five shelters in Chicago’s Rogers Park, Bronzeville, Englewood and Beverly neighborhoods.

Why: In a statement, Heartland officials said the decision was prompted by the end of the lease for the facilities in Des Plaines and a desire to “align capacity” to the average number of children it has housed in recent years. But Heartland officials said in the memo that the decision comes after an internal review and listening sessions with staff in the chaotic aftermath of the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

Know something about this, or want to tell us something else about immigration in Illinois? Email reporter Melissa Sanchez at [email protected].

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