Question: Why are the Children’s Homes being closed?
Answer: While our ambitions to help masonic children have not changed, the world around us has. As a result, we feel the best way to fulfill our mission is to refocus our resources to meet current needs. I understand this is a summarized response and I feel further explanation is needed to fully justify the actions.
*** Please take the time to read the lengthy response on this page. ***
Question: What will happen to the current residents of the Homes?
Answer: We will provide recommendations to place the children in the safest environment possible. Also, we will continue to support these children with funding to see to their needs and to support their continuing education. However, the decision will ultimately be made by the children’s parents or legal guardians.
Question: I pay per capita. Why didn’t the membership get to vote on this at Grand Lodge?
Answer: Illinois Masonic Children’s Home (IMCH) is NOT funded by Grand Lodge. Per capita is NOT used to fund Illinois Masonic Children’s Home. Grand Lodge is a separate legal entity from Illinois Masonic Children’s Home.
Question: I have seen a lot of discussion about the closure of the Homes on Facebook and through other sources. Is the information that is being shared accurate?
Answer: No. Facebook is social media. It is not a reliable news source. There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the closure of the homes. As I am sure you all are aware, at least one of our constituent lodges has sent a petition in the form of an email to every other lodge in the state of Illinois to stop the closing of the homes. THIS PETITION/EMAIL CONTAINS MISLEADING INFORMATION. More specifically, this petition states that Illinois Masonic Children’s Homes are funded entirely by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. THIS IS NOT TRUE. As stated in the question and answer above, once again, per capita is NOT used to fund Illinois Masonic Children’s Home. Grand Lodge is a separate legal entity from Illinois Masonic Children’s Home. Grand Lodge is funded by dues. Illinois Masonic Children’s Home is funded by donations. Your Grand Lodge Officers have put their phone numbers in emails and MORI so you may call and receive accurate information.
Question: What will happen to the endowment of Illinois Masonic Children’s Home and the donations that have been made?
Answer: The entity, Illinois Masonic Children’s Home, will continue to exist. The name of the new program is Illinois Masonic Children’s Assistance Program (IMCAP). IMCAP will be able to
assist HUNDREDS of children each year. IMCAP is currently in the process of hiring a Director and forming a new committee. IMCAP has already helped its first recipient. More news to come regarding IMCAP.
The Illinois Masonic Children’s Home
Initially established as a Home for Masonic Orphans and later expanded to encompass needy children from a myriad of backgrounds, the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home was incorporated by the Illinois Secretary of State in 1885. The first Home opened in the City of Chicago in 1886. Before long, it was evident that more space was needed. In 1909 the Home in La Grange was constructed on a 4 acre site. The facility was a huge structure caring for as many as 314 children in 1931.
By the early 1960’s, the population of the Home dramatically decreased and the leadership sensed a need for a change. In 1964, the new facility in La Grange opened just south of the original structure. In the 1970’s, the mission of the Home was expanded to accommodate all children regardless of Masonic affiliation. In 2004, the leadership approved the opening of a second Masonic Children’s Home in Murphysboro.
For more than 132 years, the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home has continued its commitment in the caring for needy children. Illinois Masonic Children’s Homes focus on providing a supportive environment, surrounding each child with positive relationships and comprehensive services to address their physical, emotional, and educational needs. Through residential services, the Homes strive to help vulnerable young people and family make a safe passage to self-sufficiency.
The current model of the Illinois Masonic Children’s Homes has four major weaknesses: increasing costs, increasing risk of liability, limited scope of services to children and families, and lack of visibility throughout the state of Illinois. The Board of Directors, Board of Managers, and Administration of the Children’s Homes have gone to great lengths to minimize the aforementioned weaknesses, but some changes need to be made to ensure that the charity to children and families is able to continue.
Historically, the mission of the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home was to serve Masonic affiliated orphans. Due to the perceived decrease in need of strictly serving Masonic families, the mission was changed to extend the service to all children in the state regardless of Masonic affiliation. The Homes currently have the capacity to serve 53 residents of the state of Illinois. Those children with the Masonic affiliation are given preference, but the referral of children with such affiliation has decreased significantly over time. A more appropriate service to Masonic children and families could be offered if there is a change in the scope of service that is currently offered.
On average, over $60,000 is spent per resident in care per year. With a change in services offered, nearly 900 children and/or families could be served if a maximum allocation of $3000 was spent for services (these figures are provided as an example only). The types of services that are needed in the state of Illinois are life skills programs, transitional life skills programs, social skills programs, family case management and outreach programs, and medical and mental health services for children and families. The goal of a newly offered program would be to help more children and families by striving to keep families intact. Keeping families intact could be attained by either providing the aforementioned services or providing the means to obtain those services.
The liability of providing residential care continues to increase due to the costs of insurance, limited availability of appropriate liability insurance coverage, and the litigious nature of society. The Homes attempt to offset the risk of liability by following the rules of the Department of Children and Family Services requirement of background checks, driving applications, physical, and employment verification for all employees and volunteers, completing 15-minute checks on the residents, installing alarms on bedroom doors and exterior doors and windows, and by installing closed circuit security cameras in all the common areas of the residential cottages.
The Homes also limit the children that are considered appropriate for placement. Children that have significant mental health or behavior disorders are not considered appropriate because the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home is not a treatment facility that has the means to care for them. Considering all the mitigating efforts that have been put in place, the liability of the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home continues to be a factor due to the limited amount of appropriate insurance coverage available.
When caring for children, the organization is held to a higher standard of care than the families of those children. Any accident that causes harm, allegation of abuse, or misconduct by a volunteer or employee could put the organization at great risk. The elimination of the residential services that are currently provided could negate the risk of liability to the organization: staff would not be providing direct 24-hour care, staff would not be driving residents in agency vehicles, staff would not have one-on-one contact with residents, and facilities would not be used to house residents.
The current limited scope of services provided to children and families in the State of Illinois has been a growing concern of the organization. The number of appropriate referrals to the Illinois Masonic Children’s Home continues to decrease. A majority of children that are being referred for care are children that have severe behavior or mental health issues that require ongoing, intensive treatment. By offering services to only 53 families, many families and children in the state of Illinois do not receive needed services.
The trend for residential placement has decreased. The goal for most organizations and agencies is to keep families intact by providing case management and support services. The types of services include providing referrals for medical, dental, or mental health care and to provide support services to the families to ensure they have the tools to stay intact. The types of services that children need are life skills, social skills, and transitional life skills (transitioning from high school to college/work). If the scope of the charity is expanded to include outreach, case management and social/life/transitional life skills groups or classes, more children could be healthy and prepared for adult life and more families, including masonic families, could be served. Those families with Masonic affiliation would get preference for services.
The Illinois Masonic Children’s Home has two locations, La Grange and Murphysboro –the northeastern and southern part of the state respectively. The central and western part of the state of Illinois does not have a lot of knowledge about the services currently provided. Some of the Masonic Lodges know the Homes exist and provide some monetary support, but services are limited in these areas of the state.
In order to promote and advocate for the children’s services (and other programs, as needed), a program designed to share information with the membership, build goodwill, help bring services to families in need, and build better communication, could be established. The main goals of the program would be to inform the membership and the communities in which they live about the benefits of the children’s services.
This program would involve support from the Lodges by having a representative in each district who would serve as a liaison between the children’s program and the Lodges/community. The liaison would provide information about the programs, how to get involved, and services provided. Through Lodge presentations, we can market the message of the children’s services and bring in those who would need our help. In addition, presentations can be made to other civic minded groups in the district as well as social organizations.
In the last issue of The Illinois Freemasonry an article indicated it would be the last issue mailed to our membership. This action was taken to reduce the printing and postage line items in our Grand Lodge budget. The printing and mailing of our magazine equals just under 10% of our entire Grand Lodge budget.
Based on feedback from our members, and the fact that some members do not have access to the internet, the Grand Lodge Officers looked for, and found, a way to fund at least two issues of our magazine. Consequently, our members can expect to get their next two issues of the Illinois Freemasonry magazine around May 15 and August 15, 2017. Currently we are adjusting the budget to continue to print at least two editions and if possible, to restore our previous publication schedule to mail in Spring (May), Summer (August), Fall (November), and Winter (February) of each year.
In accordance with Code 199 and Code 402, at the first stated meeting following its receipt, this letter is to be read in open lodge and entered at length upon the records of the Lodge.
Anthony R. Cracco Grand Master
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