For the first time since it opened in 1883, Maryville will not house children in its residential centers or shelter. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which helps to fund Maryville’s residential care programs, is reducing its funding in this area by $23 million in the next fiscal year. While DCFS funding has never covered all the costs for Maryville’s residential programs, this steep reduction is a burden the institution can no longer sustain, said School Sister of St. Francis Catherine Ryan, Maryville’s executive director. DCFS’ goal is to move children into foster homes or keep them with their original families, if possible. “We understand that. We aren’t arguing that that’s not good for children, if it can be done safely,” Ryan said. About 70 boys and girls who are wards of the state live at Maryville’s Des Plaines and Bartlett campuses, and its John and Mary Madden Shelter in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. This news isn’t easy for them. “They’re concerned about where they’re going to go next and how it is going to be,” Ryan said. “Our staff and I have tried to reassure them that it’s not happening right away and that we’re working with DCFS so that this can be a deliberative process and that we will work with DCFS to find their new places.” The residential programs will officially end with the fiscal year on June 30 but both Maryville and DCFS are committed to taking as much time as needed to place the children in safe foster care. Before that can happen, DCFS has to recruit more foster parents and train them. They will then try and determine which children will do best in which homes. “We’re going to work with the department to ensure that this works well,” Ryan said. While most of the children in the care of DCFS are in foster homes, about 1,000 children live in residential care in Illinois, Ryan said. “The children who are still in residential care are in residential care because they have been severely wounded emotionally and sometimes physically from abuse,” she said. “The court has decided they can’t live safely at home and placed them with DCFS.” Because these children are also suffering from some kind of mental illness or other trauma, DCFS placed them in residential care because it felt they needed intensive therapeutic attention. “It’s not a simple process to say that this child who has been so wounded is going to be able to move into a foster-care setting and that’s what has to be done thoughtfully by the department,” she said. Archbishop Patrick Feehan started Maryville to provide a safe haven, services and education for the many children living on the streets in Chicago. “That’s still our mission today,” Ryan said. Over the past 10 years, Maryville has started new programs that serve children in community settings. “We know that this is where most of the children are, and their families and that we need to be supporting them there,” she said. Several of these programs such as the Crisis Nursery and the Children’s Healthcare Center focus on helping during the early years of a child’s life. “The reason that’s so important to us, the reason those programs started, was because the children who die or who are permanently damaged from child abuse and neglect — the largest number it happens to — are children who are between birth and 2 years of age,” she said. Research also shows that the time Maryville’s services can have the greatest impact is during the first five years of a child’s life. “If we do it right, they are not held back by the fact that they are facing many challenges of poverty,” Ryan said.