Lawrence Hall serves as a Residential Treatment Center for Illinois’ most severely troubled and traumatized youth and their families. We are often the last stop in treatment for children picked up off the streets or recently released from juvenile detention or psychiatric wards, regularly with pre-existing drug addictions and violent behavioral problems.

Every day, we undertake the challenge of providing treatment and welfare services for these troubled at-risk youth. This severe population segment represents only 3% of children aged 12 – 17 in state care but requires a disproportionate amount of treatment. Lawrence Hall continues to be the only such center treating these youth in Chicago.

The egregious behaviors and incidents by a few of the youth described in the recent Chicago Tribune series are unacceptable. We work to make sure all children live a life that is free from physical, sexual, and emotional harm.  Drug use and violence are not tolerated in our facilities. While Lawrence Hall is not a detention center, we immediately report and discipline bad behavior under the highest threshold of Illinois law.  When a youth is on a run from our residential facility, we immediately alert the police and work with them and state child welfare officials to get them back.

We believe it would be in the best interest for the state to modify and raise these legal thresholds so we can interact more safely and effectively with our youth. We will continue to foster a safe and stable environment where our youth can more actively participate in their own treatment and make positive steps forward and stop harmful decision-making and destructive peer pressure before it starts. We are also implementing additional system reforms and improvements, including:

  • Enhancing monitoring processes for all residential programming, including:
    • Additional staff and clinical therapist monitoring for recently discharged youth
    • Increasing individual monitoring of high-risk youth
    • Improved staff training and engagement guidelines for high-risk behavior
  • Providing additional safety cameras at the Residential Treatment Campus
  • Improving our Unusual Incident Reports (UIR) process to better document verified staff testimony and follow-up treatment information
  • A new Director of Residential Services with a licensed clinical social work (LCSW) background
  • An ongoing partnership with Circles and Ciphers, a community leadership development organization focused on positive re-entry to society for young African-American men; and the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s chief LGBT community and services center

Our main goal at Lawrence Hall is to care for our youth with the most proven treatment methods to provide them an opportunity to step down into a safe and reliable family or caregiver home setting.  Since 2010, over 250 of our youth have successfully completed residential treatment and returned home, moved to foster care, returned to school or begun working..   In 2014, we have also significantly reduced incidents of aggression and runaway behavior with our youth.

We look forward to working with DCFS and the State of Illinois in 2015 on important system reforms to better meet and coordinate the needs of youth, staff and families. One reform we especially advocate is that care providers participate in the state’s interview and evaluation process earlier so we can more fully engage with children at a younger age and work towards safe placement before the youth are older and face more difficult challenges.  Our state and its troubled children deserve our continued collaboration and best efforts.

Kara Teeple,
Interim CEO
Lawrence Hall Youth Services