Because of support like yours, more kids than ever will be reached in 2021 through the expansion of our Foster Care & Adoption program into Waukegan and Lake County. Despite the challenges presented throughout 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foster Care & Adoption program continued to grow and, by creating office space in Waukegan where Lakeside Center also operates, significantly expanded its service area.

While the program has served Chicago and the south suburbs for more than 25 years, establishing a presence in new locations now allows the program to reach families as far west as Aurora, north to Waukegan, south to Joliet and east toward Calumet City. Little City Executive Director Shawn Jeffers said the expansion will be life-changing for hundreds of children and families and is a testament to the program.

“It is amazing to see the unwavering support of our foster families and the work ethic of our staff lead to this incredible expansion during such difficult circumstances,” he said. “For 25 years, Little City’s Foster Care & Adoption Program has been recognized among the best in the state and this expansion will build on that legacy of matching children in need with loving families.”

With the expansion to Waukegan and Lake County, Little City will have more opportunities to help the nearly 18,000 children in Illinois’ foster care system. Little City’s program focuses especially on children with developmental and intellectual disabilities as well as emotional and behavioral disorders and has already helped more than 260 kids achieve permanency through adoption, guardianship and returns to birth families.

“We’re excited to build off of the successes of our program that has been serving nearly 100 youth with special needs and their families in Chicago and the south suburbs annually,” said Emily Rawsky, Deputy Program Officer. “We’re off to a great start thanks to the presence,  relationships and impacts we’ve already had in the community through the Lakeside Center in Waukegan.”

The expansion of the Foster Care & Adoption Program will also include providing vital mental health and Applied Behavior Analysis services to the region. Because the state provides no funding for recruitment staff; testimonials, public informational meetings and advertising are important aspects of raising awareness. While those efforts have started, Little City is also asking its supporters, donors and families to spread the word to family, and friends in this expanded coverage area that may be interested in learning more about foster care.

Alyza Gordon-Gonzalez, one of the longtime Little City foster parents that has made the program so successful over the years, has said she could not have asked for a better experience. Now as a foster parent who has officially adopted her foster children, she said it is a truly fulfilling and life-changing journey.

“It’s really hard to find good placement for teens and especially kids that might have some special needs. I wanted to show the system that there are people who can change a child,” she said. “Nine out of 10 times they just need love. And now I am so blessed to have three amazing boys that are my sons and I get to be their mother. I love every minute of it.”