Advertisements ad

August 30, 2009

Catholic Charities gets some good financial newsBut all is not rosy for agency

By Michelle Martin


Catholic Charities has gotten some good financial news in recent days, but not everything is rosy.

The Ounce of Prevention Fund, which contracted with Catholic Charities to provide services to pregnant and parenting teens, was able to renew the contract at the same level as last year, providing $400,000 to help teens have healthy pregnancies and deliveries, as well as to provide support and parenting education to teen mothers after their babies are born, said Laura Rios, Catholic Charities’ manager of the Division of Child, Youth and Family Services.

However, people laid off from other Catholic Charities programs remain out of work, and nearly two months into the new fiscal year, some contracts that the agency had with the state of Illinois to provide services are still not settled, said Catholic Charities spokeswoman Kristin Ortman.

The temporary state budget passed July 15 allows for social service programs to be funded at an average of 86 percent of their previous levels, but does provide details of how much each program will get. Those are the issues that in some cases are still being resolved.

Program returned

The money from the Ounce of Prevention Fund — which ultimately comes from government sources — will allow Catholic Charities to bring back about five staff members it laid off. That represents roughly half the staff for the program. Their return will allow Catholic Charities to provide services at the same level as last year, Rios said.

In fiscal 2009, the program served 135 pregnant and parenting teenage girls and 65 of their infants and toddlers. In addition to enhancing their well-being during pregnancy and enhancing parenting skills, the program encourages them to stay in or return to school, making it more likely that they will be able to support themselves and their children when they are adults.

Rios said the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which gets the money for the program from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools, originally notified Catholic Charities that it could only offer a sixmonth contract, starting in July, at 50 percent of last year’s level because of uncertainty about the state budget. At that point, Catholic Charities let half the staff go.

When no budget had been passed by July 1, the fund notified Catholic Charities that it could not guarantee any funds, but Catholic Charities decided to maintain the program as long as possible anyway.

It was not until mid-August, as the details of the state’s temporary budget were ironed out, that the Ounce of Prevention Fund restored full funding retroactive to July 1.

Not all good news

While the workers for that program were being recalled, the news was not as good for all Catholic Charities staff members who were laid off or had their hours cut as a result of state budget cuts and the poor economy, Rios said.

A separate program for teen mothers, which could be funded at only 25 percent of former levels, was ended because it was impossible to maintain, Rios said, causing three people to lose their jobs. Some child care centers had to reduce their staffing and capacity.

In other cases, Catholic Charities could not afford to rehire workers that were let go because the agency had to spend money in severance and in accrued benefits when it let them go, Rios said. In other cases, decreases in private donations led Catholic Charities to reevaluate the level of service it was able to provide.

Catholic Charities provided assistance to more than a million people in the Archdiocese of Chicago last year, offering the equivalent of more than 4.5 million meals, providing housing to low income seniors and emergency shelter to people in danger of becoming homeless and homemaking support to help frail senior citizens remain in their own homes.

At the beginning of August, Father Michael Boland, the president of Catholic Charities, announced an effort to help increase funding with a new “Neighbors in Need” campaign.

For more information, visit