Aunt Martha’s closes group home for troubled teens in Joliet
By Bob Okon email@example.com September 6, 2012 2:52PM
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:35PM
JOLIET — A Center Street group home for troubled teenage boys that had become a sore point for Joliet police has closed.
Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center Inc. closed the group home in late August.
Raul Garza, chief executive for Aunt Martha’s, said Thursday that issues with police did lead to the closing of the home at 1 N. Center St.
“There was probably a lot of tension it was putting on the police department because of the activity of the kids,” Garza said.
Police concerns about activity at the home reached a high point in late 2011, when a teen runaway from the home was arrested for grabbing a 68-year-old woman downtown and fondling her.
Police noted that the same teen had been reported as a runaway from the group home 14 times in three months.
Joliet police had received reports from the home of runaways at a rate of more than 100 a year.
Garza said the group home cannot legally restrain teens. But staff are required by law to report to police any time a teen runs away.
Police Chief Mike Trafton said he believed it was a good decision to close the Joliet group home.
“It wasn’t a good fit for the neighborhood,” Trafton said. “It wasn’t a good fit for the city.”
The group home had been on Center Street since 2008 and housed about a half-dozen teenage boys at a time. The juveniles were under the guardianship of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and had been placed in the home to receive supervision, counseling and educational support while attending school.
Garza said teens were moved to other Aunt Martha’s facilities.
“We have the capacity to absorb the kids into other Aunt Martha houses,” he said.
Aunt Martha’s, a regional social service organization based in Olympia Fields, has five group homes and other facilities for troubled teens. None of them are in Joliet. But Aunt Martha’s does have a crisis intervention center in Joliet, which has been here for 28 years, and is in the process of building a medical clinic for low-income and uninsured patients on the former Silver Cross Hospital campus.