Questions remain in wake of closing of Larkin Center
BY Janelle WALKER For Sun-Times Media October 17, 2013 6:42PM
The 117-year-old Larkin Center, whose main facility was at 1212 Larkin Ave. in Elgin, experienced severe financial problems related to insurance, the unstable economy and other factors, its board president said. | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: November 19, 2013 6:34AM
ELGIN — Scant information was available Thursday about the future of the Larkin Center, or the children now in its residential or education programs, in the wake of Wednesday’s revelation that the nonprofit social service agency is ending its services Friday.
However, it appeared that the center’s main facility — the iconic building at 1212 Larkin Ave. — will not be among the center’s facilities and operations taken over by Chicago-based Lawrence Hall Youth Services. The future of that building, which was given city of Elgin landmark status in 2004, was uncertain as of Thursday.
Larkin Center officials said Wednesday that the 117-year-old agency could no longer sustain its operations because of financial challenges. Lawrence Hall was asked by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to take over facilities and operations, but to what extent remained unclear late Thursday.
“We’re in ongoing discussions with DCFS to identify which Larkin programs Lawrence Hall will assume and manage moving forward,” Colette Bradley, a Lawrence Hall spokesperson, said Thursday. “Because of this, we can’t confirm further program details. Lawrence Hall’s priority remains to ensure the continuity of services for the Elgin youth and community currently under Larkin’s care, while minimizing the impact of the closure. We expect to have more details soon.”
Lawrence Hall is not taking over the entire center or programming now provided through the Larkin Center, she added, referring specific questions about which programs may or may not remain to Larkin Center officials.
However, Larkin Center officials remained mum Thursday on details.
“The statement that was issued (Wednesday) is all I can say at this time,” said Larkin Center Executive Director Dennis Graf said Thursday. Wednesday’s statement was brief and conveyed the fact that the center was unsustainable past Friday.
“We are focusing on getting everything done appropriately” before the center officially closes its doors on Friday, Graf said.
Where children currently living in Larkin Center residential facilities will be placed, or which Elgin locations will remain open, is still unknown.
“It is a touchy situation,” said DCFS spokesperson Karen Hawkins. “We are dealing with children that we are moving, and we have been actively involved in the transition to make it as smooth as possible.”
DCFS was also notified of Larkin Center’s closing Oct. 11, as soon as the decision was made, she said.
The center was in good standing with DCFS and was contracted for 42 beds, Hawkins said; 35 children were receiving services as of Thursday.
Regarding staff from the Larkin Center transitioning to Lawrence Hall, “they will take the staff where they can or where it is appropriate,” Hawkins said.
Larkin Center staff were told on Tuesday the agency would be closing, and staff reapplied and interviewed for jobs with Lawrence Hall on Wednesday.
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said it was his understanding that the 100-plus-year-old building at 1212 Larkin Ave. — the original Larkin Center home — would not be one of the facilities used.
Lawrence Hall officials did reach out to the city on Thursday, asking about the Larkin Center’s lease at 15 Sports Way — the Rakow Center school. That property is part of the old Elgin Mental Health Center and is owned by the state of Illinois. It was renovated in 2000 and is leased to the city for a nominal fee, and the city the leases the building to the Larkin Center.
If Lawrence Hall were to use the school for programs, the lease would need to be altered to indicate the new management, officials said.
Lawrence Hall is well-established in providing programs for students with emotional and behavioral disorders — nearly 150 years according to its website.
“Lawrence Hall has a long history and proven track record in the nonprofit sector of providing high-quality services to youth and families in need,” Bradley said. “In the past, we have successfully integrated several DCFS programs from at-risk organizations with our own programs.”