When newly appointed Archbishop Patrick A. Feehan looked out his window in the fall of 1882, the sight that greeted the first archbishop of Chicago was a street teeming with apparently homeless boys dressed in tattered clothing, snatching purses, and running from the police. On his walks around the neighborhood, he would see the boys huddled together around a fire, sneaking into livery stables for warmth, and begging for food and money on the street corners. “These boys deserve something better than this,” he thought.
By 1883, those thoughts became a reality called St. Mary’s Training School for Boys, an 880-acre working farm located north of Des Plaines, Illinois. St. Mary’s was a place for the boys to live, learn a trade and get an education, preparing themselves for a life beyond petty thievery, homelessness, hunger and loneliness. When it was founded and throughout its history, St. Mary’s Training School was dedicated to the task of rebuilding lives, rekindling spirits and renewing hope.
Times changed, world wars engulfed the globe, economic depressions came and went and the wards of the state increased in number exponentially. While the military, financial and political upheavals impacted all Americans, none were hit harder than the country’s poor. The number of children who were considered wards of the state multiplied exponentially. New social ills such as drug abuse and gang violence added to the mix and St. Mary’s Training School adapted. Its goal was a constant one: to continue to foster the well-being of children in need.
St. Mary’s was an orphanage, a chance at a decent life, an educator, a family – it was home to literally thousands upon thousands of boys and girls. And had it not been for St. Mary’s, who can say what fate would have brought into the lives of those children. Eventually, St. Mary’s transitioned into what is now known as Maryville Academy.
Today, Maryville Academy still meets the ever changing needs of children and their families: from an orphanage to the teaching family model to today’s trauma informed care model, always keeping its mission in focus:
Caring for Children. Strengthening Families.
Directing that mission in recent years has been Sr. Catherine Ryan, O.S.F. Sister Catherine was appointed Executive Director of Maryville Academy in December 2004. She was formerly the chief of the Juvenile Justice Bureau at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Prior to that, Sister Catherine was in private practice where she concentrated her practice in child welfare and family law.
To meet the escalating demand for services, Maryville has also established new programs, such as the Crisis Nursery and the Children’s Healthcare Center on the Northwest Side of Chicago. The Maryville Crisis Nursery provides short-term care for children of families who are experiencing a severe disruptive crisis or are challenged with an urgent family matter. Children ages newborn through six years are provided with 24-hour emergency child care, up to 72 hours, in a safe and nurturing environment designed to protect them from experiences and environments that could harm them. Families may utilize the Maryville Crisis Nursery up to 30 days in a rolling calendar year.
The Maryville Crisis Nursery provides families with immediate support, counseling, and referrals to community resources for extended services. The quality services provided to both the children and families in need are free. The Nursery is one of six crisis nurseries located in Illinois, and is the only crisis nursery located in the Chicagoland area.
Sharing the same building as the Nursery, Maryville’s Children’s Healthcare Center is a long-term acute care and sub-acute care facility that provides specialized clinical care for medically fragile children, ages newborn through 21. The Children’s Healthcare Center is a “home away from home” for these children and their families.
The Children’s Healthcare Center provides care to children who may be technology-dependent (e.g., ventilators, apnea monitoring) and training for parents, caregivers, and siblings to help them become more confident when attending to the fragile child’s specialized needs. The Children’s Healthcare Center also offers respite care for caregivers, giving them much needed breaks from demanding schedules.
In 2007, Maryville started the Jen School on its Des Plaines campus. At Jen School, Maryville provides students, in grades 6 to 12 (ages 12-22), with integrated therapeutic and educational services. The school serves children in Maryville’s residential programs and students from the community with complex emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities. The Maryville Jen School staff uses hands-on, alternative and experiential teaching methods in conjunction with traditional instruction methods to maximize the student’s potential for success. Student-teacher ratios are as low as three to one.
Throughout our history, the focus has remained on taking care of children who need help. Once a simple orphanage and a family teaching model, Maryville has continued to change and adapt. The emphasis today is on a “trauma informed care” clinical model – to get to the roots of the trauma and understand and treat those problems. Maryville is proud to be accredited by the COA (Council on Accreditation).