Child care is a foster-family affair at Hephzibah
David Hibbler and his wife, Gail, have been married for 25 years. David Hibbler is looking forward to Father's Day this weekend. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 3:12PM
There are plenty more kids in need of fostering — and there have been for 114 years.
Oak Park’s oldest charitable organization, Hephzibah Children’s Home began its work in 1897 when founder Mary Wessels took two young boys into her home. Soon after that, she sheltered 12 more children when a nearby orphanage burned to the ground.
Wessels used an inheritance to buy a larger home and house more children in 1907, and began to cultivate a relationship with her neighbors that eventually developed into a longstanding tradition of community support. That relationship was formalized when Hephzibah Home became an Oak Community Chest agency in 1936.
“These are kids who haven’t had all the opportunities — emotionally, socially, morally, academically — that other kids have, because their parents have a lot of issues,” said Hephzibah Foster Care Specialist Davida Williams.
She said that qualified foster parents are always a much-needed and much-valued commodity.
“One of my primary goals is always to recruit more families. These children need more families like the Hibblers to come forward,” she said. (See related story.)
Local groups also step up.
This year, when United Way announced it would no longer support sliding-scale tuition for low-income families in Hephzibah’s Day Care program, the Community Chest of Oak Park and River Forest contributed $75,000 to keep the program running.
Of course, the Day Care program was developed by Hephzibah in the 1970s to help serve meet the need of families in the community — just one way the organization has fulfilled its mission “to provide safety and care to society’s most vulnerable children.”
Today, children in the care of the Hephzibah Children’s Association typically begin with a 90-day assessment in the Diagnostic Treatment Center, where they are evaluated for physical and emotional well-being. For some, placement efforts begin as soon as 60 day after arrival. Others, who need more time, are placed in Hephzibah group homes, which can accommodate 26 children awaiting foster families.
“Finding a good home in a safe community with a healthy family is the best way to ensure they will have the chance to become happy, competent kids with hope for the future.”