A children's home for neglected or abused wards of the state can now refuse to accept children with serious criminal backgrounds - after the recent arrest of one of the home's residents.
In April, Alton police arrested 17-year-old Latayuss Curry - a resident of the Catholic Children's Home on State Street in Alton. He was charged with sex abuse after police say he exposed himself to a woman in a grocery store parking lot and groped an adult, female jogger.
Police in Alton said Curry has a history of serious crimes, but the state placed Curry in the Catholic Children's Home in Alton last September.
The Catholic Children's Home has had a contract with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services since DCFS became an agency in 1964.
Children who have been abused or neglected and removed from their homes can be sent to the Catholic Children's Home. A residential program at the home cares for up to 15 children at a time.
Unlike a juvenile detention center, children are not kept under lock and key at the Catholic Children's Home. Police questioned why some children with serious criminal pasts were placed in the facility.
"We were getting the kids sent down here by DCFS from Chicago, who had criminal histories, that weren't right for this program," said Alton Police Chief David Hayes.
In November of 2009, police arrested three other boys in an attack on a woman. Police said the boys grabbed the woman as she walked from her car to her house in the Christian Hill neighborhood. The boys were runaways from the Catholic Children's Home. Police said two of the boys were from the Chicago-area and had criminal pasts.
Last month, Hayes took part in discussions with DCFS and the Diocese of Springfield, which runs the children's home. Under a previous agreement with the state, the children's home could not refuse DCFS referrals. A new agreement allows the children's home to refuse to take children with serious criminal histories and expedite removal, if the home determines a child is not a good fit for its program. DCFS also agreed to provide the Catholic Children's Home with complete case files on each child's past.
"The Catholic Children's Home is a deterrent to juvenile crimes, not an accessory to it.
There are thousands of children we've helped out through the years that we have actually diverted off of the path of juvenile crime," said Steve Roach, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Springfield.
Chief Hayes said that between last September and April, police were called to the Catholic Children's Home at least 100 times. Most of the calls were to report a group of four runaways, including Curry.
Curry is currently in the Madison County Jail. The other three teens have been removed from the home.
Since mid-April, Chief Hayes said the calls for services dropped to just one.
In addition to the residential program, the Catholic Children's Home also runs a program for former wards of the state who are learning to live on their own. Up to 12 residents, 18 years old or older live on site. The agency also runs a special education school for 90 children, who are bused to the facility for school, but do not live on the campus.
Roach said the Catholic Children's Home has a follow up meeting with the state on June 15th. Roach said he is also planning meetings with area residents - to inform them of the changes.