Aunt Martha’s receives grant from Live Healthy Chicago supporting services at Illinois’ only center for DCFS youth affected by COVID-19

Officials at Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness learned Tuesday that the organization is among the latest recipients of funding from the Live Healthy Chicago collaborative, which in May announced $5 million donation from The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation to accelerate efforts to assist communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The $50,000 grant will offset a portion of the cost of the negative air pressure system installed in April at Aunt Martha’s Children’s Quarantine Center (CQC), the state’s only facility designed to care specifically for foster children whose living situation is disrupted by the COVID-19.

“We are grateful to have the support of the team at Live Healthy Chicago and appreciate their understanding of the connection between the disproportionate representation of children of color in the DCFS system in Cook County and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among African American and Latino communities,” said Raul Garza, Aunt Martha’s President and CEO.

The CQC leverages Aunt Martha’s status as the only organization in Illinois to be both a licensed child welfare provider and Federally Qualified Health Center. It provides a home-like setting where DCFS youth who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19 can be cared for and supervised around the clock until they can safely return to their prior placement.

The CQC represents Aunt Martha’s response to calls from DCFS for agencies with the capacity to safely care for youth in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The facility, which since 2011 had served as a supportive and transitional living program for homeless young adults, was redesigned to accommodate and isolate the children placed there.

That work included the installation of a hospital-grade negative pressure ventilation system to control the spread of airborne pathogens. The use of negative pressure ensures infectious germs do not spread through the HVAC system from youth rooms to the rest of the facility.

“There are communities willing to turn their backs on, if not outright discriminate against these them; but it’s in Aunt Martha’s DNA to stand up, to make the necessary investments, to innovate and, when necessary, to fight for these kids,” said Garza.

“Our expertise is in blending – integrating – the best practices of child welfare with the best practices of community health care. That’s the work we do at the CQC, and we’re proud to call Live Healthy Chicago our partner.”

About Live Healthy Chicago

Live Healthy Chicago is a community-based collaborative comprised of Forty Acres Fresh Market, The MAAFA Redemption Project, My Block My Hood My City, Rush University Medical Center, and West Side United. Its mission is to address the immediate wellness of seniors and high-risk populations in target Chicago communities experiencing the highest COVID-19 disparities and food insecurities. Its members are committed to dismantling the systemic racial and health inequities prevalent in target communities by implementing, funding and sustaining immediate, long term and collective tactics.