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Students at Daniel Burnham Elementary School in Cicero in 2022.

Marc Monaghan

A parents’ guide to finding therapy and mental health services for kids in Chicago

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It can be overwhelming and scary when your child is struggling emotionally. This guide is designed to help Chicago parents understand what kind of outpatient supports are out there.

WBEZ spent six months investigating care for Illinois children from low-income families in acute mental health crises. We found a tattered safety net that referred children to a mental health network that is both understaffed and severely short on capacity.

Still, there are some resources. This guide is designed to help you find them — and to understand where you might be able to get in quickly and where you might have to wait. It also includes resources on how to talk to your kids and how to find free bilingual therapy.

Therapy and counseling for kids

Association House of Chicago

This Humboldt Park-based nonprofit provides an array of services in both English and Spanish, including mental health counseling, job training, primary health care and it also runs an alternative charter high school.

Languages: English and Spanish

Ages served: No age restrictions for kids

Payment: Sliding scale, also accepts Medicaid and some private insurance

Current availability: Waitlist is 2 to 4 weeks as of March 7

Location: 1116 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago (Humboldt Park)

Contact: For Medicaid, call 773-772-8009, ext. 6721. For BlueCross PPO or private pay, use ext. 6820 or email bh-bcbs@associationhouse.org



BUILD Chicago

BUILD – or Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development – is a non-profit that started as a gang intervention and violence prevention group in Chicago in 1969. With locations on the West Side, BUILD offers mental health care for young people affected by violence and substance abuse, including group therapy, telehealth appointments, support groups and gender-specific programs.

Languages: English and Spanish

Ages served: Typically ages 6-24

Payment: Free services, also accepts Medicaid and some private insurance

Current availability: Waitlist of 4 to 5 weeks as of March 2

Locations:

  • 5100 W. Harrison St., Chicago (Austin)

  • 3328 W. North Ave., Chicago (Humboldt Park)

Contact: Jessica Carrillo-Guerrero, Director of Clinical & Community Wellness Programs, jcarrillo@buildchicago.org

Phone: 773-227-2880

Christian Community Health Center

The CCHC is a non-profit social service and health care provider that’s been around for more than 30 years. With locations on Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs, it offers primary medical and dental care, housing services and mental health care for children and adults.

Languages: English

Ages served: 6+

Payment: Sliding scale, Medicaid and private insurance

Current availability: No waitlist as of March 16.

Locations:

  • 9718 S. Halstad St., Chicago (Longwood Manor)

  • 901 E. Sibley Blvd., South Holland, Ill.

  • 364 Torrence Ave., Calumet City, Ill.

Phone: 773-344-4100, option 1


Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4)

C4 is a nonprofit that has been offering children and families mental health services on Chicago’s North Side for more than 50 years. These include family and group therapy, screening and assessments, life skills training and youth summer camps.

Languages: English and Spanish

Ages served: No age restrictions for kids

Payment: Free services, sliding scale payment, and also accepts Medicaid and some private insurance

Current availability: As of March 2, C4 did not have the capacity to maintain waitlists and encouraged people to call for available appointments, which can fluctuate week to week.

Location: Teletherapy and child and adolescent therapy at 2542 W. North Ave., Chicago (Logan Square)


Erikson Institute, Center for Children and Families

The nonprofit Erikson Institute runs an early childhood graduate school, conducts research and provides mental health services. It works with patients in the city and the Chicago area with in-person and online emotional and behavioral therapy. It offers services for children from birth to age 8 and for caregivers of kids in that age range.

Languages: English and Spanish

Ages served: Birth to 8 and their caregivers

Payment: Free (based on need), sliding scale, Medicaid and private insurance. In-network for BlueCross BlueShield Illinois, BCBS Community Health, Meridian, Molina, TriCare and others.

Current availability: No waitlist as of March 1.

Locations:

  • 451 N. Lasalle St., Chicago (River North)

  • 3948 W. 26th St., Chicago (Little Village)

  • 6832 W. North Ave., Chicago (Galewood)

Contact: Make an appointment online, or call 312-709-0508 (English) and 312-934-6446 (Spanish)


Metropolitan Family Services

Metropolitan Family Services is one of the largest nonprofit social service agencies in the Chicago area, providing services including legal help, job training and parenting programs. It also offers in-person, office-, school- and home-based therapy as well as teletherapy across Chicago, DuPage County and southwest suburban Cook County, and Skokie/Evanston for children, teens and their families.

Languages: English, Polish and Spanish; most languages can be accommodated

Ages served: 5 and older

Payment: Medicaid, Medicare, some private insurance and a sliding scale for uninsured clients

Current availability: Waitlists change frequently and can vary widely by location, so patients are encouraged to call for an appointment.

Location contacts:

  • Chicago (South Side): 773-371-3600

  • Chicago (Northwest Side): 773-371-3700

  • Chicago (Southeast Side): 773-291-2900

  • Chicago neighborhoods near Midway Airport: 773-884-3310

  • Skokie and Evanston: 847-425-7500

  • Southwest Cook County: 708-974-2498

  • DuPage County: 630-784-4842


Family Institute at Northwestern University

The Family Institute at Northwestern University has been training therapists since 1965, and also serves patients. It offers free therapy for families and children who qualify with Northwestern graduate students who are training to be therapists and with licensed therapists through its Bette D. Harris Family & Child Clinic.

Languages: English, with some Spanish availability

Ages served: No age restrictions for kids

Payment: Free for all patients except those covered by BlueCross BlueShield Illinois

Current availability: No waitlist as of March 20

Locations:

  • Teletherapy: Request an appointment online or call 847-733-4300.

  • Chicago (Loop): 8 S. Michigan Ave., 10th floor.; 312-609-5300

  • Evanston: Bette D. Harris Center, 618 Library Pl.; 847-733-4300

  • Northbrook: 666 Dundee Rd., ste. 1501; 847-733-4300

  • Westchester: One Westbrook Corporate Center, tower one, ste. 300; 312-609-5300


Sinai Chicago: Under the Rainbow

The Under the Rainbow program is affiliated with Sinai Chicago, a hospital group serving Chicago’s West and Southwest Sides. The program has served children and families in Chicago’s North and South Lawndale neighborhoods for more than 25 years. It offers mental health assessments, individual and family therapy, medication management, parenting classes and more.

Languages: English and Spanish

Ages served: 3 to 18

Payment: Free services, also accepts Medicaid and some private insurance

Current availability: Waitlist of 1 to 3 weeks as of Feb. 27

Location: 1500 S. California Ave., Chicago (Douglas Park)

Phone: 773-257-4750

Mental-health guides and resources

  • Free in-person mental health first-aid training in English and Spanish is available from Association House of Chicago. The Humboldt Park-based organization offers the training twice a month about how to “identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and addictions.”

  • “Talking to Kids You Love” is a collection of short, English-language videos from The Family Institute at Northwestern University about how to speak to children on difficult topics, such as how to express anger, encourage empathy and face their fears.

  • “Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids” is a series of videos in English and Spanish from the Child Mind Institute for parents, students and educators. The videos teach mental health skills, along with an implementation guide. Topics include how to understand your feelings, how to relax and how to manage intense emotions. (h/t Chalkbeat)

  • The Child Mind Institute Family Resource Center also offers FAQs in English and Spanish for parents on 30 topics related to child mental health, including anxiety, sleep, and drugs and alcohol. (h/t Chalkbeat)

  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has guides in English and Spanish about how to help teens cope after a mass shooting. (h/t Chicago Sun-Times)

Thank you to our fellow journalists at The TRiiBE, Chalkbeat and the Chicago Sun-Times for identifying some of the resources included in this guide. If you have questions about how to access resources – or if you’d like to suggest one to add to this guide – please email Engagement Editor Alex Keefe at akeefe@wbez.org.

Steven Arroyo is an Engagement Producer on WBEZ’s Community Engagement Team. Email him at sarroyo@wbez.org. Alex Keefe is WBEZ’s Engagement Editor.

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