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Proposal for foster kids to move in at senior citizen home getting pushback in Wood Dale

Proposal for foster kids to move in at senior citizen home getting pushback in Wood Dale
Proposal for foster kids to move in at senior citizen home getting pushback in Wood Dale 02:46

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A viewer reached out to us concerned about a proposal to move foster kids into a senior citizen home in the suburbs.

She wanted to remain anonymous, but we looked into the idea, and made a surprising discovery: there's actually a lot of support.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory explains more about the program that's backed by one of the top universities but faces a tricky City Council vote this week. 

Fresh carpet is going in on the fourth floor of The Radcliff, an assisted living facility, where foster kids could move in as soon as next month.

If Wood Dale City Council grants a special use permit to the senior home at Thursday's meeting, a group of 60 teens and young adults, ages 14 to 20, would live on the fourth floor with opportunities to do activities and dine with the elderly residents

"I was like, 'Oh, hell no. Not here. Not in my community," said Dina Krauss, who was initially opposed to the idea when she saw it posted about on the "What's Happening in Wood Dale, IL?" page, where worries about seniors' security and privacy are brewing. 

"The difference between what was being said online and the truth was amazing," said Krauss, who considers herself a huge supporter after a long talk with the Radcliff's owner, Alan Scimeca.

"People have conflated a good kid that just lost his parents with a juvenile delinquent," said Scimeca, who has encountered more pushback than he thought. He promises the teens will be supervised 24/7.

"We've created a situation here where we can be selective," said Scimeca. He explained that the State places children in an area foster program that then will rent rooms at the Radcliff. Scimeca can filter applicants for certain qualifications.

"No crime ever. It's not a second chances program. No drugs, no alcohol. And good grades," he said. "Living here would be a privilege."

The Radcliff Intergenerational Engagement Program could be a possible "national and international model" according to the Stand Center on Longevity.

Researchers from the University will partner with the Radcliff and study what happens there. They hypothesize that housing the old and young together can positively affect both age groups – emotionally, physically, and cognitively. 

"I envision just interacting. Just helping. Maybe helping with homework. I was a teacher in a former life," said Robin Butchart. The 77-year-old Radcliff resident is intrigued by the opportunity to give back.

"Having a sense of purpose changes your health. Having a sense of purpose is the thing that gets you up in the morning," said Scimeca, who anticipates the younger residents will experience that "sense of purpose" too with the ability to help out with hospitality and in the kitchen.

We asked about his financial gain. Scimeca says the youth rooms will rent for about 75% of the rate he'd get for a senior.

CBS 2 spoke with an opponent over the phone who wanted to remain anonymous. Among her hesitations with the foster children: a concern about the kids turning into caregivers, given the labor shortage. Will the teens all of a sudden be giving grandma or grandpa a bath or their medications?

"Oh my gosh, no. That's a very special job for a very special person. That's not at all what the program is about, but I see how people can be confused," Scimeca said.

Krauss admits she was confused at first.

"Now, I wanna be involved in it," she said. When CBS2 ran into her while filming our story at the Radcliff, she was visiting to deliver flowers to the staff. It is her offer of condolences because she says the Wood Dale City Council appears poised to vote down the Radcliff's radical idea.

Scimeca is hosting a public information session ahead of Thursday's City Council meeting. It'll happen on Tuesday night at 7 at the senior home at 276 East Irving Park Road in Wood Dale.

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