News from Members

Elizabeth Carey joins Starr Commonwealth’s executive team

ElizabethCarey.jpgALBION, MI – Starr Commonwealth, an internationally recognized nonprofit service provider of strength-based programs for at-risk youth and families, announces the addition of Elizabeth A. Carey as Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy & Administrative Services Officer.

In her new role, Carey will provide leadership for Starr’s strategic direction of investing in its people, as well as help shape the future of Starr’s talent management initiatives and business strategies. Carey has a comprehensive professional background that includes social work, government relations, statewide and national association leadership and operations.

She most recently served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Alliance for Children and Families. She directed day-to-day operations, planned and executed strategic plans, coordinated member recruitment and retention efforts, and helped determine the public policy agenda.

Carey is no stranger to the nonprofit social service sector of Michigan. Before serving in a leadership role at the Alliance for Children and Families, Carey was Executive Director of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, a statewide organization located in Lansing for nonprofit social service providers. While at the Michigan Federation, Carey directed the public policy efforts at state and national levels, organized and implemented grassroots advocacy efforts, and represented the federation membership with the legislature and state/federal departments.

“Elizabeth’s experience and knowledge, both on a national and regional level, in nonprofit leadership and social services is an enormous asset to the Starr Commonwealth team,” said Martin L. Mitchell, President and CEO. “We are truly honored to have Elizabeth joining our management team and are excited about what the future holds with her passion for children and commitment to excellence.”

Prior to overseeing the Michigan Federation, Carey was director of governmental relations for the Council on Accreditation in New York City, and began her career as a social worker in Michigan. Carey earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work at Michigan State University.

Elizabeth’s tentative start date will be March 8. She and her family will reside in Jackson, Michigan.

Starr Commonwealth is internationally recognized as a leader in transformational programs for children, families, schools and communities. Founded in 1913, Starr’s treatment philosophy is rooted in seeing something good in every child, which serves as the guiding principle in its strength-based approach. Starr offers a full spectrum of community-based early intervention and prevention services along with specialized residential programs. Through the Starr Institute of Training, parents, clinicians, educators and childcare professionals now have access to Starr’s highly successful and innovative techniques aimed at bringing out the best in every child.

For more information about Starr Commonwealth, please call 800-837-5591 or visit

Wedgwood Institute issues January–March 2010 workshops schedule

Individuals can earn Social Work CECHs at all of Wedgwood Institute’s lifelong learning opportunities and “Tuesday Training Breaks.” Offerings for January–March include:
• January 12: The Psychology of Eating
• January 21: What’s Your Story?
• February 11: Music Therapy: Reaching Adolescents with Emotional Impairments
• March 9: Understanding and Interacting Effectively with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
• March 17: Basic Challenges of Adoptive Development

Full details and registration information can be found in the attached brochures (see link below).

Holy Cross Children’s Services and TCI partnership featured in Cornell University’s REFOCUS newsletter

Just issued, this Cornell University newsletter chronicles Holy Cross’s dramatic reduction in the use of restraints within its residential treatment programs—over 70% reduction within 12 months.

Holy Cross Children's Services Receives Full Accreditation

Holy Cross Children's Services (HCCS) was notified today (12-23-09) that the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) has issued a full three-year accreditation to the agency for all programs and sites. This new accreditation covers the agency from December 2009 to December 2012.

According to CARF, service providers accredited by CARF enjoy recognition among an international community of persons served, peer facilities, and programs for superior standards of care and excellence in outcomes. For consumers of services, it is assurance that the provider meets rigorous CARF guidelines for service and quality—a qualified endorsement that the provider conforms to nationally and internationally recognized service standards and is focused on delivering the most favorable results for consumers.

“This is simply great news and a wonderful early Christmas gift” according to Loren Brown, Executive Director of HCCS. “This accreditation affirms the commitment of our coworkers to providing the best possible services to children, youth and families. We are humbled to have the opportunity to serve those most in need and appreciate being recognized for our efforts to do so through quality services. I congratulate our coworkers and applaud their efforts!”

Holy Cross Children's Services has been providing services to Michigan’s children, youth and families for over 60 years and is headquartered in Clinton, Michigan.

Highfields’ Peck honored by MHBFSA

Highfields’ Peck honored by MHBFSA October 18, 2009 • From Ingham County Community News
ONONDAGA – Gillian (Jill) Peck, director of quality and program development at human services agency Highfields Inc., has earned the 2009 President’s Award from the Michigan Home-Based Family Services Association (MHBFSA). The award recognizes individuals, agencies or families for imnovative contributions to home-based counseling services.

Peck is the fourth Highfields employee to win the award. Other winners from Highfields were Clinical Director Tim Monroe, former CEO Carl Latona and administrative assistant Kris Koivu.

“Jill is a shining example of what makes Highfields so effective at working with at-risk youth and families – its people,” says Brian Philson, Highfields president and CEO.

The MHBFSA aims to strengthen families and communities through the advocacy, education and promotion of family-centered, home-based service delivery.

- From Highfields, Inc.

Giveaway at St. Vincent helps 400 local families

Brittany Smith - - July 29, 2009 • From Lansing State Journal

stvcclogoSt. Vincent Catholic Charities and the Detroit Pistons made life a little less stressful and a bit more brighter for about 400 families Tuesday morning.
Volunteers distributed 1,200 boxes of nonperishable food and personal hygiene items to families in financial need at St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing.

Some of those items included macaroni and cheese, toilet paper, canned foods, shampoo and perfume.

"These are the days we live for," said Julie Reynolds, community relations and marketing director for St. Vincent. "Being able to share and help those in need is what it's all about."

The project was made possible by the Detroit Pistons organization, which raised $450,000 for Feed the Children, an international, nonprofit relief organization, during the Pistons Care Telethon in March.

The funds are being distributed to 25,000 needy families throughout Michigan this year, including Tuesday's stop in Lansing.

Jessi Nakfoor, 15, of Lansing , said Tuesday was her first venture into volunteer work, and she plans to do more.

"The people seem pretty happy and that makes me happy," said Nakfoor, while taking a break from unloading boxes.

St. Vincent provides foster care, refugee resettlement and counseling beyond just the basic food relief projects.

Half of those who received food and personal items Tuesday were refugees who escaped war-torn areas such as Somalia, Iraq and Congo.

"It's great to have the support of the Pistons and Feed the Children in helping feed families," said Andrea Seyka, CEO at St. Vincent, adding that in recent years, the organization has seen a substantial increase in homeless people, foster care children and people who just need a helping hand.

"It's a historical pattern, with (high) unemployment comes more child abuse and neglect and people who need assistance," Reynolds said.

Women FORE! Women

vistamarialogoJoin Vista Maria Advisors, Lisa Sasaki, Bev Stovall, Kathy Aznavorian and Matt Hubbard, their colleagues and friends for a fun-filled day of golf and camaraderie to benefit the girls of Vista Maria at:

Women FORE! Women
4th Annual Charity Golf Invitational
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Fox Hills Country Club, Plymouth MI

Breakfast/Driving Range Opens at 10:00 a.m.
Shot Gun Start at 11:00 a.m. (lunch at the turn)
Golf Clinic at 1:00 p.m.
Cocktails/Networking Reception & Dinner at 4:30 p.m.

Select From Four Available Packages
Option 1: Golf Scramble is $175 per person. Includes 18 holes, breakfast, lunch, cocktail/networking reception and dinner. Complimentary beverages available on the course.

Option 2: Golf Clinic is $175 per person. Includes 1-hour clinic with PGA Pro and 9 holes, lunch, cocktails/networking reception and dinner.

Option 3: Non-Golfer is $75 per person. Includes an evening of making connections and fine dining. Open bar and dinner (starts at 4:30 p.m.).

Option 4: Hole Sponsor is $225.

Reserve Now! Visit
or Email Kelly Small at

New Judson Center autism facility due largely to Ferndale mother's efforts


jclogoWhen her son was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, the doctor gave Stephanie Harlan little help beyond a toll-free number to call.

Outraged, she started finding her own solutions.

"I remember the day so specifically that I told myself I didn't want other parents to learn about such a heavy-duty diagnosis the same way," said Harlan, a licensed clinical social worker.

Harlan enrolled her then 2-year-old son, Justin, in as many early-intervention programs as she could find to build his communication and life skills. She found support with other moms who met in a Ferndale home, and later a church, where they brainstormed the creation of an organization that would support parents with autistic children.

They called it Everyday Miracles, and hoped it would grow. It has, largely because of Harlan.

The Judson Center, an 85-year-old Royal Oak social services organization, has opened a new autism center affiliated with Everyday Miracles at its Royal Oak headquarters. Harlan supervises the programs.

"People always said we should have a center like this; it's a dream" said Vanessa Rivera, a Royal Oak mom who credits Harlan as a big motivator behind the center. As the mother of an energetic 10-year-old son, Nico, she and Harlan have shared frustrations and hopes for their boys.

The $1.2-million, 5,000-square-foot center offers a wide range of programs, from baseball to teen life skills classes and sibling programs, both at the Royal Oak building and regional sites.

The center sparks with excitement and hope.

Detroit architect Matt Hathorne sat in on some of the programs before designing the center to suit the quirky needs of children with autism, a broad cluster of conditions that affect children's ability to communicate and function in a world they may find noisy, distracting or overwhelming.

Hathorne created soft colorful pods -- instead of classrooms or clinical areas -- with crawl-in spaces and cushions for children needing time on their own. He added fabric walls and large dry-erase boards and chalkboards so kids could have areas for touching, scribbling and drawing. He made the center less visually and acoustically annoying by diffusing the lighting and noise. He and staff added cushy beanbag chairs and pillows, mini trampolines and even an oversized fabric hot dog that children squirm into for soothing quiet time.

Justin Harlan is now in a mainstreamed classroom and took advanced placement math and reading courses at Pattengill Elementary in Berkley, where he just finished fourth grade. He testified recently in Lansing in support of legislation that would require insurers to pay for autism programs.

"The diagnosis doesn't go away, but he's very unaffected by lots of things that bothered him as a 3-year-old," his mother said.

The programs at Judson focus mostly on life skills and helping families develop the right plans for their children. "Usually we bounce back the question" about what is offered with, "What can we do for you?" Harlan said.

They have developed a gardening program for a girl with a green thumb. They started play therapy groups when parents told them, "I just want my child to have a friend." They developed a respite program for parents with problems finding baby-sitters for a rare night or weekend off.

Tina Burnham's daughter Lily, 2, is enrolled in play and music therapy groups.

"We see her eye contact is improving," Burnham said, as Lily focused her blue eyes on a visitor. "I'm so grateful we found this place."

Justin Harlan is now in a mainstreamed classroom and took advanced placement math and reading courses at Pattengill Elementary in Berkley, where he just finished fourth grade. He testified recently in Lansing in support of legislation that would require insurers to pay for autism programs.

"The diagnosis doesn't go away, but he's very unaffected by lots of things that bothered him as a 3-year-old," his mother said.

The programs at Judson focus mostly on life skills and helping families develop the right plans for their children. "Usually we bounce back the question" about what is offered with, "What can we do for you?" Harlan said.

They have developed a gardening program for a girl with a green thumb. They started play therapy groups when parents told them, "I just want my child to have a friend." They developed a respite program for parents with problems finding baby-sitters for a rare night or weekend off.

Tina Burnham's daughter Lily, 2, is enrolled in play and music therapy groups.

"We see her eye contact is improving," Burnham said, as Lily focused her blue eyes on a visitor. "I'm so grateful we found this place."

Contact PATRICIA ANSTETT: 313-222-5021 or

Sept. 11: Federation of Youth Services Annual Fundraiser Dinner

Federation of Youth Services will hold their Annual Fundraiser Dinner on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 6:00 p.m. at the Laurel Manor Banquet Center in Livonia, MI. Proceeds will go towards the Job Readiness/Employability Youth Program; One Step Ahead Tutorial Program and Educational Scholarships for college-bound at-risk youth.

RSVP by August 31st or call for information 313-571-4707.

State Cuts: Michigan axes program that keeps kids out of foster care, helps former foster youth

Click here to link to a story that Interlochen Public Radio ran regarding the termination of the FGDM contract.

Today, a successful program designed to keep kids out of Michigan's foster care system comes to an abrupt end.

It teaches members of families that have problems to lean on one other, and those around them, to solve their own problems.

Ending it is a cost-cutting move at the state Capitol. It'll save $800,000 this fiscal year, and almost $2.5 million next year. And the cut will affect families in nine Northwest Michigan counties, from Manistee to Mackinac, people at substantial risk of losing their kids.
There's also another group that'll lose out as this program comes to a close. That is, young people in their late teens or early 20's who were removed from home, who grew up in state foster care and are now starting out in adulthood without much money, and broken family ties.

It's this group Cynthia Stern is most worried about as her job comes to a close. Only through today, Stern runs the Family Group Decision Making program at Child and Family Services, a nonprofit in Traverse City.

"The youth in particular are like any 17-18-19-year-old would be, but they don't have their families in-tact," She says. "So any of us who are that age, remember back, are so utterly lost, have no idea, are utterly dependent on our families even as we're stepping out and finding out apartments and our jobs and going to college - all of which we've helped the youth do."

Twenty-year-old Tom McCoy has had Cynthia Stern and her staff on speed dial as moved into his first apartment, made college plans, learned to budget, and more importantly, to lean on what family he has.

Now - well ahead of schedule - he's saying goodbye to the social workers who have been there for support.

Outcomes for young men in Tom's shoes are pretty bleak. Boys who age out of state foster care are actually likely to serve time behind bars. But this program has shown Tom the family supports he already has that he hadn't taking advantage of. In Tom's case, his foster parents have been more than willing to help. And had he taken advantage, he might never have signed a car loan at 24.99 percent interest.

His gold 2003 Ford Taurus would seem a practical car for a 20-year-old, but Tom lists problem after problem with the car he bought last year for more than $10,000. It seems he paid a steep price in sticker alone. But adding the interest, his monthly payment for this 6-year-old Taurus ends up well over $350, not to mention the cost of repairs. In the first year he owned it the car was so-often in the shop, Tom only put about 2,000 miles on it.

"The trannie's been fixed (transmission), which it has to go back again because it's shifting weird again, sway bars, tie rods - more money than I have. The intake gasket..." Tom goes on.

Now he says he'll never again make a big financial decision like that without consulting his family. And that's the real crux of Family Group Decision Making. He's hopefully learned how to lean on those around him for a little extra support before decisions turn into big financial nightmares that could send him into a tailspin.

Social workers at Child and Family Services brought Tom and his family together to talk about his strengths and weaknesses, the areas that could cause him problems as he begins adulthood. Then social workers leave the room, as the family agrees to a plan to address those weaknesses.

"Of course, you know, mom and dads - or even foster parents can only get so far with the kids," says Laurie Aeschliman. She's Tom's foster mother and his aunt. "And then sometimes it takes that other stranger to step in and say, look: we've really got to work on that. And Tom is coming a long ways with that."

Now the program is over, long before Tom's year in it was to be up. The state gave just more than 30 days notice and pulled the plug.

Laurie got the news from Tom as she was driving down the road. She was so angry, she had to pull over. She's disappointed for Tom, but also worried for his younger sister.

"Oh, definitely I'm worried because that program helped Tommy get all his funding for college and set him up in an apartment and now there's nothing there for Amy, there's nobody for Amy to go to. So I'm really scared for Amy and I'm not quite sure where to turn now," Laurie Aeshliman says.

The Family Group Decision Making program is designed to prevent little problems - such as bad financial transactions - from turning into big problems, serious money problems and perhaps eviction, or repossession.

In Traverse City, Child and Family Services has been using the program to help former foster youths transition to adulthood for about three years. And for 10 years they've been using it to prevent families from loosing their kids to the foster care system in the first place.

The statistics are impressive. According to the state Department of Human Services, 94 percent of families in the program don't have an abuse or neglect charge during the service period. And, at the conclusion of the year, 93 percent of kids are living with parents, or other family members. And these are families with patterns of problems that had put them at significant risk of loosing their children to state foster care.

After getting a letter last month informing him the program would be ended, Child and Family Services Executive Director Jim Scherrer started lobbying lawmakers and DHS officials not to make these cuts.

"Michigan was on the front line - on the cutting edge - of implementing Family Group Decision Making for families in the child abuse and neglect system a little over 10 years ago," Scherrer says. "But it seems that right while the rest of the country is catching on to what is a really good idea and a great way to protect children within their own families and within their own cultures, is a time when our state is vacating it. So it isn't just reducing a program, it's actually taking a valuable service completely off menu of options that families have to keep their kids at home."

Even though it's successful, the program has never been statewide. It serves fewer than 370 families a year.

Across town at the State Office Building in Traverse City, Dawn McLaughlin runs the DHS offices in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.

She says, "It's a creative approach and, in the long-run it helps keep children with their families, and that's important and it'll save the sate money in the long run. But now we're kind of forced by the economy to look at a shorter-term focus. And it's sad to loose a program that's that good."

McLaughlin says a lot of prevention programs are going by the wayside because at this point the state can only triage the worst cases of child abuse and neglect.

After today just one family will get support from the Family Group Decision Making model. This spring, Cynthia Stern had started to help another young man aging out of foster care in the area who has some disabilities. He doesn't have much family to address any number of issues that will make it especially challenging for him to manage all by himself. Stern found a teacher willing to take him in, indefinitely. Things are looking up, but that teacher signed on expecting a year of significant help from Cynthia Stern.

Stern says, "I do have permission to continue on a voluntary basis with that family because I basically can't sleep at night. Um, it's pretty awful to just drop ... and I will continue working with them on a voluntary basis."

Stern holds her voice steady as she wipes away tears.


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