The Saginaw News JILL ARMENTROUT
For more than 136 years, Child & Family Services of Saginaw County has offered help to women, children and families. With new leadership this year, agency officials hope to continue and strengthen its role in the community so it can help people for 136 more years.
A staggered change in leadership allowed for a smooth transition as Margie M. Bach took over as chief executive officer this week. Former CEO Betty L. Nagel will retire as president of the nonprofit social work agency on May 31.
Bach, 34, former director of development and operations, will take over the presidency June 1.
"We'll split the duties for now and that will allow me to take care of some things while Margie learns," Nagel said. "When I started almost 18 years ago, I had to do the transition myself."
Nagel, 59, has led the agency since 1989, when she took over for Jack Frye, who led the agency for 27 years. She'll continue to lead fundraising and marketing efforts until June.
Bach has worked at the agency since 1999, when she began as supervisor of the sexual assault program. She became director of development and operations in 2005.
The offices at 2806 Davenport in Saginaw are receiving a face-lift with new paint and furniture, its first renovation since the Davenport location opened 12 years ago. The agency was based on Michigan before that, but its roots go back much farther.
A group of Saginaw lumber baron wives started the Home for the Friendless and Industrial School in 1870, incorporating the first incarnation of what would become Child and Family.
"They felt responsible and wanted to help with food, clothing and shelter," Nagel said
By the 1890s, the effort turned to orphans and the women renamed their charity the East Saginaw Children's Home. The Children's Home continued until the 1950s, she said. Then the focus changed from institutional care to finding foster homes for children. The agency was involved in child welfare, foster care and adoptions through the 1970s, Nagel said.
Leaders also began counseling parents and children in these years as they saw the need develop with adoptions. In 1968, the Children's Home merged with The Family Society, another nonprofit agency.
Child & Family Services of Saginaw County was created in 1964. Today, the agency provides individual and family counseling for emotional and behavioral health issues, employee assistance services under contract to area employers and comprehensive services for victims of sexual assault and abuse.
The agency has 33 staff members and an annual budget of $1.05 million. In 2005, they served 5,677 people.
The United Way of Saginaw County provides allocated funding for some services, while state and federal grants provide funding for sexual assault services, which are free to clients.
Nagel was a manager at Westlund Guidance Clinic in Saginaw and worked in substance abuse treatment before coming to Child & Family Services.
"We were providing counseling here, but weren't receiving reimbursement from most insurance companies and not serving the whole community," she said.
Under her leadership, the counseling staff grew and now includes two consulting psychiatrists. Staff members work with about 600 people in individual counseling.
A new community outreach coordinator works with patients who don't have health insurance. They pay a $15 copay per counseling session. United Way funds cover the difference.
"We want to promote that position this year and our support groups for depression and children of divorce, which are free or at reduced rates," Bach said. "We have to be creative in how we offer services."
The average length of care for outpatient counseling at Child & Family is 14 sessions, Nagel said.
The agency no longer contracts with Saginaw County Community Mental Health for clients, as funding there has limited outpatient counseling. That has reduced the patient load, but may have increased the flexibility of what the staff can offer, she said.
"We have stopped and started a lot of programs, but we try to respond to the needs of the community."
Bach was one of seven candidates to lead Child and Family Services. She is developing a plan for the future.
"We need to find out what we do well and focus on that. We do amazing work with trauma here. Then we need to promote our mission to the community. People still don't always know what we do."
People who need help getting through trauma and transition in life -- loss of a relationship, a job or health -- need to know how to seek counseling, she said.
"Therapists don't have the answers; you have them. You make the decisions, but we can help you get unstuck."
In today's uncertain economy, this nonprofit agency will continue to examine its role and evaluate its services, Bach said.
"We want to make sure we're here another 136 years and helping build better lives."
Jill Armentrout is a health writer and Neighbors coordinator at The Saginaw News. You may reach her at 776-9681.