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Director's message
Dear Friends:

Are you a Cherry Festival fan or foe? People seem to feel very strongly one way or another. Crowds and traffic are not my thing, but I try to embrace parts of it—Ultimate Air Dogs, the Beer Tent, some of the concerts, a ride or two—and Gibby’s fries, of course.

This year, in keeping with one of our initiatives for CFS’s 85th anniversary, we took a couple of crews down to the Food Court and cleaned tables and picked up trash. It was serendipitous that the new CherryFest Director of Outreach is David VanHorn, a lovely young man who was in foster care at CFS when he was a teen. We’ve watched him grow up, really—he’s one of our own. He has volunteered for CFS regularly over the years, and it seemed right that we would help him fulfill his new role. 

Then CFS mustered 50+ employees and friends to the Cherry Royale Parade. It was HOT, but everyone was smiling, dancing behind the marching band that entertained us along the way, and passing out candy (kids had better bags than on Halloween!). Most of the people with us were children, which of course is the best reminder of why we do the work we do. Kids, grandkids, nieces, neighbors—all represented behind the CFS banner. The crowd, waving and clapping as we passed, seemed to be happy to see us too, thanking us for our work.

One thing that’s clear about Cherry Fest, whether you stay as far away as possible or spend part of every day in attendance, is that it couldn’t be done without a huge volunteer force. Traverse City and northern Michigan are well-represented in that regard. We are so fortunate to live amidst such generosity of spirit. That spirit extends to countless organizations and community events, including CFS. 

As we begin to get back to our events and to our offices and lives pre-pandemic, volunteers are back to work, contributing thousands of hours and valuable time and expertise across their communities. Whether you are at the Cherry Festival, or some other event or organization that depends on volunteers, give those good people a pat on the back and big “thank you” for what they give to support CFS and so many like us.

Enjoy these beautiful summer days,

Gina Aranki, Executive Director
CFS: 85 Years of Helping Children and Families
Rob Stow and Jeremy Evans
Rob Stow and Jeremy Evans became licensed foster parents with Child and Family Services 12 years ago. “We knew we wanted to have children,” Jeremy says, “but we weren’t sure what route we wanted to take to make that happen yet." The year was 2010, and at the time, gay marriage wasn’t legal in Michigan, which meant very few options for gay couples looking to adopt jointly. “We were thinking about several different possibilities,” Rob shared, “from private adoption, to surrogacy, to foster care. But really, it all just seemed like a legal nightmare.” 

Rob and Jeremy were considering adoption through foster care, but had their reservations. Jeremy’s parents had been licensed foster parents when he was in college, and while he saw many positives, he knew that fostering was no walk in the park. “They took in nine infants,” Jeremy recalls, “and about five or six older children. It was tough. All of the kids had experienced trauma and I saw a lot of ugly things about the foster care system.”   

As they considered their options, Rob and Jeremy spoke with another CFS family who had adopted, Dave McCleary and Len Mayhew. Talking to them made Rob and Jeremy think that maybe they were up to the task after all. They also read Dan Savage’s The Kid, “which is the book that all gay parents read,” joked Jeremy. So the couple thought about it, and then they thought some more. They considered other gay parents they knew who’d had to take out a second mortgage on their home just to be able to afford a private adoption. “We could have gone that route,” said Rob, “…spent our life savings adopting a child who was also going to have issues-- because what kid doesn’t-- or we could become foster parents. We could help the community, and hopefully, one day, be able to fulfill our own dream of adoption as well.” After considering all the pros and cons, Rob and Jeremy made the life-changing decision to open their homes, and their hearts, to children in need of foster care. 

At that time, CFS was the only private agency that would license gay couples for foster care. But that didn’t stop Rob or Jeremy from being up-front and to the point when it came to expressing their needs. “Because my family was a foster family, I already knew the score,” said Jeremy, “which kind of made me come in with guns blazing.“ 
“We were very strong advocates for our kids, and, frankly, unwilling to compromise on certain things,” added Rob. “That said, CFS seemed like the most progressive, the most diverse agency. They were open to all kinds of families; whether it was us, a single parent, a non-religious family or a non-traditional family…they were understanding at a time when not everyone in this area felt the same way.”  
Fast-forward 12 years, and Rob and Jeremy have had eight foster care placements, and have since adopted three children who are now permanent members of the Evans-Stow family. The fostering journey has not been without heartbreak, however. Rob and Jeremy’s first foster care placement, a sibling group of 3, lived with them for two and half years before they were returned home by the judge presiding over the case, against the advice of all involved. Thinking back on that devastating loss, even today, Rob and Jeremy are flooded with emotion that comes from the grief they experienced after losing the children they considered their own. “We felt underprepared for the grief,” says Jeremy, “it felt like a death, but no one really knew how to support us, what to say.”  

Two months later, Rob and Jeremy got a call from CFS asking if they would be willing to take placement of a 4-month old baby girl. That was how their first daughter, Sadie, came to be adopted in 2017. “The courthouse in Leelanau County was packed,” recalls Jeremy, “I mean the jury box, the viewing area, even outside the building. Larry Nelson was the judge, and he was also a family acquaintance. He had bought personalized gifts for Sadie because he knew her—Disney princesses, that kind of thing. The caseworkers cried, the attorneys cried… even the bailiff cried! Everyone was emotional and it was just so great to have them all there for this new beginning. To experience that kind of joy when the right thing happened with Sadie was really amazing.” Then, in 2019, the community came together at the courthouse once again when Rob and Jeremy’s second daughter, Millie, and their son, Gus were adopted from foster care. “Our community of family, friends, and the school has been with us for this whole journey,” said Jeremy.  

“And they’re still on it," added Rob. “They’re still advocating for our kids, be it through educational support, understanding behavioral needs, whatever the case may be. Of course we’re not the only gay family in our area, but we’re part of a minority, and Jeremy and I are somewhat well-known due to our involvement in a variety of spaces. A lot people know us, know our kids, and they’ve just been so amazing. The school in particular has been really receptive to the inclusion of gay families, adoption, and literature that supports our kids’ journey. It’s really incredible to have a community like this behind us.”  
Rob Stow and Jeremy Evans live in Leland with their three children, Sadie, Gus, and Millie.
Staff Highlights!
In celebration of our 85th year, we are highlighting a few of our "veteran helpers.” Many of these staff members have dedicated their careers to helping others in times of crisis, challenge, and life transition.
Holli Jarskey
Continued Commitment to Child & Family Services
Holli Jarskey started with Child and Family Services in 2000 as an intern when she was completing her undergraduate degree in the Juvenile Justice program.

Following the completion of her internship, she was offered a paid position in 2001 and gladly accepted. She began her career in the Juvenile Justice and the school success programs. Unfortunately both programs lost funding, which prompted her transition to the VOCA program in 2004. During her time in the VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) Helping Children Heal program, she provided ongoing outpatient and in-home counseling to children who were survivors of sexual violence and/or other crimes. Holli continued to provide tools for healing for these children and their families until the program closed in 2017. Holli took a short leave before entering her current position in our Wraparound program. In her current role she assists parents and families in meeting the needs of their children with severe emotional disturbances. Holli works tirelessly to connect them with therapists, advocate for school services and assist them in locating other area resources to meet their needs. Since joining the Wraparound team, she has helped numerous children and families successfully meet their goals and graduate from the program. She shared that she is still in touch with many of the clients whom she has worked with over the years. ”Seeing them lead successful lives and have children of their own is the most rewarding aspect of my career!”  
When asked her initial inspiration for pursuing her social work degree, Holli stated, “I wanted to do something to help people” and through her internship with CFS she realized that the people she wanted to help the most were the children in need in our community. She describes working within grant restrictions and losing funding as the most challenging part of her time with CFS. Adding that explaining the closing of programs to clients is extremely difficult, since most clients are still in need of our services.

Holli recently celebrated her 21st anniversary, adding that “CFS has become like a second home” and that the staff and supervisors are indescribably supportive of her, not only as a worker, but as an individual. This support has helped her to continue her mission of helping others even through the closing of multiple programs that were close to her heart. Holli has spent the better part of her adult life providing space and support to our areas 's most vulnerable populations and plans to continue this journey for the foreseeable future. Her resilience and commitment to CFS and the work she does is inspiring to say the least!
Green Team News!
CFS’ Green Team, called 85 and Green!, has been busy! So far this summer, we have sponsored a fun bike ride called the Slow Roll with Norte; had a letter to the editor published in the Record-Eagle; volunteered to clean up at Cherry Festival; and given plants and reusable recycled plastic water bottles out to staff members. CFS has also implemented a $25,000 grant from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to develop organizational energy conservation goals and track our energy use over time on Energy Star Portfolio Manager with direction and support from Consultant Kevin Summers. Also, with the help of Keen Technical Solutions, we were able to use some of the funding to make improvements to our heating system and install lighting that is far more energy-efficient. This group of like-minded staff and board has been busy greening up our favorite non-profit. If you have more ideas for green activities we can do, let us know!
Cherry Festival Parade
We had a great time marching in the Cherry Fest Consumers Energy Community Royale Parade! It was a wonderful way to celebrate 85 years of serving children and families in times of crisis, challenge, and life transition. Thanks to all who came out to walk, and watch. We love being a part of this great northern Michigan community!
Upcoming Events!
The little bag that can can change a life! Child and Family Services helps hundreds of children heal from trauma each year through foster care and other valuable programs. Many arrive on our doorstep with their few belongings shoved into a brown paper or plastic bag. The Brown Bag Campaign reminds us of the plight of children entering foster care — and of the constant need for foster and adoptive parents to help care for them.
Join us at the Cheboygan Farmers Market August 3rd from 8-1pm for an informational drop in event. Take a few moments to speak with a licensing worker from Child and Family Services about becoming a foster parent. Bring your questions (and a friend!). 
Join us August 3rd at 12:00pm for a virtual orientation to learn more about foster and adoptive parenting! Our licensing staff are available to answer any questions you may have. Click to learn more and sign up!
The QPR Mission is to reduce suicidal behaviors and save lives by providing innovative, practical and proven suicide prevention training. The signs of crisis are all around us. We believe that quality education empowers all people, regardless of background, to make a positive difference in the life of someone they know. Join us for our next QPR training on August 16th from 9-11am.
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Click below to learn more, or email us at
Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan
3785 Veterans Drive, Traverse City | (231) 946-8975
3434 M-119, Ste F, Harbor Springs | (231) 347-4463
Third Level/Pete's Place | (231) 922-4800