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Director's Message

As we move steadily toward 2024, I’ve been reflecting on all the ways we’ve grown in the past year. And in my reflection, I came across the photo and caption below.

We at CFS talk of building resilient children and adults, of building compassionate, effective programming, of building strong staff who have the support and resources they need to do hard jobs every day. And in turn, all that good work builds a stronger community.

People mostly love and do their best by their children. But when life choices or circumstances get in the way of keeping kids safe, CFS is here to walk alongside parents and caregivers to build and rebuild safety and security. As you will read below, we did a great deal of building and rebuilding this past year, with your support.

Thank you for helping us do this good work, now and into the future.


Gina Aranki, Executive Director

From Foster Care to Forever Family

Amanda Craggs’ parenting experience began in February 2020 when she got a call from Child and Family Services asking if she would be willing to take two sisters as her first foster care placement. The pandemic had just hit, but Amanda, like all of us, could never have foreseen the challenges about to unfold around her. “I was placed with two little girls and two weeks later, everything shut down,” Amanda said. 

The children, just two weeks and 5 years old, arrived with trauma and little else. Both girls had experienced severe neglect and the older of the two had also been a victim of abuse. Amanda, a business owner and single parent, grew into her mothering role at an unpredictable societal time during the pandemic, but she navigated the dramatic changes. “I never thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom,” she said. But she found the way, and successfully helped the girls grow and thrive. “I went about it by trying to look through the eyes of a child who has been through so much,” she said. 

Looking back on her experience, Amanda said she witnessed firsthand how a peaceful and loving environment can change a child. It also opened her eyes to how many area children suffer from its absence. “The need is in our own neighborhood,” she said. Amanda, like many foster parents, took steps to adopt the children placed in her care when it became clear that the girls’ biological parents would not be able to care for them.

The sisters, now 2.5 and 8 years old, were officially adopted on Adoption Day-- November 22, 2022. The courtroom was packed, not only with friends and family members, but with over 15 agency staff members who also came to celebrate the event and witness the happy ending that isn’t always guaranteed, but always hoped for, in this line of work.

Take a moment to watch this inspiring video about this amazing family.

Staff Highlight--Rhonda Pomeroy

Rhonda has worked at CFS for over 6 years, in Foster Care and Adoption. One of the reasons she has stayed at CFS for so long is the impact that she feels from doing this work and the mission of CFS to make a difference within our community, and “seeing the number of children needing support, a loving family, and a place to call home continues to inspire me to do this work.” For Rhonda, the hardest part of the job is recruiting for teens without an identified family or seeing disrupted adoptions. “It’s also feeling the grief and loss of others, along with the secondary trauma; it weighs on you,” Rhonda stated.

Her favorite part of working in adoption she said, “The hope it gives you, and being part of a family’s beginning of a new chapter in their life.” Seeing the adoption finalizations of children to foster families who have supported them for years while the natural parents received services, the single parents giving a home to a challenging child who needs specialized attention, and the siblings who have been able to stay together and maintain relationships they otherwise might not have been able to keep are all things that Rhonda enjoys about her job. “It’s heartwarming,” she said. “This Adoption Day, I have 2 children being finalized on the day before Thanksgiving; what an amazing gift of thanks, hope, and love.”

What advice does Rhonda have for potential adoptive parents? “To anyone contemplating becoming an adoptive parent, there are currently over 250 children in Michigan waiting for their forever home. They are waiting for someone to take a chance on them and to let them be a part of their family. They want someone to be in their life long enough to build a real connection with them. Could you be the one?

If you are considering fostering or fostering to adopt please visit

CFS is Growing!

If you dare to ask, “What’s new?” around CFS these days, be prepared for a longgggg answer! Our continuous quest to craft services that best fit the needs of our community and fit within our mission means that 2024 will bring a host of new programs to CFS.

Some of these new programs and many youth need your help to be successful. Research shows that just one stable, caring adult in a young person’s life significantly improves overall outcomes. Maybe you can be the one!

We are seeking caring homes to provide short-term foster care or hosting of youth. While all Host Home opportunities require background checks and vetting, the licensing process varies by program and is often significantly shorter than the typical foster care licensing process. A Host Home may be a house, apartment, or mobile home. The caring adults who open their homes to youth in need may be single or coupled, married or not, with or without other children. All receive a small stipend to help defray expenses when a child or youth is in the home.

Another new program called Next Level will be opening at Pete's Place next year. Next Level Independent Living Plus will provide 1-2 years of independent living support and training for foster youth ages 16 to 19 and beyond as they live and learn in that space. It will also provide independent living coaching and other support to foster youth housed in community Host Homes. Non-foster youth will receive the same services they always got at Pete’s, but will now be living in Host Homes in the area—making it more possible for these young people to stay in their own schools and communities.

Our new Family Time Coaching program will work closely with parents whose children are in foster care, coaching them before and after every supervised visit, and providing parenting classes as well. We aim to have parent/child reunifications that are more successful as a result.

And, finally, our YouthWork program is moving to its new home just west of Traverse City. The new campus is the ideal site for the learning space, office space, residential space, and equipment storage and workshops that YouthWork needs as it heads into 2024.

Here is a quick rundown of our new CFS adventures!

Respite Homes: Provide short-term care for youth in foster care, who have been adopted, who are involved in the juvenile justice system, or children receiving CMH services, whose primary caregivers need a break for any variety of reasons. We need Respite Home families!

Host Homes: Some will house foster youth as they receive Independent Living Program coaching from CFS staff. Other Host Homes will house non-foster youth who are runaway, homeless, or at risk for homelessness; many have a goal of family reunification, and all will receive some level of coaching and support from CFS. We need Host Home families!

Family Time Coaching: Will provide coaching and parenting class for parents whose children are in foster care.

Foster & Adoptive Family Celebration

Thank you to the Yak or 2 Ranch in Mancelona for hosting our foster and adoptive families once again for a memorable, heart-warming, fun Saturday last month! Both kids and adults enjoyed the experience of feeding and touching the friendly yaks and seeing the young ones (baby calves) at the beautiful ranch.

Reining Liberty and Wraparound

At Reining Liberty Ranch (RLR), children in the CFS Wraparound program find peace working with the animals and learning how to work with other humans as well. This year, there were three terms of “RLRWrap”, each with several sessions. Each session includes activities like games, learning about animals, how to use a talking stick, learning about bees, and aromatherapy. Children did crafts, interacted with the ranch’s goats, worked together, followed instructions, and learned many basic horsemanship skills. They built a relationship with a horse, developed trust, and learned to read its body language.

The fall session ended recently with a demonstration of children’s horsemanship skills for friends and family. These children often have trouble regulating their strong emotions. Seeing the level of focus and skill each child had as they guided their horse through a series of maneuvers was incredible. And to experience with them their pride and joy when they completed the pattern they just rode was absolutely amazing.

Thank you to Traverse City Country Club's Eagles for Children for their continued support of this program. With the help of a recent grant award we are pleased to be able to offer this experience to more children in need next year.

Boots for Kids

Thank you to Don Schmuckal and Boots for Kids for this generous donation of boots and gloves for our kids in need. Boots for Kids has been serving our community for 22 years, and provides CFS with an average of 55 pairs of boots each year. We truly cannot do it without partners like you!

Upcoming Events

Foster parents needed! Join us virtually to learn more. Our licensing staff will explain the process of becoming a foster parent and answer any questions you may have. The process is easier than you think. Consider helping today!

Virtual Intro To Fostering Wednesday, December 6th, at 5:45pm, or December 20th, at 5:30 Click to learn more and register.

18th Annual Paper Angels Campaign

We are busy gearing up for our 18th Annual Paper Angels Campaign. Last year we fulfilled over 500 wish lists with the help of donors like you and we hope to fulfill even more this year. Lists are now available to donors.

If you are interested in learning more or adopting a list please visit

Donate Today

Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan

3785 Veterans Drive, Traverse City | (231) 946-8975

3434 M-119, Ste F, Harbor Springs | (231) 347-4463   | 

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