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Director's message

Dear Friends,

Each time there is a mass shooting in America, the people of CFS, who spend their professional lives working hard to assure the safety of children, are devastated and in despair. I am grateful their big hearts have not yet become numb to the violence and the senselessness of it all, because it means that they haven’t stopped feeling, haven’t stopped fighting, each in their own way. 

79 mass shootings have occurred in America in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There has been a dozen of them since the one at Michigan State University on February 13. These include the ones we don’t always hear about in the news—street crime, accidental shootings, drug and gang involvement, home invasions—but which we should be sad and angry about as well. That number is all those incidents in which there have been injuries or fatalities of four or more people. They are happening everywhere—in red states and blue states, in cities and rural areas, by mostly men of all ages. No one, no community, is immune.


How many more? It is hard to imagine that anything will move us as a nation to action if little has changed since the mass school shootings of very young children at Sandy Hook and Uvalde. If we can witness the loss of so much life and potential and still simply wait until the next time.

We have talked a great deal about love and kindness in these newsletters of late. Even though part of the way we deal with episodes of mass shooting is to not name or speak of the perpetrators after the initial reports, I have been thinking about them. They are someone’s children, too, though it is hard to feel much sympathy for them given their horrific deeds. Many are mentally ill. Many are disaffected—angry about how they have been treated by their jobs, by women, or motivated by hatred of a racial or ethnic group. Many have childhood trauma, and their self-loathing turns outward. Some witness another mass shooting, see the attention it garners, and are emboldened to follow suit. All have access to guns, legally or not. And most of these events are suicides as well as homicides; shooters don’t often survive. What we know about suicide prevention could and should be applied here.

The solution isn’t simply about gun control, though we need enforcement of existing laws and some new ones to assure that certain people don’t get hold of guns. The simple fact is the more guns there are, the more chances there are for them to be used for violence. We need real solutions. We need more access to mental health services, especially in schools, which I have spent a lot of time advocating for in recent months. We can check in with those who are struggling, our own children and family members, friends and colleagues. We can smile at and offer help to those around us, even strangers. How many times might someone have stopped a mass shooting with a gentle word or gesture, or a reminder that we are not alone? 

I’m vowing to do what I can to keep violence such as that which happened at MSU from happening again. 

It may just start with being kind. 


Gina Aranki, Executive Director

PS... Click to check out this powerful TED Talk entitled " I Was Almost A School Shooter"

After growing up in painful, abusive conditions, Aaron Stark was on his way to an atrocity, until simple acts of kindness changed his life forever....

Kindness in Action

Each year in February we celebrate random acts of kindness, but at CFS we try to recognize the kindness in our staff year-round. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. These terms accurately describe all of our staff, but one program in particular stands out for staff who go above and beyond the call of duty: our Family Support Workers (FSWs). They are known for giving of themselves regularly, sometimes even financially. 

FSWs are “On the front lines,” stated Andrea Domres, FSW Supervisor in Traverse City. They interact with foster parents, natural parents, childcare workers, school workers, counselors, and other individuals involved in the lives of our foster children regularly during transportation to and from visits or other services. All of these interactions can be tricky and sometimes overwhelming, but the FSW staff handle them all with grace in order to best meet the needs of the children involved. 

Transporting foster kids to and from visits and other services is only one part of the FSW job, though. During these transports, they sometimes have to play mediator, entertainer, childcare provider, and provide a listening ear. Sometimes children do not want to attend visits or other services and FSW staff have to become creative in ways to make the transitions less stressful and more enjoyable for the children. Andrea described one staff member’s attempt to make children more comfortable during transports: “The kids hated being transported. Betsy decided to pretend the van is a spaceship and that all of the buttons were buttons on the spaceship. The kids loved it and now they are excited during transports.” Another child who didn't like being transported strongly resisted—until the worker discovered the child’s love for music! Now, during every transport, they put on her favorite artist and sing along to the radio together. 

Since transporting children is such a large part of the FSW job (261 staff hours in January 2023 for just the Traverse City office), our staff are diligent in making sure that car seats are secure and that appropriate seats are used when transporting. Each worker receives training on car seat safety when they begin their roles as FSWs.


Workers are always prepared to assist children during transitions to make experiences as smooth and positive as possible. All staff members work to create a safe and secure bond with the children so that when traveling and visiting, they can trust the adult they are with. Staff always have tools on hand such as coloring and sticker books, books, toys and snacks to be used during transport or if they are waiting with them for an appointment where their parents won't be present. Sometimes children need help with homework or need to use up some energy before visits or appointments, staff are prepared to help in any way necessary to support the kids in our care. All of these tools and resources that the workers employ help build rapport between them and the children and increase the chances of the children having positive experiences while with our staff.

The FSW’s job doesn’t end with transporting the children, though. They work diligently to form rapport with foster parents, natural parents, and other adults in the children’s lives. Staff connect parents with both internal and external resources to help meet their needs as well. When the parents are able to meet their own needs, they are able to better meet the needs of their children. Workers strive to support natural parents by providing a listening ear either before or after visits. This allows them a chance to express any needs, concerns, or frustrations and can improve the quality of the visits.

FSWs work closely with the Foster Care caseworkers to learn and share details of the case, parent or child successes or struggles, safety concerns, updates, and more, in order to provide the best support possible. Staff also interact with natural parents and children while supervising their visits. If a parent is struggling or needs to use the restroom, staff will sit with the children and interact with them. FSWs sometimes purchase games or toys out of their own money that they think the families will enjoy for the visit rooms and will spend time teaching the families how to play them.

On every shift, FSWs put their hearts on the line for the children and families served by CFS. The job can be difficult at times, heartbreaking at others, but they continue to do what they do in order to provide as much comfort to the children and parents involved as possible. Seeing kids thrive and grow either through successful reunification or adoption is a major driving force for many of our staff. 

Thank you to our FSWs for all you do. Want to help too? Donations make a big difference! Many of the ways

FSW staff go above and beyond are not funded through our contracts. Click to donate.

Giving Kindness Over the Decades

As the focus of this month is on kindness, we wanted to highlight one of our long-standing donors who give much of themselves in kindness as well as monetary support to help our mission. There are MANY of them, but this beautiful person came to mind as one who shares kindness in so many ways. Her compassion is contagious and you can’t help but smile when in her company.

There isn’t much to worry about when discussing the world’s problems with someone who has lived through 9 decades! Agnes Hayden, pictured with friends celebrating her 96th birthday, along with Robbie Carmichael, who celebrated her 95th in December reassured the rest of us (Sally Lewis and Robbie Kafcas on the right side of the table and Alison Arnold on the left side next to Agnes), that they have seen the pendulum of life cycles (and challenges) swing back and forth. Both of these amazing ladies were born just before the Stock Market crash and Great Depression. They have witnessed extreme poverty as well as many good times. 

Agnes has been supporting our organization since before we had a database in 1980, from which point we have logged 43 gifts! She believes we’re “a good organization doing good work” and with her family foundation she supports children and basic needs for the community. Agnes has always had a love for children (she now has 6 great- grandchildren). She taught elementary school and served as a Girl Scout leader for many years. Agnes has lots of mottos (many posted throughout her home), but her favorite is, “Blessed are the flexible for they are never bent out of shape.” Life is so much happier when we learn to be flexible and go with the flow when plans change, rather than allowing things to bend us out of shape and not feeling gratitude for all that is right. 

Acts of kindness can make the world a happier place for everyone. They can boost feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness and optimism. They may also encourage others to repeat the good deeds they've experienced themselves – contributing to a more positive community. Research shows that kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging. It helps reduce stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem.


At CFS, we work hard every day to support the safety and well-being of those we serve in times of crisis, challenge, and life transition.

"I am so grateful for the support and kindness shown to my daughter and me when we were going through a tough time." Counseling parent

"Thank you for all you do. I'm glad to have you in my corner." Safe Haven dad

"It means so much, you have no idea." Counseling client

"Thank you so much for your generous donation that helped me make it through the holidays. I was able to make my bills, travel back and forth to work, and give my daughter a wonderful Christmas thanks to your help. I am so grateful for the help from you, and I pray that you can continue to help other women like me in the future." Wraparound parent

YouthWork Update

Last summer was YouthWork’s largest and most successful season yet. From Isle Royale down to Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit, our members made a widespread and impressive impact on our public lands and communities.

Calming down from all the excitement, just like every winter, the program has been busy strategizing even more innovative ways to do it all over again! This includes getting tools and equipment cleaned and counted, planning exciting new projects, and strengthening community partnerships to optimize both member experience and community impact.  

In addition to these necessary reorganization measures, YouthWork has been assisting our City of Traverse City partners with winter operations at Hickory Hills Recreation Area. This municipal park, which offers a plethora of year-round recreation opportunities, shines even brighter as a community hot spot in winter months. From cross-country skiing to alpine snow sports and sledding, people from all over town meet here to have fun, take lessons, watch races, and eat in the city’s cozy and impressive Lodge. YouthWork staff and members have provided essential service alongside City staff, keeping visitors fed and the area maintained, safe, and hospitable, all while developing valuable skills they can offer potential employers down the line.  

In the coming months, the snow will melt, and the YouthWork team will be all-hands-on-deck in preparation for the Summer of 2023. The program will once again be completing conservation projects throughout both the upper and lower peninsulas, with some amazing new partnerships in the works. In addition to developing a Climate Corps, YouthWork has also been exploring opportunities in Southeast Michigan to further support and enrich its ongoing partnership with SER Metro- Detroit. Furthermore, the program plans to offer increasingly comprehensive and engaging training to both crew leaders and members alike, implementing diverse orientation activities and a virtual training platform relevant to service in the field.

YouthWork anticipates the upcoming season being as strong as last year, offering even more resources and opportunity, with exciting project locations and details to come. While those details fall into place, our team will be out recruiting members! YouthWork couldn’t accomplish what it does without them, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our team will be at job fairs, in schools, hosting virtual events, and making calls to extend this unbeatable summer opportunity to as many youth as possible, and we can always use your help! Click to learn more about YouthWork’s triumphs and vision. To apply, fill out this quick intake/interest form and please share with anyone you think may be interested!

Upcoming Events

Announcing our first ever Youth Art Exhibit! We are asking parents, caseworkers, therapists, and staff to let the kids in your life know about this event so that they can start submitting artwork to be featured in a gallery showcase April 21-22. The theme is "Earth Day." Submissions are being accepted through April 15, and can be dropped off or mailed to the CFS office on Veteran's Drive. Save the date for the artist reception on Friday, April 21 from 5-7pm at the Crooked Tree Arts Center in Traverse City. The show is free to attend. If you have questions, or want to help with this event by volunteering or sponsoring prizes, please email Emma Smith at 

Join us March 1 at

12 pm, or March 15 at 5:45 pm for our virtual Foster Parent Orientation!

Foster parents are always needed in our community. Join us to learn how easy it is to help kids! A licensing worker will explain the steps involved in becoming a foster parent. It's easier than you think and we offer 24/7 support. Click to learn more and sign up. 

Did you know there are 244 legally free children in Michigan looking for homes (according to MARE – Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange)? Here is a little info about Tyler, one of the children that CFS works with. If interested in learning more about Tyler please contact CFS Adoption and Foster Care Specialist Rhonda Pomeroy at RPomeroy@CFS3L.ORG, or contact Orchards Children's Services. Click here for more info on Tyler or other children looking for forever homes.

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

Pete's Place | (231) 922-4800   | 

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