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Director's Message

Dear Friends:

I love springtime. My fingernails are already looking scruffy from being in the dirt in my garden. The skin on my arms and legs is grateful for the lack of layers of clothing between it and the sun. The trees are all leafed out, giving me a level of privacy at home that feels like a little oasis from the stresses and challenges of life.

Spring is a time for new beginnings, certainly. This year at CFS, it’s also a time for endings as three of my colleagues announce their retirement. I miss everyone who leaves our organization and wish Diana Elliott and Tracy Truschke, all the best in this new phase of their lives.

Meanwhile, I have worked for 20+ years with Linda Sommerville. Linda is one of the finest humans I know. She cares so much for all people, her family and friends, our clients, her community in total. She is kind and compassionate. She’s brought so many good ideas for programming and for raising money to CFS, growing into her role after a career in advertising. She is a cook and baker extraordinaire! We were the marketing and development trio, she and I along with Kathy Ferguson, for a long time before we found ourselves with the capacity to grow our team to the group of 6 it is today. We’ve also grown our fundraising effort from $60,000 back in 2001 to more than $1.2 million last year. What a journey!

I’m so grateful to Linda for her amazing work, her warm friendship, her huge heart. I will miss her immeasurably. And I’m also grateful to Emma Smith, Kathy Ferguson, Tara Ward, Jayme Weber, and Erin Krueger for picking up the mantle and guiding our marketing and development efforts into the future. It will be very different without Linda, but we expect that it will be a wonderful new beginning as well.

Just like spring.


Gina Aranki, Executive Director

Looking Back:

A Former Foster Youth Shares Insight on Her Experience  

Jessica Griffin, now 28, came into foster care when she was 13 years old. As I caught up with her on a beautiful evening walk, she shared with me some thoughts about her perspective on foster care. Jessica didn’t have an easy road; she went through seven different foster homes until she eventually aged out of the system at 21. I was surprised and saddened to hear about her difficult experience, but I also gained appreciation for what a remarkable young woman she has become. 

I remember Jessica at her 18th birthday party at Incredible Mo’s. It was her first birthday party ever, and the room was filled with people who cared about her. Friends from the CFS Elements group and MYOI (Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative), foster care workers, foster families, and the owner of Incredible Mo’s, Chris Mohrhardt—all gathered to celebrate her special day! That was 10 years ago and Jessica has really grown up a lot!  

It wasn’t easy to get to this point, as Jessica not only had childhood trauma, but trauma that continued through her teen years. Some of the foster homes were good, she said, but the circumstances did not allow her to stay with them. Others were not so good and she was quickly removed. Jessica now recognizes that she also had some responsibility in those placements and moves. In hindsight, those with the clearest “house rules” and consequences taught her the most as she quickly learned how to manage life with rules and expectations.  

Overall, Jessica’s good experiences outweighed the bad, and she says that she did learn from the bad as well. She believes that foster care saved her life and now she has relationships with many of her past foster moms. She smiled as she told me, “I have lots of moms!” She even has a relationship with her biological mom, who she plans to visit later this year. Her perspective on fostering includes the desire to become a foster mom herself someday (when she’s financially stable), and she wants to foster teens! 

Jessica also shared that the best part of foster care was her “CFS Family,” including her longtime case worker, Amelia. She also met a lot of other foster youth in the former Elements program that taught independent living skills for foster teens. More importantly, it forged friendships and social supports, similar to a support group. In fact, one of those friends is now her roommate! 

Currently, Jessica works full time as a bank teller. She’s considering a career change but it will require more schooling. I asked if she would like to volunteer for our new program, Next Level, which also teaches financial literacy in addition to the Casey Life Skills for foster teens, ages 16-19. She said that she would consider this opportunity to give back. Her experience with caring people made an impact on her. 

In her spare time, Jessica loves to explore the beauty of northern Michigan. She and her roommate are heading up to Pictured Rocks soon for a hiking adventure. Her positive view of her past experiences has helped her heal and learn what good, healthy relationships should look like—quite a feat for any 28-year-old!  

-Linda Sommerville, Director of Development

Coaching for Success: CFS' New Family

Time Coaching Program

The purpose of foster care is to care for children at a time when their parents cannot, and to reunite children and parents as soon as it is safe and healthy to do so. But historically, children’s natural parents have often not gotten the specific and constructive support that they need in order to make positive changes to their life situations and childrearing skills.

Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, CFS has embarked on a research-based, highly successful program called “Family Time Coaching” (FTC). After being trained in FTC, several CFS staff are providing specific coaching supports to natural parents of the foster children we serve. FTC encourages families with children in foster care to make the most of their times together. It actively involves natural parents, building on their strengths with the support of a consistent parenting coach and a parenting class.

One of our FTC coaches has made a special effort to help a small child connect with his father, who is incarcerated. She sends dad the words to a children’s book electronically. Then she and the child look at the actual picture book together as the father reads the words to the child. The little one loves it!

One mom and child both let their CFS worker know that they feel the FTC coaching has made a big difference in the progress the child has made. Neither of them want the program to end.

Caring for children and families and reducing and mitigating trauma are the heartfelt goals of CFS and the FTC program. These touching stories show what this intentional and evidence-based program can do when implemented by caring workers like the CFS staff.

Mental Health Awareness

When our kids or other loved ones are struggling with powerful emotions, we often feel helpless, wanting to fix the problem so that they (and we) feel better. Unfortunately, another person’s feelings are complex responses to individual experiences. As much as we want to help, we can’t know enough about what’s going on in their heads to offer any actual solutions. Also, when a person is struggling, they are less able to process solution-focused thinking. In these times when we wish for a magic wand to make everything better, Active Listening can be the most helpful choice. 

Active Listening has two components. First, the speaker talks about their distress. The listener shows that they’re paying attention by nodding, saying “ok”, or making quick comments about what’s being said like, “That sounds like it was scary!” Then, as the speaker slows down, the listener repeats some of the important points, “So she was late and that made you late, and you really hate being late.” The listener can also ask the speaker how to best support them, or offer to brainstorm solutions without pressuring the speaker to focus on solving the problem. 

Studies show that having the chance to talk about what’s upsetting us without interruption or correction can lower feelings of distress as much as 50%. Feeling heard also allows the brain to calm down, reconnecting to logic and reason and making problems much less overwhelming. Active Listening is a great way to help a person in distress.

Ann Ronayne, MS, NCC, LP and Greta

A Bittersweet Announcement

Next month, Linda Sommerville, Director of Development and Marketing, will be retiring after 22 years at Child and Family Services. While we are thrilled for Linda to begin this next exciting and very well-deserved chapter in life, we will sorely miss her unwavering commitment, service, and enthusiasm for helping children and families in need across our community. Linda's dedication to CFS has been nothing short of remarkable, and, lucky for us, Linda promises that we can we look forward to working with her in a volunteer capacity in the future. 

Taking over as Director of Development and Marketing is Emma Smith, current Donor Relations and Volunteer Management Specialist, who has been with CFS for 10 years. Emma is looking forward to building even more connections in the community and plans to continue in Linda's footsteps by leading the Development Team with care, dedication, and passion. "If any of you have worked with Linda in the past," said Emma, "you'll know I have some very big shoes to fill! I’m so excited to get started, and so thankful for everything Linda has done to help get me here." 

Please join us in congratulating Linda and Emma, as they each look forward to all the new and exciting changes life has in store.

Planned Giving

How many of you were looking for the Northern Lights about 10 days ago? This phenomenon only happens when “the aurorae are generated by charged particles from solar storms, funneled into our atmosphere along earth’s magnetic fields." According to the experts, this latest solar cycle began in December 2019 and will peak next summer. When the skies are dark, that’s the best time to see them. You might not have been one of the “lucky ones” who captured these lights on their cameras but you would have seen the beautiful stars that make our night skies so spectacular.

We are reminded of the quote of Martin Luther King Jr. that, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars”, meaning that we all need to experience the darkness—life’s challenges, crisis, and pain in order to see the beauty in life, like the stars in the sky. This metaphor speaks to the heart and soul of the work we do at CFS. The stars give us hope, and greater awareness of the many needs.

Won’t you be that star and make a lasting legacy gift to our community? As you look up into the night sky, what are your visions for a better world and community? Have you made some philanthropic decisions about your estate planning? Contact us at or visit to learn more about the many ways you can make an impact gift for today and for generations to come.

Upcoming Events

Saturday May 25th: Come see us for Family Day at Serenity Ranch! This free event is open to the public. So come on out to learn more about the Ranch and services provided by Child and Family Services. We will have promotional giveaways and staff available to answer any questions you have about our programs. Hope to see you there!

This amazing Northern Angler event benefits Child and Family Services, specifically our Suicide Prevention Trainings, in honor of Alex Hawke. Click to sign up and learn more.

Monday June 10th: CFS will be hosting a table with promotional giveaways, a craft and games at the Traverse Area District Library Kick off to Summer event. We will have staff available to chat about our programs and services. Bring your questions and a friend!

For more info on this event please click here.

Foster parents needed. Could you be the ONE? 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, June 19th, at 5:45pm

Click to learn more and register.

Licensed respite providers needed! Join us virtually to learn more about this short-term foster care option. 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 Respite Care Monday, June 10th at 6pm

Click to learn more and register.

June 22nd-23rd: We are honored to say that we have been chosen as a recipient charity for the 2024 Traverse City Horse Shows. 100% of general admission sales supports Child & Family Services on June 22nd and June 23rd. We will have a table with informational giveaways and staff to answer questions about our services at the entrance to the horse show. Stop by and see us!

If you are interested in purchasing tickets to the event please click here.

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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