for sponsoring this e-blast. Contact us to learn about the new sponsorship
opportunities for your business.
For ease of reading, open and read on a computer.

Director's Message

Dear friends;

I watched the old movie 9 to 5 the other night. I’m not sure how I missed it all these years. It’s not great cinema but it’s fun and Dolly Parton’s movie debut. I love all three of the female leads, and I especially loved how in the movie they brought into their workplace some great innovations that helped increase both morale and productivity. They took the workspace from grey, uniform cubicles to bright colors and furniture grouping more conducive to meeting and brainstorming. They added living plants. They introduced flex time and job sharing, equal pay and merit pay. They built a child care center. And this was 1980!

All these years later, as we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we know that those innovations that Dolly, Jane, and Lily introduced were just what was needed to help families, especially working mothers, balance their economic needs with the needs of their children.

As we work to solve systemic problems and challenges from abuse and neglect to hunger to affordable housing to clean water, we recognize that the ladies in 9 to 5 had it right. They understood the lived experience of most of the women who worked for Consolidated Companies. And they used their understanding of these women’s lives to help create a working environment that benefited both the workers and the company.

What a great model for the 21st century! We have recognized the value of hybrid work models and all the other things that seemed so ahead of their time in 1980. At CFS, where women are 90% of our workforce (with a shoutout to other 10%), we salute all our employees who care so deeply for our community’s kids and families while also doting on their own. One colleague told me that given the difficult things we see, there’s even more reason to go home and hug your loved ones tighter.

We continue to work hard to understand lived experience in order to better meet the community’s needs in many ways. Our new Next Level Independent Living Plus program for youth aged 16-19 has officially opened. YouthWork begins planning in earnest for the 2024 season, and there is much more going on at CFS these days, as you will read below. Thank you for your support of our mission!

And CHEERS to our employees, especially the women, in this month of celebrating all women do and all they contribute to our society.


Gina Aranki, Executive Director

Social Work Awareness Month

March is Social Work Awareness Month and at Child and Family Services, social work is what we do best. That said, being a social worker is no easy task. Not only do our employees see people and situations that are heartbreaking, they themselves are often underappreciated and misrepresented in media depictions. To top it all off, social work is one of the lowest-paying professions that requires a college degree. Our staff is dedicated to its work, and while the job comes with its fair share of challenges, there are bright spots, too. "Seeing people grow, learn, and heal to become successful is one of the most rewarding experiences of social work," says Olivia Rothig, Lead Foster Care Specialist. "Whether it's children or their families, seeing them grow and be proud of themselves keeps me going." 

YouthWork Update

Things over at YouthWork are in full swing as they get ready for the busy summer season ahead! They’ve currently got their hands full with getting the new home base at Cedar Run Road ready, recruiting members, organizing trainings, and much more!

Jared and Sean have been busy preparing outbuildings for tools, camping, and PPE storage. They designed and built all the new storage and shelving and have been doing a fantastic job! The house’s interior is also coming along nicely. The interior of the house is looking more like an office every day, and Bill’s trusty whiteboards are finally up and ready for pre-season planning.

YouthWork is in the midst of recruitment and project planning for the upcoming summer season. Staff have been busy attending job fairs at NMU and NMC, with more to come. They have also started meeting with project partners to plan for critical projects that our crews will work on during the summer months, in locations such as Manistee National Forest, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw Historical National Park, Blight Busters, Historic Fort Wayne, The River Raisin Battlefield Park, and more.

Staff are preparing for this spring’s Crew Leader and Member orientations. They are researching and crafting intensive trainings such as Leave No Trace, Wilderness Awareness, Camping Skills, hands-on tool training and demonstrations, as well as many social/emotional trainings such as Trauma-Informed Care and management skills training. YouthWork will also host skilled trainers from outside organizations to provide chainsaw training, scaffold training, and Wilderness First Aid training.

YouthWork is also in the process of mobilizing a new program, which will tackle vital home repairs to improve homeowners' energy efficiency. Currently, members Jared, Sean, Austin, and Tucker make up the beginning of this new program and have been diligently completing training such as Weatherization 101 and OSHA training.

These orientations will provide new YouthWork members with all the skills they need to have a wildly successful summer!

Next Level Independent Living Plus Program Opened

March 18!

Child and Family Services (CFS) opened a new program to house foster youth ages 16-19 and provide independent living skills to help them transition to a successful young adulthood. The new home will be in the former Pete’s Place building, previously our shelter for runaway and homeless youth next to Goodwill Inn.

The goal of this brand new Independent Living Plus (ILP) program is to support those teens who have the motivation, potential, and beginning skill set to work toward living on their own after reaching individual goals. While in the program, youth will become proficient in financial literacy, daily living, self-care, housing and money management, civic engagement, transportation, positive work habits, effective studying skills, career and educational planning, substance abuse prevention, accessing mental and physical health services and other important general community services.

Staff will provide the stability and safe environment for learning those skills. Others on the team include their foster care caseworker, other supportive persons in their life such as family members or friends, their Guardian Ad Litem, and volunteer supports from the community.

“We are so excited for the opening of Next Level,” said Gina Aranki, CFS Executive Director. “It will be a unique and wonderful way to support these youth as they begin to prepare for living successfully on their own. And the community is behind them, too! Many individuals and groups have helped over the last two months with providing supplies, clothing, food, cleaning and painting to get us ready to open the doors March 18. Several have offered to help teach various life skills, including cooking, menu planning, and budgeting.”

Child Welfare Director Aprille Sutton added, “This is a dream come true! For most of my 23 years working in foster care, I have seen the need for a place like this to help our older teens who are often not the ones that a new foster parent will want to take in. It takes a special caring adult to help teens transition to adulthood and we still need those folks! It is our hope that all teens who successfully complete the CFS Next Level Program will become happy, healthy, productive, and self-sufficient members of their community.”

Below are photos from the public open house last Friday, March 15.

Congrats Lisa!

Lisa Wisniewski, Adoption Supervisor, recently celebrated her 25th year with CFS. Thank you, Lisa, for your continued dedication to our mission and supporting our clients!

Lisa pictured here (center) with Aprille Sutton, Child Welfare Director (left)

and Amelia Mayhew, Foster Care Supervisor (right)

Thank You!

Thank you to Chris Mohrhardt and Incredible Mo's for hosting our staff holiday party again this year. Staff and their families had an amazing time thanks to Chris' generosity!

Upcoming Events

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, April 3rd, at 12pm or Wednesday, April 17th, at 5:45pm

Click to learn more and register.

Respite Care Provider Orientation

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 Monday, April 8th at 6pm

Click to learn more and register.

Trauma-Informed Parenting Training

Many children experience traumatic events, including abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. These events can affect a child long after they have been removed from the source of the trauma.

This training is FREE and packed with a tons of crucial content to help you help children. It’s interactive with breakout sessions, lunch, and breaks.

Presented In-Person or via Zoom by Megan Morrissey, LPC, Behavioral Health Therapist; Karen McCarthy, MA, LLPC, Behavioral Health Therapist; and Amanda Craggs, an experienced foster & adoptive parent.

Next dates are April 13th, 14th and 27th, 9am to 3pm. **Participants must attend all 3 classes to complete the course**

Click here to learn more.

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   | 

Facebook  Instagram