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Sherry Thomas-Cloud

A Message from CEO Sherry Thomas-Cloud

September, 2020

Dear Friends:

It is said that change is a constant, and indeed it is. Yet, thankfully, some things remain the same. As I read the next chapter of Mary Becktell’s (previously Mary Corcoran) and Fiona Holmes’ history of Family & Children Services, I paused at this line:

“Twenty-eight years old in 1931, the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League had officially established itself as an essential part of the city and county’s burgeoning social services infrastructure.”

Today, the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League is known as Family & Children Services. While in 1931, our community was struggling under the weight of the Great Depression, today we struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. When crises happen, we step to the forefront—as we always have.

I invite you to read Chapter 5 of this history and be inspired to know that we can withstand even the most challenging of circumstances. Whatever the crisis, and when challenged with increased need, Family & Children Services will always rise to meet those needs.

In “Preparing for a Pandemic,” read about the careful preparations we underwent at Family & Children Services to ensure that both staff and clients remain safe while client needs are met. Our COVID-19 PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE PLAN is constantly being reviewed and updated as circumstances change. Science guides us as do the needs of our clients. If we have not missed a beat during this difficult time, it is because every member of our team has followed guidelines and maintained the highest level of commitment to those who need our help the most.

One of the statistics that tends to climb during a challenge like this one is the rate of suicide. In “Ask the Question. Let’s talk about Suicide,” read about the stunning numbers of suicides in our community, especially among our youth. While we want you to envision the faces of those who have lost their lives, we also want you to read about what we can all do to bring these numbers down. Kindness matters. An open ear and a willing shoulder to lean upon can save lives. Our Mobile Crisis Response team is staffed by our very own heroes, available at all hours when the call for help comes. A team leader shares her best advice in how you can help when someone has lost all hope.

Finally, we highlight three donors who have helped us with their generous support during this challenging summer. Eaton, as they have for so many years, continues to support foster families by filling baskets with board games, gift cards, and other treats. The Breakfast Optimist Club of Kalamazoo held another successful fundraiser for children in our FACT program, providing back-to-school clothing and supplies. We also want to thank two donors who donated vehicles to support our programs – Lakeview Ford Battle Creek and Carrie and Stephen Morrow. These vehicles will be used to transport clients for crisis services and foster care programs.

Together, we will keep our community healthy and our infrastructure strong.

With Gratitude,

Sherry Thomas-Cloud
Sherry Thomas-Cloud, M.S.W., L.M.S.W.
Chief Executive Officer
Family & Children Services

What's New

Ask the Question. Let’s talk about Suicide.

September, 2020

Ask. In so many words, ask this question—“Are you thinking about killing yourself?”—and use precisely those words. Don’t shy away from being direct.

That is the advice of Christy Warren, lead clinician for the Mobile Crisis Response (MCR) team at Family & Children Services. She sees suicidal tendencies in some of the children she oversees in her work, and she knows the importance of asking a pointed question.

“It’s ok to say those words,” Warren says. “In fact, it’s necessary. If you think someone is in danger of suicide, it is important to be specific or else that person can be evasive in his or her response. They might rationalize if you simply ask if they are feeling sad or if they are thinking about ‘ending things.’ Saying the words, killing yourself, can actually bring a sense of relief.”

Asking a direct question, Warren says, gives the person a chance to say “yes,” and from there, ask for help.

The warning signs

September is Suicide Prevention Month, but suicide knows no calendar. People considering suicide can show many warning signs, and it is important not to miss them. Not all are obvious...

Read more >

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention - By the Numbers

September, 2020

Almost 45,000 people die annually in the United States from suicide. More than 1,300 of these suicide deaths are in Michigan.

Numbers tell an alarming story. Suicide happens daily in our communities, but we are not helpless to stop it. To understand the range of how suicide affects Michigan, we have gathered statistics for the years 2014 to 2017 from the Michigan Violent Death Reporting System (MI VDRS):

  • More than 5,300 Michigan residents died by suicide.
  • Men were more likely than women to die by suicide in any age group.
  • Firearms were used in half of Michigan suicide deaths.
  • Women were more likely than men to use poison.
  • Strangulation, suffocation, or hanging accounted for nearly 1,200 male suicides, 324 for females.
  • Women were more likely than men to have a history of multiple suicide attempts (34 percent vs 16 percent).
  • Women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with a current mental health problem (60 percent vs 46 percent) or receive a diagnosis of depression (48 percent vs 36 percent).
  • Circumstances that contributed to suicide deaths varied with age, but family problems (25 percent) and school problems (16 percent) were more of a factor for youth.
  • Problem drinking (25 percent) and financial problems (12 percent) were more of a factor for middle-aged adults.
  • Depressed mood (26 percent) and physical health problems (72 percent) were more of a factor for the elderly.
  • Alcohol was the most commonly found substance in suicide deaths, followed by benzodiazepines and opiates.

In Kalamazoo County, we have many resources available to help...

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Preparing for a Pandemic

September, 2020

An important part of the Family & Children Services mission is to be prepared for whatever crisis might come our way. It is what we do. When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, Family & Children Services staff came together to create a plan—The COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan—to ensure that we would abide by government guidelines and balance public health concerns with the needs of our organization and the health and safety of our clients.

Among our priorities has been to keep our employees safe but also work toward a goal of reopening our facilities. Even while our facilities had to temporarily close, our employees continued to offer critical services to our clients. They did so by innovative uses of technology, but also continued to meet with clients face-to-face when necessary, even shopping for food, providing transportation to appointments and securing basic needs such as beds and phones.

All employees who have been able to work remotely have done so. Staff who have needed to be on-site have been approved to come into facilities after training on workplace infection-control practices, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and learning steps to reporting COVID-19 symptoms. All who enter the building must first complete a health screening questionnaire, including a temperature reading, and wear a face mask. Social distancing of at least 6 feet apart is maintained by anyone in the building. Walls between cubicles have been heightened and Plexiglas barriers have been installed.

Visitors to the building are required to undergo the same health screening questionnaire and are provided with a face mask if needed. The number of visitors in our lobby and conference rooms is restricted, and furniture is placed to provide for social distancing. Visitation for parents takes place outdoors, as weather permits. Signage and educational posters about COVID-19 have been posted on doors and throughout the facility. Mail and deliveries to the building are left inside the front entrance.

All of these protective measures have kept our staff and our clients safe. Most important of all, these precautions have allowed Family & Children Services to continue our work and meet the needs of those in our community who need our help the most. As COVID-19 conditions evolve, we continue to review our policies and procedures on a regular basis.

What's New

A History of Family & Children Services

September, 2020

Chapter 05: The Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League Operates in a Changing Landscape, 1924‑1931

Note: In Chapter 4 of Family & Children Services’ history (published in the December 2019 newsletter), it was incorrectly stated that the Associated Charities of Kalamazoo was an outgrowth of Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League coordinating efforts. In fact, Associated Charities, a separate Kalamazoo organization, had been in operation since at least the late 1880s (and was thus organized before the Women’s Civic Improvement League in 1903).

In 1904, the Women’s Civic Improvement League absorbed the Associated Charities, and a plan was put in place “to keep a complete record of all cases of applicants or recipients of charity in this city... The idea was to keep the information available to all organizations and persons dispensing charity,” thereby enabling the League to “act as a clearinghouse for all charity offered in the city.” At present it is unclear if or when Associated Charities began to operate independently of the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League. The origins of Associated Charities and the nature of its relationship with the Women’s Civic Improvement League (and later, the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League) will be explored in full in the complete, book-length version of Family & Children Services’ history (expected 2023).



Cooperation Magnifies Impact

As the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League concluded its twentieth year of service in 1923, “cooperation” remained the organization’s watchword. Work carried out by the League’s staff, volunteers, and board of directors was magnified through meaningful partnerships with the city government and other like-minded social service organizations. Toward the decade’s end, when the onset of the Great Depression translated into ever-growing calls for Civic League services, these relationships and others would become increasingly vital to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the Kalamazoo community...

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