Endowment Partner: Christian Family Services

“I think we shocked ourselves at how prepared we were when COVID hit,” says Jodi Mitchell, Director of Finance and Social Services at Christian Family Services (CFS), a nonprofit child placing and professional counseling agency celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. “We quickly shifted to online services and saw our numbers rise in both professional counseling and pregnancy/parenting support,” she says. “The last few years have been some of the strongest years financially for CFS and that has enabled us to respond so well to the needs of our clients.”

CFS has found strength in its endowment fund and relationship with YouthBridge, says Mitchell. Established in 2019, the fund is helping to drive some important initiatives and “we see it as an opportunity for our services to continue on for another 50 years,” she says.

Mitchell says the endowment trainings YouthBridge offers have been inspiring, especially hearing how other nonprofits have found success in leveraging their fund, and she has received personal counsel from YouthBridge while navigating her new role. Serving as the agency’s office manager for 15 years, she knew all of the ins and outs of the organization but brought no finance experience to the position of director of finance when she moved into the position last year. “Coming from a place where you figure everything out on your own, it has been a blessing to have someone with the patience to explain every detail and who not only cares about our agency but the clients we serve,” she says.

Since 1973, CFS’ clientele has included new or expectant mothers and families in crisis. Started as a foster care/adoption agency, over the years, CFS’ focus has shifted to family reunification and ways to keep the family unit together whenever possible. To that end, services include parenting classes; individual, couple and family counseling on issues impacting their ability to parent; foster care for children on a temporary basis while a social worker helps parents in solving the problems that necessitated placement – be it financial, health or emotional – and support for expectant mothers/parents as they consider their options. Sometimes, the best option is for the child to be placed in an adoptive home, in which case, CFS offers a “birth parent-driven” adoption program, meaning the birth parents, if they so desire, choose the adoptive family for their child.

One of its newest services is Selah Living, which provides transitional housing for clients receiving other CFS services. Selah, a Hebrew word meaning to pause and lift up, offers families in crisis the opportunity for safe, reliable and affordable housing that has the potential to become a permanent residence. During this time, families collaborate with a CFS social worker on a family action plan designed to lift them towards self-sufficiency.

“Some parents have never had anyone to show them how to be good parents, never had a good place to call home, or even the tools to set up a household,” says Mitchell. “They get excited over having their own dish towels and wash cloths…it’s very empowering.”