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Director's message
Dear Friends:

Spring has finally sprung in northern Michigan as we welcome the sunshine, warmer days, and signs of growth and rebirth in the plants around us. The critters are paying attention, too, and feel the changes with a rebounding energy.

For most of us, our moods are lifted, but we know this isn’t the case for all. Spring has the highest level of suicide among all age groups (more than the holidays or the cold, winter months). Suicide, depression, and anxiety were on the rise before COVID; now these and other examples of mental illness are considered an epidemic of growing concern.

We shine a light on some of society’s darkest secrets during Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Awareness events in the month of April. In May, we highlight Foster Care Awareness and access to greater mental health care. The first step to creating solutions to these needs is to create understanding of the causes and the reality of those with lived experience.

The stories of the people in this month’s newsletter are inspiring despite the darkness of their past. This month we highlight Safe Haven Supervisor Autumn Sleder, who has an enormous heart and understanding for this difficult work because she was a child of trauma. Foster/Adoptive dad Peter Moon is a survivor of childhood sexual assault from a priest. In addition to being a wonderful father, he is both the Senior Pastor at Harbor Light Christian Church and Chaplain at Sara Lee Bakery. I love how these good people overcame significant trauma to bring light, hope, and love to others. This is the story of CFS in a nutshell. We see it happen over and over again. 

We are also fully aware that we couldn’t do this work without YOU, and all our many partners and supporters. Thank YOU for recognizing the needs of people and being part of the solution.

Gina Aranki, Executive Director
CFS: 85 Years of Helping Children and Families
The Moon Family
“Our children have brought so much joy into our lives and home, truly a match made in heaven!” 

Peter Moon’s face lights up when asked about becoming a foster parent. Shortly after getting licensed for foster care, with the intention of being a respite home, he and his wife Sandy opened their home and hearts to a young boy and girl awaiting another placement. The children moved in December 1, 2018, and immediately their hearts opened up, too! By the second day at the Moons’, Jonah and Bailey asked if they could call them “Mom and Dad.” Peter, being a new foster parent, didn’t know how to answer. As he choked back tears (and his voice still cracks as he tells this story), he bought some time by saying that he would have to ask Sandy. The Moons have always believed that kids deserve the same respect as adults and they told the pair that if they didn’t want to be with he and Sandy, they didn’t have to stay. They gave the children some sense of their own power to make choices at a time when their young lives were “out of control” and filled with significant trauma.

After raising two boys, Sandy and Peter were empty nesters. They had learned considerable parenting skills through many mistakes (as Peter points out), but they were full of love and had strong family values. Peter comes from a family of nine kids and adds that Sandy is better at disciplining because he always wants to give the kids more ice cream! Their grown boys, Josh and Aaron, are both married and don’t have any children (yet!). They’re wonderful supports to their new siblings. Peter is the Senior Pastor at Harbor Light Christian Church and a Chaplain at Sara Lee Bakery, which has over 500 employees. He is also the Harbormaster at Elmwood Township Marina. Sandy is very involved with her women’s ministry and loves being a full-time mom again.
After many months, both Jonah and Bailey were adopted by Peter and Sandy. Not that it’s always easy, but they are the proud parents of these two beautiful people, and they like to “brag” about both of them! “Jonah is a genius!,” Peter says, as he is getting all A’s in school, is in advanced math, can solve a Rubik’s Cube in minutes, beats everyone at chess, and has an amazing memory. Peter has already given him money to invest in the stock market, which he has taught himself to do by reading and watching YouTube videos. Jonah asks a lot of questions about diversification of their portfolio, and how earnings will be split between the two of them. “Of course, he won’t be responsible for any losses,” Peter adds.

Bailey is more social. She is a great leader, doesn’t put up with bullying, has a wonderful personality, and loves everything pink! She has Peter wrapped around her little finger and is the daughter that Sandy always dreamt about. She’s very optimistic, happy, and already 5’4”, standing taller than her mom!

Peter and Sandy have a strong understanding of trauma and they credit their caseworker and parenting classes from Child and Family Services with helping them understand how trauma has affected their children. Trauma memories are significant, and the family takes the time to talk about the kids’ stories of their past as they come up. The children are able to revisit those traumas in the safety of their bedtime prayers, and talk not only about what happened, but also why. Both Jonah and Bailey are so loving that it’s hard to imagine that they came from a very difficult background.

Peter and Sandy’s advice to anyone considering becoming a foster parent is: do your best to bring them into your family dynamic; be flexible; and be willing to share and compromise. They hope that every foster parenting experience is as rewarding as theirs.
Staff Highlight: Autumn Sleder
Safe Haven's Guiding Light
In celebration of our 85th year, we are highlighting a few of our "veteran helpers.” Many of these staff members have dedicated their careers to helping others in times of crisis, challenge, and life transition.
Autumn began her career with Child and Family Services in February 2014 as a monitor in the Safe Haven program in Traverse City. She then became the coordinator of the Mancelona Safe Haven program before taking over the role of Safe Haven supervisor in Traverse City.

The Safe Haven program provides supervised visits and safe child exchanges to families who have experienced domestic violence, high conflict and/or child abuse or neglect. The Safe Haven program is dear to Autumn’s heart due to her own experiences with high conflict situations during childhood. She stated, “We do this job because of a calling.” Her calling is to help minimize childhood experiences of high conflict, neglect, and abuse of all forms.    

Trauma screenings and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) questionnaire are used frequently to determine the level of childhood trauma and/or abuse. Studies have shown that not only does childhood abuse/neglect perpetuate childhood abuse in the next generation, but it has also been linked to increased chances of domestic violence in future relationships. The Safe Haven program integrated the use of the ACEs screening tools four years ago to help pinpoint childhood trauma experienced by children as well as parents, as a means to help break the cycle of generational trauma. Autumn reports that on the ACEs screening she herself scores a 9 out of 10, and that through screening clients it has become evident that nearly 90% of clients, both children and adults, score at least a 3 out of 10. The most frequent ACE item experienced by clients was having a parent or other adult “often swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you.”  

“We view violence in a way that we are conditioned to through movies and books about child physical abuse. We see broken bones and cigarette burns, which are inexcusable, but emotional or psychological abuse are seldom highlighted, so as a society it is easy to miss the signs and effects.” Through her work at Safe Haven, Autumn has become more acutely aware of the effects that emotional neglect and abuse can have on children. These forms of abuse are known to have lifelong effects if the individual does not receive help. Unintentional emotional and/or psychological abuse seem to be commonplace in the Safe Haven program, when parents are so focused on their own trauma that they cannot see how their choices may be harming their children.
Autumn talking with the media last month about child abuse awareness and prevention.
The top priority for Safe Haven
staff is to keep clients safe both physically and mentally. Psychological abuse interventions are needed significantly more often than are physical abuse interventions. Staff often hear parents saying negative things to their children about the other parent, see one parent cancel the time with the other parent as a form of payback, and observe one parent refusing to accept, or even destroying, gifts given to the child/ren by the other parent. Autumn and her team work hard to steer parents away from intentional or unintentional psychological abuse. However, she believes that more interventions are needed. 

Over the last several years, Autumn has worked with the courts to get families into individual therapy and/or therapeutic visits in order to give them a place to work through the traumas they have experienced. While it is becoming more common to see families referred to therapeutic interventions, it is still not occurring as frequently as it should; it is Autumn’s belief that “the courts should order all families who have experienced domestic violence or high conflict to attend co-parenting classes and counseling.” Autumn and her staff are hopeful that one day Safe Haven will be able to have a therapist on staff dedicated to only Safe Haven clients, to help ensure that all families receive the help that they so desperately need. Because of her dedication to the Safe Haven program and its clients, Autumn is determined to keep fighting alongside community collaborators in order to break the cycle of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence.
Story by Jayme Weber
Providing safe, supervised visits 
and child exchanges

Safe Haven is a supervised visitation and safe exchange program for families affected by domestic violence or high conflict. It is the only program of its kind in northern Michigan. 
Families use Safe Haven for a variety of reasons, ranging from general conflict between parents to reunification after long periods of absence, to past occurrences of domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual abuse.

Safe Haven's goal is to provide a safe, supervised, age-appropriate, and friendly environment for children. At Safe Haven, parents never see or interact with each other. All scheduling of visits and exchanges, and communication about children's needs, is done through Safe Haven staff, easing the stress on parents and on kids who often get caught in the middle of conflict between their parents.
​Referrals to Safe Haven are made by Friend of the Court, attorneys, family courts, counselors, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and by self-referral. 

Green Team Earth Day Celebration
Our Spring Picnic at Twin Lakes Park was a success! We celebrated Earth Day with a vegetarian and vegan menu, activities, crafts, walks, and just enjoying the beautiful Twin Lakes setting with each other! Thank you to our Morale Committee and Green Team for planning. Special Thanks to our board member Nicola Philpott, and YouthWork's Jaylene Marsh for the great food, recipes, display, and activities. Everything was great, and we all appreciated your efforts and passion for our environment!
Visit Room Remodel!

Joe Brummitt and Cristian "Cris" Viveros worked together to re-do one of our visit rooms and give it a fresh, clean look! It looks amazing! Thank you, Joe and Cris! We're so grateful for this generous gift of time, talent and resources to bring lots of smiles to both our clients and staff.
A Very Special Thank You to
Family of Faith Lutheran Church!
Pastor Daniel and members of Family of Faith Church have provided Easter and Thanksgiving meals for our families in need since 2011.They delivered 29 boxes of Easter meals from Tom's Food Stores, each weighing 40 pounds. What a wonderful, giving partner they have been to CFS!
Upcoming Events!
Intro to Fostering
In-Person Orientation!
May 10, 12:00 pm

Join us at our Veterans Drive office to learn more about foster and adoptive parenting. Our licensing staff will review the process and answer any questions. Click below to register:

Foster Parenting Info Drop-In
Event at The Workshop Brewery
MAY 11, 3:30 - 5:30 pm

Join us at The Workshop Brewery before their Jazz night to learn more about becoming a Foster parent! Drop-in for a few minutes, or stay as long as you want. Our licensing staff will explain the process and answer questions. Prizes for those who sign up for an orientation! Click below for more info:

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Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan
3785 Veterans Drive, Traverse City | (231) 946-8975
3434 M-119, Ste F, Harbor Springs | (231) 347-4463
Third Level/Pete's Place | (231) 922-4800