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Spotlight Stories

Meet Our Supervisor Team: Lindsay Rossi – Community Services Supervisor


YSB holds a large presence in the community due to our work in child welfare, from families in crisis, to foster care and young adults desperately in need. The people who have dedicated their careers to those in need often go unseen, or are obscured amidst political debate on who should be funding and who should be funded. YSB staff, led by our Administration and Supervisor Team, work hard every day to ensure that each and every client is receiving the attention they need to lead successful, happy lives. This includes offering encouragement through daily ups and downs, or simply just “being there”.

One such caring individual is Lindsay Rossi. Lindsay joined YSB in 2009 and has held her current position of Community Services Supervisor since April of 2019. Under her title, she oversees the agency’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (short term intervention to clients who struggle with mental health, family conflict issues, school issues, etc.), TLP and Homeless Youth (helping young adults who are homeless to find their way again and to gain independency and permanent housing), Hope House (providing a safe place for parents and their children to have supervised visits, which helps create comfort and ease during transitions), and the Ladd After School Program (giving children a safe place after school to continue to grow and learn).

Lindsay decided to go into social work because of her own life experiences, and because she enjoys assisting individuals who come from difficult circumstances or have been through incredible trauma, and finding solutions to make their life easier or better for them.

Traumatized clients and families have been plentiful over the years, including: the many single parents simply trying to make ends meet; a father consumed with hopelessness as his young wife and mother of his children battles extreme mental illness; the teenager who took care of her siblings all of the time because her parents were absent; abused women and their feelings of worthlessness; children who have witnessed domestic violence from their parents; a cognitively delayed parent who feels frustrated because she is trying to parent the best way she can; families who have been evicted from their homes and battle homelessness; and children who suffer cruel abuse on a daily basis.

Even though these individuals and families suffer great despair through their hardship, they never give up. They are resilient. They find hope from their counselors, case worker, or from the many people who believe in them. There are limited, but extremely useful outside resources available for staff like Lindsay to direct to clients, ensuring that they can mostly find ways to better their lives.

Even though her work is stressful, Lindsay has found that having a very strong support system of friends and family helps her get through her day. She makes a point of maintaining self-care after work so she can be at her best while she is here each day.

The same goes for her staff. Lindsay encourages them to take care of themselves. The child welfare/social work field can be emotionally draining, so it is crucial that they practice self-care so no one gets burnt out quickly. Emotional health is just as important as physical health, so she tries to make the staff aware of that every day. If staff are taking care of themselves, then they will be able to provide the best work possible to their clients.

There are always changes that can be made to better the child welfare system. First and foremost is decreasing the work load. There are a lot of social workers that are overloaded with a high caseload. Burn out is very common. There are often very high expectations set on case workers with little pay and high stress. Providing more available resources is also crucial in helping families, along with making a case workers life easier.

Lindsay concludes with giving all of her staff the praise they deserve. “Each staff member is dedicated to their job and to making a difference. I see that every day, and it makes me proud to be a part of something so special and great”.

After School Program Promotes Fun and Continued Learning in LADD


One of small-town Ladd’s best youth-based resources is tucked inside the Ladd Community Consolidated School on the edge of town. Here sits a place for children from Kindergarten through 6th grade to continue to learn, grow, and play even after their school day has ended.

Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley established and has supported the local After-School Program since 2004. It is currently being led by two dedicated and inspirational instructors, Nancy Piccatto and Julie Kobold.

The After-School Program began in the old school and has continued through many school and community changes. It currently has 20 children (give or take a few) registered at any given time during the school year.

The program is designed to provide a safe, and more importantly, FUN place for children to hang out until they are able to be picked up by their parent or guardian.

Once the dismissal bell rings at 3:05 p.m., the participating children gleefully come into a classroom that is filled with books, toys, dry erase boards, a television, board games, and printout projects provided by Nancy and Julie. They also plan out theme weeks to keep activities exciting, including “Apple Week” and “Fall Fun Fest” during the autumn and Holiday themed weeks throughout the year.

Older children, who have been in the program for years, are often trusted with responsibilities that help them grow more confident. They are given tasks such as running to the other end of the building to fetch a younger child, or are able to give their expertise to younger students during homework time. This establishes a great sense of pride in them as they grow into young adults, and eventually possible leaders.

Some children struggle through their schoolwork or with personal issues. The After-School Program helps them to resolve or lessen these hard feelings by providing them with the personal attention they desire and need. One child struggled with their grades and had a hard time getting through each day. Once they were given special homework time and received ample encouragement from Nancy and Julie, they were able to listen more attentively and then were able to open themselves up to achieving better grades.

Parents compliment the program and love what it does for their child. Not only is it convenient, as many of them work long hours, but it provides them with peace of mind knowing that their child is being well taken care of in a safe space with friends.

Nancy and Julie do fundraise efforts throughout the year to ensure that the children have the “extra” support for their well-rounded learning. Recently they held a “Chicken Dinner Night” at Rip’s in downtown Ladd, where they raised approximately $2,500. They also recently received a grant from Wal-Mart Distribution Center in nearby Spring Valley in the amount of $2,500. The Bureau County United Way is also a supporter of this program.

By 5:00 p.m. all the children have been safely picked up, and then Nancy and Julie go home feeling accomplished and grateful for their days work. Let’s give appreciation to these heroes who are making a positive impact on the life of each child they encounter!

A New Hope


Hope House is undergoing a transformation. It will now be run by Debra Wackerline, who previously directed the Child Development Center in LaSalle.

Hope House provides supervised visitation and exchange of children between parents currently involved in a divorce or a family crisis. This program is designed to keep children connected with both parents in a safe space. Hope House is available only in LaSalle County. Clients are referred by family court attorneys and judges.

Debra is very proud and excited to work for YSB in such a wonderful program, where it is an honor to continue helping families. She can be reached Monday thru Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM by calling Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley at 815-433-3953, or by e-mail at

For more information on Hope House and our other programs, including Solutions Counseling, Runaway and Homeless Youth, Transitional Living Program, Foster Care and more, visit us on the web at, or on Facebook, Instagram (ysbiv17), or Twitter (YSBofILValley).

A Treatment Success Story


“I hope it will be said we taught them to stand tall and proud, even in the face of history, and the future was made new and whole for us all – one child at a time.” – Brian Andreas

As a clinician working with children who have experienced trauma, I have found that using expressive modes can be empowering and life changing for clients. Expressive modes provide catharsis, enlightenment, and cleansing. I have been working with a 15-year old young woman for approximately 1½ years. She is very verbal and engaged in therapy. However, when she utilizes expressive therapy techniques, she appears to process thoughts and feelings on an even deeper level, which provides a more expansive level of insightfulness and catharsis.

In a recent session, my client shared some of her favorite songs with me, which ranged from angry to inspirational to love songs. She shared the song that helped her when she was depressed. I inquired as to how the song helped her. She explained that the song has meaning for her; it has uplifting and encouraging lyrics. This client identified which stanza positively impacted her the most.

At her next therapy session, I utilized expressive techniques to encourage her to focus on the positive song that helped her manage feelings of depression. I explained that she could write/paint the song lyrics on a canvas to provide a positive, empowering, and meaningful message for her to keep at home. She excitedly said, “I’m down with that!”

My client chose four empowering lines from the song. She wrote each lyric in a different color and chose one letter from each song line to create a new meaningful word – LOVE. She wrote “LOVE” vertically in the middle of the canvas surrounded by the song lyrics. She then wrote a word next to each letter of the word love: L=listen; O=overcome; V=value; E=everlasting. I asked the client to explain the words connected to the word “LOVE.” She said that L means to listen to someone when she needs help; O means to overcome issues; V means to value what one gives another, to be positive with others; E means everlasting, a person is out there forever. She embellished her canvas with colorful paint and inspirational stickers.

I directed the client to write words on a piece of paper stating how she felt about doing this project. She explained that she felt “more motivated to do more when writing and painting.” She said, “I feel like a weight lifted off of my shoulders from the little pain I have left.” She said she felt better after doing this project.

This client appeared happy and delighted with her creation. In the agency lobby, she proudly showed her canvas to YSB staff who gathered around her to admire her work. Her face was animated with positive affect as she explained the meaning of the song lyrics and the four words she crafted from the word “LOVE.” She seemed honored and valued that others reinforced her efforts and creativity.

Laura Hunger, LSW/QMHP
Therapist, Youth Service Bureau

Runaway and Homeless Program: Offering Support to Youth and Families in Crisis


A common misconception about YSB’s Runaway and Homeless Program is that every client is a runaway or homeless youth. This is, in fact, not the case. The program will help with all kinds of issues, mostly family related, to those who have not left the home, yet are at a high risk to do so.

The glue that can keep them together is the caseworker who will spend months offering support while the family makes difficult decisions in their struggle for survival.

One such case involved a 17-year-old boy grappling with anger issues. He is the oldest of six children. After completing an assessment and service plan, the caseworker began weekly visits with the boy and utilized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help the youth learn to control anger outbursts in the home and school.

After several weeks and some improvement, the mother asked the worker if she could also talk to her thirteen-year-old daughter because she was 6 months pregnant. The worker agreed and began service for the girl.

After a few meetings it came out that the father of the baby was the girl’s stepfather. The worker, who had developed a very good relationship with the mother, provided support to her and the girl during police and DCFS interviews. The worker linked the family with domestic violence services and they helped the mother get an order of protection so the stepfather could no longer live with or have any contact with the girl and the mother.

The Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley worker attended court with the family, supported the mother in making the right decisions to protect her daughter from further abuse, and became a close advocate for the girl.

In stressful times, relative calmness can be achieved by simply having someone stable to help clients through. Providing stability is what YSB is here for.

If you have questions about the Runaway and Homeless Program, please contact Reggi Gerding, Director of Community Services, at 815-431-3020, or you may visit our website at

Pictured are Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Caseworkers (from left) Amanda Houchin, Denise Rick-Lupascu, Kirby Lilley, Diana Beams, and Kim Quick

Making Friends and Having Fun in the LADD After-School Program!


Many families face a daily struggle to manage their time as they work a full time job, or several part-time jobs. Often, this can create hardship for their schedules as their children finish the school day well before they can leave from work to pick them up and take them home.

Fortunately, After School Programs are created and offered in most communities to offset this time-management crunch. For the past 15 years, The Ladd After-School Program, run by the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley and financed through fundraising and family fees, has been one such program working with and helping children in their community.

Having time to unwind after a long day of school can be just what a child needs. Daily activities in the Ladd ASP include going outside to play, flying kites, or going into the gym for organized games. When the weather is bad, children are given seasonal crafts, coloring projects, painting and games of their choosing. Parents also love that the children are given homework time, as adult educators are available to help them with any questions they may have. To keep the fun going, contests are held every 1 to 2 months in which the winner receives a prize.

These programs succeed through the love and care of local educators who wish only for children to succeed in life. Two such people are Nancy Piccatto, who runs the Ladd ASP, and after school educator, Julie Kobold.

Nancy says “this program is so important for our families and working parents. We love the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, because it is so true”. Nancy adores her time with the kids, especially on days when the children have an early 11:20 a.m. dismissal. The group will walk over to the local Casey’s General Store to pick up pizzas and eat them in the town park.

Nancy hopes to add more children to this fun program each year. More than anything, she loves that the kids look forward to attending, and that it feels like a little family where they can be themselves, have fun and be safe. The best evidence for the success of this program is when parents come to pick their children up and many will say “I’m not ready to go yet!”.

If you are interested in the Ladd After School Program, please contact Nancy by e-mail at, or by phone at 815-228-1967.

Pictured are Nancy Piccatto and Julie Kobold

Children First Program Saves Families from Emotional Trauma


The prospect of a divorce can’t help but to have an enormous impact upon the family who is experiencing it. This impact is felt by all of the members of the family, no matter how old, or how young they are. These impacts can often times have a devastating effect upon the children in the family.

The Children First Program strives to lessen the negative impacts by engaging the adults in an interactive class presentation that details the possible negative effects that a divorce can have on a child, and which steps the parent might take to help alleviate or even eliminate the negative impact.

The Children First Program began in St. Clair County, near St. Louis, in 1988, and at YSB in June 2007. It is currently being run by Program/Facility Coordinator, Geoff Franklin, and Redeploy Therapist, Loni Nolte in the Ottawa, LaSalle, and Princeton offices.

Even though class participation is mandated by a Family Court Judge in the 13th Judicial Circuit of Illinois to divorcing parents, the benefits of the program are substantial and surprising. After going through the program, one participant stated that “I wish that we had been required to take this class before I got married. If we had, then maybe we would not be getting a divorce now.”

The class is one, 4-hour session which includes presentations and group discussions on topics such as the cause of conflict and paying attention to the emotional well-being of the children involved. Geoff and Loni both encourage participants to come to class with an open mind, and to “not be afraid to talk about your own experiences. Doing so can help other participants and yourself out, and work towards putting the child’s mental stability as a top priority.”

After completion of the class, it is up to each participant to continue on in their journey towards healthy family relations with their children and their ex husband or wife. Geoff adds his advice to “try not to dwell on what is now in the past. Take this opportunity to make healthy emotional changes and score some happiness for yourself.”

Additional Resources for parents include:

Books: Steve Covey’s 90/10 Principle is a good place to start. It is very short, easy to understand and can put things in perspective when you are under stress. Raising Resilient Children – Robert Brooks & Sam Goldstein 101 Ways to Make Your Child Feel Special – Vicki Lansky The Incredible Years – Carolyn Webster-Stratton Our Family Meeting Book – Elaine Hightower & Betsy Riley


For more questions on the Children First Program or any other service offered at Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, please call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. at 815-433-3953, or visit us on the web at You may also find us on Facebook, Twitter (YSBofILValley), and Instagram (ysbiv17).

Pictured are Geoff Franklin and Loni Nolte

YSB Helps Clients in Need with Donations from Donors


Christmas is not always the happiest time of the year for everyone. Many families are fortunate enough to spend their holiday opening gifts, eating too much and are surrounded by love. It is easy to take all of this for granted, yet there are many others who are struggling to put food on the table, dealing with medical issues, and coping with intense psychological hurt from recent or past trauma. Gifts are the last thing on their minds.

During this time of year, we can assure that each of our clients, who are sometimes lost to the joys of Christmas, will be taken care of with the invaluable donations that are given to the Youth Service Bureau. One such family comes from our Treatment department.

Eric was reeling from the recent death of his mother. He was not allowed to remain in his father’s care due to past abuse and neglect issues with him and his siblings. Eric found a home when he was placed in the care of his biological aunt, Kathy, who was given legal guardianship of him. His siblings have found a home with other biological relatives. While having to be separated from his siblings at this time, Eric is able to consistently visit with them due to all of their placements being with family members.

Eric’s living quarters are tight, but welcoming. He shares a one-bedroom apartment with his aunt and uncle. In the process of all of this personal turmoil and unexpected upheaval to their lives and home, Eric’s family received very little help from those around them. Through YSB, they have been provided with both individual and family counseling from our Treatment Program on a weekly basis so they can deal with the incredible loss of Eric’s mother and so they can deal with the stress of this new transition in all of their lives. YSB was also able to provide mattresses to Eric and all of his siblings thanks to a very generous donation from Sherman’s and Tempur-Pedic. All of the children received gifts through YSB’s Star Tree program thanks to the many loyal donors who have been sponsoring children for many years. A few days before Christmas YSB received a donation of food baskets for our neediest families, his family was chosen so they’d have a happier holiday. His aunt has said that these gifts have “[given] me one less thing to worry about. It was just a blessing!”.

Kathy and Eric are incredibly grateful for the help that YSB and their donors have given to them. They enjoy talking to their counselors who provide a safe ear and a sense of security. Kathy adds that “Eric and I are treated with respect, no condemnation or accusatory comments, and [their counselor] asks questions and talks WITH us, not AT us.”

In the end, Kathy and Eric feel grateful and calm due to YSB’s help and influence. Kathy has said “without the generosity of YSB during this time, I don’t know how we would have made it…it has been such an awful year of loss and change for the children and myself that I just wanted to make it the best Christmas that I could for them. YSB helped me do that!”.

Thank you from all of the staff and clients at YSB who have benefited from donations given to us throughout the year(s). You make a huge difference in the lives of our youth and families.

If you are interested in learning more about YSB or donating to our cause, please call our main office at 815-433-3953 from Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or you can visit us on the web at to learn more about our programs, and how we use donations within the community. We are also present on Facebook.

Redeploy/Second Chance Life Skills Group


The Redeploy/Second Chance has recently implemented a Life Skills Group for the youth served in those programs. The Redeploy/Second Chance Life Skills Group was spearheaded by caseworkers Carlie Quinn and Paige Bulock, and tailored to the needs of the population with the help of Program Director Cynthia Robinson. Jill Conrad, a veteran caseworker, and therapists, Roger Miskell, Loni Nolte and Amber Wheeler soon became involved and it truly became a team effort. The premise of the group is to give the youth real-world experience in being an independent, responsible adult.

The first week the youth completed a questionnaire to identify aspects of their future such as:

If they desired to have a life partner/spouse, or did they wish to remain single.
How many children, if any, they felt they would like to have.
What type of employment they are interested in, from a list furnished by the caseworkers that was comprised of reasonable, typical jobs.
Did they want to own or rent a home.
What type of home, house or apartment did they want.
What type of vehicle did the youth plan on purchasing.
If vacations were important, where would they like to experience.
What type of non-essentials did they plan on having and providing for their family such as cable, cell phone, internet etc.
After the information was compiled the staff provided individual portfolios to each youth, detailing their estimated salary, gross and net amounts, and a ledger to track their monthly expenses such as utilities, payments, gas, insurance, food etc.

The youth went on the internet to local realtor sites to explore the types of homes they wished to have and then used a mortgage calculator to figure their mortgage payments, as well as the monthly insurance and tax escrow payments. The utilities were approximated from the size of the home. These realtor sheets were printed out for the potential home owners. When meeting with the youth during the following week, the caseworkers drove the youth by the homes they had chosen from the realtor sheets so that they could get an idea of what house hunting entailed. The youth were given applications to complete for necessities such as utilities, insurance, mortgage and rent, so as to understand the complexities and effort that goes into establishing a home.

The staff assisted the youth in determining the cost of the vehicle they planned on purchasing by looking at Kelly Blue Book, and then used an on-line calculator to figure the monthly payments, as well as insurance.

Each week that group was held, was treated as a calendar month. At the beginning of group the youth entered their monthly salaries into their individual ledgers and then deducted their monthly expenses from their net paycheck. If the youth had expressed that they wanted children, the cost of day care, clothing, school supplies, hygiene, and miscellaneous were recorded. Money was put into savings for yearly events such as Christmas and birthdays, as well as vacations if possible. The youth were taught to write a check and balance their ledgers.

The third week an interesting caveat was added to the group. Each week one member was presented with an unexpected expense, which they had to take care of and find a way to pay for. What made this so interesting and pertinent to the individual youth, was that the unforeseen expense was related to the felony they had committed which precipitated them to be involved in the program. For example if a youth had committed a residential burglary, he and his “family” experienced a burglary and the big- screen, smart television he was so proud of was taken. If a youth had stolen a car, in group he learned he needed to buy four new tires for his “car,” as his were unsafe. The staff transported the youth to tire stores to actually get estimates for his “car.” This individualized experience proved to be very powerful for the youth.

The youth were given a list of the standard staples found in a home. During the week they were taken to local grocery stores by their caseworkers to learn to shop and stay within a budget. So a weekly menu was prepared and a grocery list generated from the menu before they went shopping. In group, a schedule was developed for the youth, so that they would take turns actually preparing a meal for the group. The meal was shared by the youth and staff in a family type setting each week.

The staff attempted to educate and conduct groups that were pertinent to real life. They conducted a group on sexuality and included hygiene. Myths about sexuality were dispelled, and the youth were educated on the truths about sexuality and safe sex. Because so many of the youth that enter this program do not practice good hygiene, that topic was addressed. Another group taught the youth how to properly clean their homes, as well as launder their clothes.

After 6 weeks, the staff felt the group was completed. They informed the youth that they had successfully completed the curriculum, and conducted a graduation celebration with Certificates of Completion. To the staff’s surprise, the youth unanimously raise an outcry to please continue the group. The youth wrote touching notes to the staff to express their gratitude for being allowed to participate and their pride in what they had accomplished.

The staff took a two-week hiatus and the program was resumed, with new members added. This Life Skills Group was developed due to the Redeploy staff recognizing a significant need in the clients lives, and taking the initiative and putting in the extra work to address this need. The Life Skills Group will be an ongoing component of the Redeploy/Second Chance Program.

Pictured below are Redeploy caseworkers Carlie Quinn and Paige Bulock instructing a recent Life Skills Group at YSB. For more information on YSB, please call Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 815-433-3953, or visit us on the web at, or on Facebook.

Transitional Living Program: Helping Lost Youth Find Independence and Security


Part I – What We Do
The Transitional Living Program at YSB is designed to help youth ages 16-24 who have completed the Homeless Youth Program and are ready to continue working towards independence. When young people are living on the street for various reasons, grocery shopping and paying the bills are not on their mind as much as basic survival. This is where our program comes in to help.

Kamm Reilly, one of our TLP caseworkers, sees the utmost potential in each client she works with while teaching life skills to them. While learning skills such as how to make a doctor’s appointment, how to do laundry, grocery shopping, and how to upkeep an apartment may seem slight to most people who do these tasks daily, they are huge accomplishments for those who never imagined that normalcy could be more than an unachievable wish. Kamm, as much of a proud parent as if they were her own children, says that “it is so rewarding and so positive when my clients ‘fly the nest’ and no longer need help doing these things. I love to see how proud of themselves they become and how they feel like they can accomplish anything!’”

Another benefit from teaching basic life skills happens during “field trips”, such as the one taken to Chicago this past summer to visit the Shedd Aquarium, the zoo, the beach, and a waterpark. “This is a great opportunity to teach them how to budget for special trips, while giving them the experience of seeing new places and doing a fun activity with other clients and their caseworker.” states Kamm. These activities build confidence through camaraderie and trust, while seeing in each other that they are not alone. Building lifelong friendships is a paramount benefit from this important program.

Part II – Derek’s Story
Kamm has worked with many youth over the years, but one such story really sums up the euphoria that she feels when making a direct life changing impact on someone in need…

Derek, a disabled young man,was dumped at a park and lived in a port-a-potty because his family no longer had room for him. He eventually found his way to a homeless shelter and then began working with YSB. Kamm began by helping Derek with simple skills such as making doctor’s appointments, getting groceries, opening a bank account, and applying for jobs. He eventually got his own apartment which he lived in for about 9 months. While living in the apartment he was still struggling to find work that he could do, due to his disability. He was also greatly missing being a part of a family.

Kamm helped Derek apply for disability, which was a long process, but paid off when he finally got it. They then made a visit to Friendship House for a tour. Friendship House is a place in Ottawa that provides housing and work opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Derek loved it! He saw that he could live independently but still have roommates, and most importantly, he could work there and finally accomplish his goals. About a month after their visit he moved into his home at Friendship House and began working there.

It has been over a year and a half now and Derek is happier and doing better than could ever be expected! He was recently promoted at work and is now working within the community a few days a week. Derek still keeps in touch with Kamm and he tells her how lucky he feels to be in a place where he has a sense of family, and how happy he is to have made his great friends through YSB.

Kamm’s advice to all new clients is to “envision your goals, and we will be there to support you and guide you, but not do it for you. Remember, if you put your mind to something, you can do it!”. To those who have completed our program she says “remember all of the resources and strategies that we taught you to help you be successfully independent. We are proud of you and how far you have come, and you should be very proud of yourself!”.

If you would like more information on this vital program, please contact Kelly Shymanski by phone at 815-431-3042, or by e-mail at For more information on YSB and our other programs, please call Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 815-433-3953, or visit us on the web at or on Facebook.

Hope House: Helping Children and Parents Achieve Safety and Balance


Part of the mission of Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley is to incorporate as much stability within troubled families as can be had. It is possible for families that were once torn apart to come together and use their experience to teach others how to survive troubling times.

One such YSB program that promotes family stability and cohesion is Hope House, which provides supervised visitation for children in homes with a history of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, or child abuse. The focus is to keep all parties involved safe.

Hope House has been serving residents in LaSalle County since 2013 when funding was awarded by the LaSalle County 708 Mental Health Board. This program is led by Director of Community Services, Reggi Gerding, and run by Coordinator Trina Funfsinn, who has had over 5 years’ experience as a family advocate, which she states “has been very beneficial” towards her work in this important program.

When parents are going through a divorce or couples go through a separation, tensions run high and often they are unable to reach a visitation agreement. Hope House is here to help. Remaining in contact with an estranged parent is important for the child and the custodial parent. Hope House offers the child emotional support and a place of safety. Trina adds “at Hope House, I am able to assure that a child can have contact with an absent parent without having to be put in the middle of the parents’ conflicts or other problems. It is wonderful to see children happily reunite with a parent in a safe environment.”

Hope House is available through court referral.

If you have more questions about this program or any other program offered at YSB, please contact us by phone at 815-433-3953. You may also contact Trina Funfsinn at extension 4027, or by e-mail at You can also visit us on the web at or find us on Facebook. Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley is located at 424 W. Madison St. in Ottawa, IL.

Pictured is Hope House Coordinator, Trina Funfsinn, with her adorable dog.

The Heart of the YSB Child Development Center Beats Strong


The future of our world resides in the hearts of the young. It is our responsibility to nurture them and teach them respect, responsibility, and caring for others.

Youth Service Bureau’s Child Development Center, formerly known as ‘The Kid’s Place’, has been a safe place for children in the LaSalle/Peru community since 1988. It provides a space for young children ranging in ages from 15 months to 6 years to learn and grow, and to have fun. The instructors encourage and guide the children to be successful through play and creative learning techniques, preparing them for kindergarten and beyond.

Leading the Child Development program is Director Debra Wackerline, a woman who has spent many years of her life dedicated to helping children find joy through knowledge. Debra began her career as a secretary, and soon moved on to teaching children in a YMCA daycare/preschool program, which she did happily for 22 years. After that, she found her way to Youth Service Bureau and has not regretted a moment since.

Debra says that she has the highest quality staff that any director could ask for. “My girls work hard. I prefer to talk to them, not at them, and to foster joy for their work each and every day. They work happily as a team and the Center runs smoothly because of it.” She has an open door policy for all staff, students and parents, and you can often find her at the Center after everyone else has gone home to make sure that everybody’s questions and concerns have been taken care of.

The Child Development Center is licensed by DCFS and the National Council of Accreditation for Children and Family Services. It regularly earns top marks in reviews and has earned the Gold Circle of Quality from ExcelRate Illinois (, the highest rating possible.

Children come from their learning experiences in the Center knowing how to treat others with respect and to approach others with open minds, knowing that each person is different and has something special to offer the world. Local resident Tracee Cole sent her granddaughter, Jadyn, through the Center and has only high praise for them. “She was encouraged to view every person equally, to not judge, and to treat everyone as a friend. Jadyn still talks about her teachers and friends at the Child Development Center.” Her granddaughter has now moved on to grade school where she is a flourishing and happy straight A student.

The Center is open from Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and welcomes anyone interested in getting a head start for their child to come in and look around.

For more information on our Child Development Center, please visit, or the Center’s webpage: Also, you can find the Child Development Center on Facebook for updates, news and photos. You can also contact Debra at 815-224-4244, or stop in for a visit at 901 Grant Ave. in LaSalle, IL.

YSB’s Parenting Program, From a Staff Perspective


Youth Service Bureau’s successful Parenting program has been running in the Rockford and Freeport areas for many years, originally through Catholic Charities and then through YSB starting in 2011. Through this program, families are kept together and changed for the better by teaching parents how to listen to and love their children without resorting to verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. Featured here are some of the staff members at YSB who help to change these lives for the better.

Elaine Gaither is the Parenting Coordinator for the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley and she is also a Certified Parent Educator with formal education in Child Development. She is also a Parent Education Instructor in the Outreach Service Department at Rock Valley College where she teaches Parents Education and Life Skills for Teen Parents. Ms. Gaither previously was a Crisis Intervention Specialist for Illinois Crisis Intervention Services through the Rockford Police Department for 10 years. She is known throughout this region for having some of the largest groups for mainly court-ordered adults and effectively capturing their hearts that they desire to change their behavior to become better parents. Ms. Gaither has over 30 years of Parenting Education and social services experience.

Elaine was touched very deeply by seeing and working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect. Elaine saw herself as an advocate for these children, hoping to alleviate their pain and suffering. It became clear to her that her spiritual calling was to give these children’s pain a voice by working with their parents to give them the tools to be able to grow as parents, thereby helping to reduce the risk of abuse and neglect in families, and strengthen our communities.

Lee Hicks, Jr. is a Parent Educator for the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley. Mr. Hicks has a M.S. Ed. In Counseling. His educational preparation was in Individual and Group Counseling, with an emphasis in working with African American men. Prior to joining YSB, Mr. Hicks was employed for 12 years at the Rockford Health Systems, Employee Assistance Program, as a Counselor and a Training Specialist, and after that for a number of years at Catholic Charities. He has 28 plus years working with children, adults, and families in crisis. Lee believes that promoting strong unified families and communities can best be accomplished by helping to develop both an individual’s professional and spiritual growth.

In 2005 Lee was spiritually led to work in the agency’s M.I.S.T.E.R. Fatherhood Program. The agency recognized the need for a program that would promote the stability of the African American family. Lee believes that his Heavenly Father has prepared him to do this kind of work. We believe this program helps to address some of the immediate needs in the African American family. Our agency does this by providing African American males with the tools and services needed to enable them to recognize their vital role as head of the family unit while maintaining their dignity and respect. Lee believes that this “blessing” has also led him to the work that he is also doing in the Traditional Parenting Program, which works with all genders, ethnicities and religions.

Sarah Holsinger has 15 years of social service and child care experience. Sarah believes that her purpose in working with the Parenting Program is to help provide the parents who utilize this program with the tools that they need to be able to raise healthy families. Sarah feels that her many years of experience is instrumental in helping those parents to acquire and to develop those “tools”, and in nurturing positive parenting roles.

Elaine Gaither conducts a Parenting Class in Rockford

YSB Hires New Director at the Child Development Center


The Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley announces a change in leadership at the YSBIV Child Development Center. We are pleased to welcome Debra Wackerline as the new director of the center aided by Linda Janusick who has accepted the position of assistant director. Both staff have over 20 years of experience working with children and creating a child care setting that offers the highest quality of care.

Debra is very excited for her new position as Director of the Child Development Center. She looks forward to working with families and children and to continue the quality care they receive at our Day Care Center. She states that “my door will always be open to parent’s with questions, or concerns, about their children as the care and teaching of the children attending our center is very important to me.”

The YSBIV Child Development Center has received the highest quality ranking through ExceleRate Illinois. The Gold Circle of Quality recognizes programs which have demonstrated quality on all fifteen standards, as validated by a state approved assessor. Gold Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment, instructional quality, and all program administrative standards; group size and staff/child ratios; staff qualifications; and professional development. In addition, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley has recently been reaccredited through the Council on Accreditation (COA). The COA recognized the agency for not receiving any “non-compliance” practice standards as an “amazing achievement”. Being accredited and reaccredited is a very involved, time-consuming, and sometimes difficult process. This is an achievement attained by very few agencies and something that all staff work very hard to maintain.

Reggi Riley, Coordinator of Community Services, says about the Child Development Center: “We are fortunate to have an amazing staff that are all focused on the most important function of the center, which is teaching children to grow and develop in positive ways. Our doors are open to new families who want to be a part of our family.”

The role of each teacher at YSBCDC is to work as a team member helping students develop key life skills in a safe and healthy environment. Teachers are responsible for providing the type of guidance and atmosphere needed for successful learning in the program. CDC teachers are dedicated to providing an environment that is warm and nurturing to meet the individual needs of each child. They are positive role models that provide a purposeful program for the students, who in turn, help your child develop to his or her full capacity. CDC teachers are trained to advance the intellectual and physical competence of each child while supporting his/her social and emotional development.

The Child Development Center is located at 901 Grant St. in La Salle, IL. If you would like more information on enrollment, please give Debra a call at 815-224-4244, or e-mail her at You can also find more information on the Child Development Center, as well as other YSBIV’s programs, including Solutions Counseling, on our website at

Solutions Counseling Offers Intensive Outpatient and Mental Health Therapy Treatment


Youth Service Bureau offers programs which address a variety of social issues ranging from court mandated Parenting classes, helping Runaway and Homeless youth, and Foster Care. We also offer counseling and treatment services through ‘Solutions Counseling’ for anybody desiring to talk to someone for a variety of issues including depression, anger, anxiety, grief, parenting, marriage, loss, abuse & neglect and many others.

Our therapists in ‘Solutions Counseling’ are all Master Level Clinicians and most are either Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors or Licensed Clinical Social Workers. All clinicians have experience in dealing with a variety of issues as stated above. If we do not feel that we can provide assistance for a particular issue, we will redirect the client to outside services that could assist them.

One of our therapists is 30-year-old Aaron Barajas. Aaron received his M.A. in clinical professional psychology from Roosevelt University in Chicago. His time spent in Chicago has provided him a unique perspective on the human process, especially when combined with his experience from living in the Illinois Valley for the majority of his life. He has been with YSB since November of 2014.

Aaron typically utilizes rational emotive behavior therapy techniques when meeting with adolescents and adults. When seeing younger children, he feels it is best to approach them from a client-centered stance with elements of play therapy. He also feels that counseling can be beneficial to just about anyone as long as they are willing to be engaged. He states: “It would be great to see more people utilize mental health services provided through the Youth Service Bureau for talking through their problems and working together to find a solution. This is one of the best ways to make improvements in one’s life.”

The frequency of participation is entirely up to each person. Our assigned therapist’s will make a recommendation of how often they feel you should come to receive maximum benefit from services but ultimately it is each client’s decision. The first session is an hour in order to complete the intake process. The duration of each session thereafter will be recommended by the therapist with the client ultimately deciding if they would like the sessions to be 30 minutes or 60 minutes.

YSB therapist’s will see clients from as young as age 3 to adults. If a referral is received for a 3-year old, it will be determined if they are verbal enough to be able to benefit from services.

Clinicians are primarily available Monday-Friday and do schedule evening appointments throughout the week. There are no set hours but generally the last client seen on any given day would be a 7 p.m. appointment. Youth Service Bureau currently has offices for treatment and counseling in Ottawa, Streator, LaSalle and Princeton.

We accept all major medical insurance. We do not accept the medical card but do offer a self-pay option with a sliding scale based on income and number of dependents in the home.

If you or someone you know would like more information regarding treatment and counseling, and would like to learn more about ‘Solutions Counseling’, please call our main office number at 815-433-3953 between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visit us on the web at, e-mail us at, or visit us on Facebook.

Pictured is Solutions Counseling Therapist, Aaron Barajas

Children Explore, Learn, and Grow at the YSB Child Development Center


“Helping young people and families succeed by serving them in their home, school and community”

The Youth Service Bureau began its journey back in the early 1970’s as a recreation program for the YMCA’s in Streator, LaSalle, and Ottawa. The staff were young, energetic para-professionals who would supervise creative group activities for large numbers of at-risk adolescents. YSBIV’s mission was two-fold: to provide positive activities for young people and to serve as an information and referral agent for youth requiring more intensive services.

Our mission in “helping young people and families succeed by serving them in their home, school and community” has stayed the same, and as time passed and YSBIV grew to include programs such as Foster Care, Treatment, and Community Services, the agency was able to take on and expand the Day Care Center in LaSalle-Peru. This important program was at risk of being lost to the community when the YMCA was unable to continue providing this service, so at the urging of the local United Way, YSBIV applied for and received its Day Care License. The Child Development Center, formerly called The Kids’ Place, opened with uninterrupted service on April 1, 1988.

The Child Development Center has continued successfully to this current day by offering Pre-K, Early Preschool, and Preschool classes to families in the La Salle/Peru area. Open year round, the Center serves approximately 100 children. They learn through fun activities revolving around monthly seasonal themes which teach them basic skills and prepare them for kindergarten and beyond.

The Day Care is wonderful for parents and guardians who work as well. Knowing that their child is safe, and being well cared for brings them great comfort and peace of mind.

Leading the activities at the Center is Daycare Director, Karan Player. Karan considers the work at the Daycare to be “the foundation of education”. Parent and guardian involvement in their child’s learning experience is extremely important. All of the fun activities that are learned during the day can be taken home for a shared learning experience between the child and their parent or guardian in the evening. She says that “watching [the children] grow and partnering with their parents during the early learning years is the most rewarding aspect of working with the children”.

After a solid foundation of learning in their formative years, some of the children grow up to send their own children back through the Day Care. Karan states that “the biggest thank you we get is watching a child succeed during their education years and beyond. Some of my students have brought their own children to the center.”

YSBIV would like to thank everyone involved at the Child Development Center for creating a solid, healthy learning environment for the children of our community. This solid foundation helps the children to maintain a stable learning environment as they go through grade school, high school, and beyond.

For more information on the YSB Child Development Center, visit their Facebook page dedicated to showing off daily life at the Center, including photos of the children at play, outstanding achievements by the staff, upcoming events, and general news items. If you would like to contact Karan, she can be reached at 815-224-4244, or by e-mail at Also, please visit the CDC Facebook page at:

If you would like to make a donation to Youth Service Bureau, you can do so directly online at

Providing Support for Endangered Runaway & Homeless Youth


For 40 years, Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley has created programs that have helped endangered youth throughout our communities to find a way back into a productive, healthy environment and life. One such program for those in immediate and desperate need is the Runaway and Homeless Youth Counseling Program. When a child is left to the streets (or in danger of being on the streets) they feel that, not only do they have nowhere to go, but that they also have no one to talk to. Youth Service Bureau can and will be there to help pull a youth up from the onset of depression that comes from being homeless.

Stacey is one such youth who desperately needed our help. She started with the Runaway and Homeless Youth program when she was 15. Her mother and father were both alcoholics. Stacey struggled in school and had very few friends. Her home life was very depressing and both of her parents were on a collision course with self-destruction. She bonded quickly with her case worker. It was so nice to have an adult to talk to that could listen to her and understand what she was feeling. She set goals with her worker and accomplished them all. The case was closed as successful for six months.

Two months later the case was referred again due to the same issues. The worker met with Stacey and it was clear that she needed the extra support that the worker provided. Over the next two years, Stacey remained an open client. If she was doing well, the worker would only see her once a month, but when she was struggling, she would see her weekly. During the two years, Stacey’s mother died of alcoholism and her father is barely able to take care of himself. She graduated from high school and has since moved in with a relative who is devoted to making sure that Stacey goes to college and gets her CNA certificate.

Even though Stacey is now 18, her worker continues to stay in touch.

Although nothing stands out as remarkable in this case, having watched it over these past few years we know that the remarkable part is the worker’s continued belief that Stacey could make it if she had someone who cared for her.

If you know of someone in trouble who needs the help that Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley can provide, please contact us at 815-433-3953.

Pictured is our Runaway and Homeless Counseling Program Staff.
Left to Right: Kirby Gustafson, Reggi Gerding (Director), Diana Beams, Denise Rick-Lupascu, Kim Quick, and Jeff Highsmith (inset)

YSB Redeploy/Second Chance Program Gives Hope to Struggling Families


At the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley, we provide many programs that are designed to help children and families succeed in life. One such program is called “Second Chance”, which provides services to youth who would otherwise be removed from their home and community due to high-risk, unmanageable behavior. These adolescents have demonstrated significant emotional concerns which may include mental health and trauma.

“Second Chance” utilizes the “Parenting with Love and Limits” (PLL) model which involves the entire family so as to make positive lasting changes in the functioning of the family.

Lewis and his family are one such success story. He was adopted as a young boy by a childless couple. The family had previously adopted three other children through the foster care system. Lewis was referred to the Second Chance program by his Probation Officer because his parents reported he had stolen money from them, did not observe his curfew, and had attempted to pawn his brother’s bicycle. They insisted criminal charges be filed against their son.

The Second Chance team at Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley began to work with Lewis and his family, immediately enrolling them in the next Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL) Cohort. The entire family began weekly group therapy and the team also met with them in their home every Wednesday evening, as well as individual sessions with Lewis. The team learned that while Lewis’ adoption had been a “Subsidized Adoption” (an adoption with medical assistance and other payments provided for on a monthly basis until the child is 18, or even 21) through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), he was not allotted any of that subsidy for himself. Lewis had wanted to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities his whole school career, but had been told by his parents that he had to find a way to pay for those expenses himself. Consequently, Lewis was not able to participate in most of the activities he so deeply wished to.

Lewis’ mother shared with our team that she suffered from anxiety and was not able to address conflict and stress. She acknowledged that she would ignore issues with her four sons until they were intolerable, then she would “explode” and bring her husband, who was at work a great deal of the time, into the conflict. The boys would then receive a consequence for arguing with their mother that was severe and unrelated to the infraction. These included being grounded for many weeks at a time and not being allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities that the boys had paid for. The boys would then be dismissed from the various teams because they missed so many practices.

Lewis admitted that he had taken the money to pay for football fees so he could participate his junior year. He had detasseled corn every summer since entering 8th grade to earn money to play football. His parents had confiscated the $800 he had earned to pay for car insurance, claiming that it had significantly increased because of him, but they had not allowed Lewis to even take Driver’s Education yet or ever drive any of their cars. Lewis was extremely angry with and resentful of his parents. He had begun to not come home until late and was not adhereing to their rules.

Our Second Chance team worked diligently to address the numerous issues within their home. They taught the parents skills to utilize in raising teenagers and how to avert the tremendous conflicts. The team intervened on the boys’ behalf to budget money that was intended to be utilized for their needs. Initially the parents stated, “Well we gotta do what’s good for us. What about our needs?” when approached about the subsidies. With encouragement the parents began to support their sons in their activities. The family has thanked the Second Chance team for its support and education. The father stated, with tears in his eyes, “We had no idea how to parent. We were trying to do our best. Thanks for saving our family.”

Pictured below is our Redeploy/Second Chance Staff.
Left to Right: Roger Miskell, Sarah Price, Lauren Data, Loni Meyer, Cindy Robinson, Jill Conrad, Jordan Jackson
Not Pictured: Megan Martin

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