Lutheran Social Services Engages in Statewide Collaborative Pilot for High-Needs Youth
Written by Heather Yaeger, LSS Regional Director
Wisconsin Residential Care Center (RCC) capacity has decreased by 32% since 2014, forcing more than 250 youth from 46 counties to receive services out of state. Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan (LSS) is fortunate to be a member of the Wisconsin Association of Family & Children’s Agencies (WAFCA), where we have opportunities to advocate and collaborate with the county, state and provider agencies to increase our impact.
We know children are served best when family connections are maintained and those that know them the best are nearby. We also have experienced that no provider or agency in Wisconsin successfully assists families by themselves.
“Children suffering from trauma or struggling with a mental health condition or disability need compassionate care as close to home as possible,” said Emily Coddington, Associate Director for WAFCA. “We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for all involved – placing agencies, children and families, and service providers alike – and also believe the children we are trying to serve through this pilot deserve nothing less than our collective best efforts. We can each make a difference in the life of a child if we all commit to being part of the solution.”
LSS joined WAFCA’s newly formed pilot strategy, Resource Connection Sessions, in response to rising client numbers and needs. WAFCA initiated the pilot in April, which seeks to engage system consultant expertise and representation from the entire continuum of care in Wisconsin, helping locate in-state treatment and services for children and families.
I believe the providers on the calls, such as LSS, hear firsthand the pressures our county partners are under and the limited resources and services they have. It has given us a chance to think out of the box and be creative in service provision. We take what we learn through these sessions and then strategically plan how we want to meet this need in the future.
This collective agency think tank is innovative and one example of how LSS and Wisconsin are adapting to meet families in the community. I sincerely thank the counties we have heard from thus far for openly sharing the needs regarding specific cases. LSS recognizes that change takes time, but we aren’t going to shy away from it just because it is difficult.
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LSS on WTMJ: Watching, Preparing for Ukraine Refugees
West Allis, WI – As Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS) resettled around 200 Afghan evacuees in the past six months, many now wonder about Ukraine refugees coming to the United States. With Russia invading its neighboring country, Ukrainians have fled and could seek assistance in America. The LSS Refugee Resettlement team is always collecting supplies, speaking with volunteers and preparing for the next wave of refugees – whenever that may happen.
“I think it’s important for people to understand that refugee resettlement isn’t an immediate response to crisis,” Mary Flynn told AM620 WTMJ radio in this recent interview. “Obviously for the Ukrainians, the first choice would be for people to return home.”
You can hear the whole interview below with Flynn, Program Manager for the LSS Refugee Resettlement program:
Journal Sentinel Offers Insight Into LSS’ Emotional Support of Afghan Refugees
West Allis, WI – For the refugee resettlement team at Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS), the mission goes beyond supplying housing, supplies and resources. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel shared recently, Afghan refugees seek relief from trauma, stress and uncertainty. Mary Flynn, Manager for the LSS Refugee Resettlement Program, described an emotional exchange with one refugee.
“She took me by the hand and she pulled me close, and she gave me just the deepest, strongest, most emotional hug.”
To help supply Afghan evacuees with essential needs and basic support, LSS enlists local groups as co-sponsors. These groups, often connected with churches of various denominations, assist in finding and furnishing housing, driving refugees to appointments, and helping cover a variety of costs during their transition and resettlement period.
“It absolutely is a tremendous help,” Flynn said. “We could not have done the work that we’ve done in the past few months without these co-sponsor groups,” Flynn said.
To read the full story in the Journal Sentinel, click on the image below:
PBS Wisconsin: LSS Part of Providing Refugees “all the things they need”
West Allis, WI – Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS) continues to welcome in Afghan and other refugees into Wisconsin to provide housing and additional support. In this PBS Wisconsin TV story, Sher Khan, who evacuated from Kabul with his wife and children in 2021 had this to say:
“Bringing this amount of people from one side of the world to the other side of the world and giving them all they things they need, that is just beyond my imagination. I mean, sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming. Whatever we receive here, we are thankful for.”
While LSS has been able to house over around 150 refugees in the past few months, affordable housing and financial support to get these families on their feet continue to be the biggest hurdles. LSS and the other agencies are grateful for the help received from the local communities throughout the state.
To hear more from Sher Khan, LSS Refugee Program Manager Mary Flynn, and more, please watch the original PBS Wisconsin TV news story below:
Local Agency LSS Assists Afghan Refugees (CBS News Story)
West Allis, WI – Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS) is preparing to serve as many Afghan refugees as possible as they make their way from Fort McCoy into various cities across Wisconsin. CBS 58 News in Milwaukee has been covering the story and spoke with Mary Flynn, Program Director for LSS Refugee Resettlement, about what can be expected.
With many refugees escaping from war and violence, they will need time and assistance when it comes to adjusting to their new lives in the United States. While the individuals and families will certainly need basic essentials for everyday health and safety, it goes beyond that when LSS steps in to help.
“They’re going to be a very traumatized group of people…and they’re going to require some extra TLC,” Flynn said. “We know that the community is going to step up and help us with that.”
Watch the original TV news story below:
LSS Helping Afghan Refugees (Fox 6 News Story)
West Allis, WI – As tens of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan begin their journey to the United States, Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS) has been preparing to serve those who may settle in Wisconsin. Fox 6 News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin covered the story and spoke with Héctor Colón, President and CEO of LSS.
Though the individuals and families fleeing war will first stop at Fort McCoy, many will end up in different parts of the state where LSS can support them. LSS helps to get the refugees on their feet and moving forward toward true independence.
“We connect them to all of the resources that will help them be as independent and self-sufficient as possible,” Colón said. “We help these individuals come to Wisconsin, to our country, because they’re fleeing from war and persecution.”
You can watch the full news story below:
Héctor Colón Appointed to Nicolet Bankshares, Inc. Board of Directors
The holding company for Nicolet National Bank confirmed its appointment of Héctor Colón to its Board of Directors.
Nicolet Bankshares, Inc. sent out a July 20 press release announcing the addition of Colón, the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan.
According to Bob Atwell, Executive Chairman of Nicolet, “Héctor is a great addition to our board. He brings a strong track record of organizational leadership in the governmental, educational and not-for-profit sectors.”
Click the link below to read the full press release and learn more:
LSS Foster Care Going Strong, Needs Loving Parents
Eau Claire, WI – There are more than 5,000 foster kids needing a home in Wisconsin, and Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin & Upper Michigan (LSS) is doing everything they can to provide loving parents across the state through foster care.
WEAU 13 in Eau Claire recently ran a TV news story featuring LSS Foster Care by speaking with Alissa and Art Broughton, foster parents who themselves were raised in a foster care system. The Broughtons have fostered children for 15 years and understand the vital need for willing parents, especially in Wisconsin where the number of children in need far outweigh the available homes that are available.
Many people are unsure if they can handle being a foster parent, but Alissa says in the story, “It’s not as scary as it sounds. And the paper work looks like a lot and the classes look like a lot, but when it comes down to it, it really is just for the children.”
Heather Yeager, Regional Director of LSS, told WEAU 13 that they receive referrals on a daily basis for foster care, but there just aren’t enough homes right now to place children. Yaeger added, “We have kids from all dimensions of diversity, we need foster homes that are divers to work with the children, too.”
You can click the link below to watch the news story and see the wonderful benefits of becoming a foster parent. There are thousands of wonderful children in need of homes and they all have a unique story.
If you have interest in becoming a foster parent or just want to get some information, contact LSS at 888-746-2850 and they will be happy to give you all the details you need and even walk you through the process.