Since joining The Children’s Foundation as president & CEO in early January, I have spent most of my time listening and learning – from our staff, our Trustees, our donors, and, most importantly, leaders in the community who are working with kids every day.
A question I have received often is: what can we expect from The Foundation moving forward?
My answer is always the same.
You can expect that we will continue to be stewards of the philanthropic funds with which we have been entrusted. We have more than 400 unique funds at The Foundation, created by donors who care about kids in our community and partner with us in their giving.
You can expect that we will seek to lift the voice of those we serve and address the systemic barriers that create health disparities in our region, state, and country.
Finally, above all, you can expect The Foundation to lead with a focus on impact and putting the needs of children first.
To that end, we recently embarked on a process to refine our strategy over the next several years. I look forward to sharing updates with you over the coming months.
In the meantime, as many of you may know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Youth mental health is an area that has long been a priority of The Foundation. Working in public schools in Detroit and Washington, DC for the past 14 years, I saw firsthand how great the needs are – and how the pandemic has only exacerbated these needs. The opportunity to tackle this problem on a larger scale was one the biggest reasons I was interested in joining The Children’s Foundation.
New articles and research come out daily about the mental health crisis facing youth in our country. This problem can feel overwhelming, but at The Children’s Foundation, we get the privilege of coming to work every day, thinking about solutions to complex problems affecting kids in our community.
When we begin to break down a problem as complex as youth mental health, we begin to see that this is addressable by making smart investments to target gaps that exist. A few of the investments we have recently made include:
- Convening and fostering collaboration among professionals in the field. On April 4, we hosted our annual Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Summit. More than 200 professionals came together for a day of learning, networking, and problem solving. Educational tracks included Substance Use Disorder Prevention & Recovery, Trauma & Crisis, and Challenges for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities.
- Building a pipeline of talent in Michigan. This month, we will be awarding Behavioral Health Scholarships for students in Michigan pursuing a doctoral degree in a mental health field, specifically with an intent to study at a practice that will serve children and adolescents in behavioral health. A recent study finds that more than four million Michiganders live in communities with a shortage of mental health professionals, ranking fifth worst in the nation; these scholarships help increase the pipeline of professionals in the field.
- Investing in community partners that provide programs, resources, and solutions that address the ongoing substance use disorder crisis. This includes funding for nine collegiate recovery programs throughout Michigan and opening the Adolescent Addiction Recovery Center – an outpatient-based clinic focused solely on adolescents struggling with substance abuse and mental health challenges, regardless of their ability to pay.
- Leveraging our connection to Children’s Hospital of Michigan, by supporting The Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (GPAM) at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Integrated Behavioral Health Program. This program provides comprehensive, fully integrated care that allows medical and behavioral health services to work together to meet the unique needs specifically of GPAM patients. The program has a proud 20-year history in developing and providing high quality integrated behavioral health care to patients at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and continues to expand and improve services to meet an ever-growing need.
There is still a lot of work to be done. I look forward to the road ahead, as we continue to invest in community-based organizations and projects that make the greatest impact on the lives of young people. If you share this passion, my ask of you is simple: join us to make a difference, today and for generations to come. I encourage you to stay connected by engaging with us on social media, setting up a meeting with me, or helping advance our efforts through your philanthropy.
For me, this work is deeply personal. Southeast Michigan is home. It is where I grew up and where my wife and I are raising our three children. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with each of you to improve the lives of children today and into the future.
President & CEO
The Children’s Foundation