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The Center for Youth and Family Solutions responds to Illinois policy changes

March 2013

When policy shifts in a state, so does the compliance of every service provider. When the state of Illinois passed a law recognizing civil unions including those of same sex couples, a shift occurred. Each agency provider measured their doctrine and philosophy against the legal change.

A pivotal example of how state policy changes affect practice in social services is the Center for Youth and Family Solutions. This brand-new agency quickly formed in response to the legal changes in Illinois.

Catholic Charities of Peoria recognized the conflict between religious doctrine and social service. In response, they let go of their foster care and other services to allow an independent agency to form the Center for Youth and Family Solutions (CYFS). The creation of this agency ensured that all foster children regardless of personal identity had a seamless transition to supervision by another agency, irrespective of the diversity of foster parents. The new agency of CYFS complies with the new state mandate and upholds the rights of foster children, families, and other stakeholders –a perfect example of client-centered, socially-just practice that adapts to policy change.

The Center for Youth and Family Solutions ensures continuity for children in foster care and actualizes the new state policy legalizing domestic unions. The Center is committed to respecting the human rights of all stake-holders including children, families, and staff. From the moment of its conception in March 2012, the agency has become the largest private, not-for-profit social service agency in Illinois. Serving thousands of families in more than 37 counties, the Center's mission is to serve children and families in need with dignity, compassion, and respect.

Michael O'Melia, a St. Ambrose University MSW professor, has been involved from the start as an agency board member. O'Melia worked previously as a consultant in foster care for Catholic Charities and recognized how the agency has always worked to provide the best care for its clients.

"I'm very impressed with the transition," O'Melia said. "It's been smooth with brilliant agency leadership and staff cooperation to move the agency forward while ensuring that it remains client-friendly and effective."

O'Melia said his membership on the board is oriented toward social justice and exemplifies how social change can improve people's lives. He believes that the new agency recognizes the rights of all people and liberates clients and staff alike. An experienced and ethical staff drive the philosophy of CYFS.

"Workers are competent, and go above and beyond," O'Melia said, and St. Ambrose has been part of the reason; several of the agency staff are alumni of the St. Ambrose MSW Program

It's stimulating to help structure the agency and consult on agency material, he added. "It's exciting to see the easy transition and quick progression toward social justice since the Center started."

Overall, O'Melia is very impressed with the Center for Youth and Family Solutions and is thrilled to be serving on the board.

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