Willowstone Family Services has been serving the residents of Tippecanoe and its surrounding counties for over 50 years. Originally known as the Family Services Agency of Tippecanoe County, it began in 1964 after the United Way and the Mental Health Association conducted a community needs assessment. There was a pressing demand for effective Community Planning and advocacy for the needs of families, as well as coordinated professional assistance (“casework"), counseling services, and referrals that would assist families of all income levels to gain the skills to carry them throughout life. The agency was incorporated in 1975 and changed its name to Family Services, Inc. to reflect expansion of some programs into Montgomery and White counties. In 2015, we became Willowstone Family Services. Throughout our history, our organization was often confused with a state funded agency such as the Department of Child Services (DCS) or the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Our rebranding was designed to eliminate this confusion and distinguish ourselves as a private non-profit organization that offers services to all members of our community.
Our organization began on the second floor of Lafayette's First Federal Savings and Loan building (now Huntington Bank) under the leadership of Norm Johnson. In 1965, Lillian Kaplan replaced Johnson as executive director; and in 1966, the agency moved to 515 Columbia Street.
Mental health and relationship counseling was the primary focus of our programs during the first years. In the 70's and 80's, we added Homecare Services, Family Self-Sufficiency, Child Abuse prevention, and Adult Protective Services.
In 1979, Family Services moved to the first floor of the Fowler Apartment Building located at 225 North 4th Street. In 1980, we began providing homemaker services to Montgomery County. In 1983, Family Services opened a White County office, and would add a Healthy Families office in Carroll County in the 90's. Because of changing community needs, and reduced funding, the White and Carroll County offices have since been closed, however, services continue in those counties.
In 1984, Susan Smith became President and CEO. In 1988, the non-profit corporation Family Asset Management, Inc. (FAMI) was formed to own and manage the facility for Family Services, Inc. at 731 Main Street in Lafayette. They would continue to do so through the year 2008.
In the 90's, we added Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Personal Financial Counseling for Employees, Families and Schools Together, Dads Make a Difference, and Healthy Families. Consumer Credit Counseling Service provided certified credit and financial counselors. Personal and Financial Counseling for Employees provided Employee Assistance Programs and CCCS to businesses who contract for these services. Families and Schools Together (FAST) was a school-based substance abuse and delinquency prevention program. Dads Make a Difference was a program created for non-custodial fathers. Finally, Healthy Families provided parenting and community resource information to every parent who delivered a child in Tippecanoe and Carroll counties. During this decade, we also developed Wheels to Work which was a program that took in donated vehicles, repaired them, and sold them to low-income families via no-interest loans. We also agreed to administer the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program for the state of Indiana. This program helped families make informed decisions and respond to concerns about quality of care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
As we entered the 21st century, we expanded our Family Life Education programs to include tobacco-cessation programming for adults and teens. We added the nationally-recognized Parents as Teachers curriculum to the service delivery model utilized by our Healthy Families program. We also started a new program of Adult Guardianship and Advocacy designed to address the critical health care, social service, and legal needs of ill and at-risk incapacitated adults. In addition, we sponsored the Family Self Sufficiency Program from 2001-2009.
On May 1, 2007, we moved into a brand new multi-agency facility funded by North Central Health Services. The Howarth Center, at 615 N 18th Street, houses a number of not-for-profit agencies and has provided a wonderful home for Family Services, Inc. In June of 2008, Susan Smith stepped down from her 24-year role as CEO, and the Board of Directors named Director of Client Services Tari Alper, Ph.D. LMHC, Director of Finance and Administration Tony Johnson, and Coordinator for Special Events and Fundraising Mike Warner to lead the agency. Over the next two years, this "Management Team" implemented a number of Mission- and Vision-driven initiatives throughout the agency that strengthened its core programs and brought about much greater financial stability. In June, 2010, the Board of Directors appointed Sally Byrn to fill the role of Interim CEO, with the intent of hiring a permanent CEO by February, 2012. Rebecca Sullivan, LCSW, became the new CEO in March of 2012.
The original goal of Family Services – strengthening individuals and families across the lifespan - has remained unchanged since we opened our doors in 1964. We realize that in order to remain organizationally and financially strong, we have had to adapt to an ever-changing community. Changes in public policy, sustainable funding sources, and other factors have necessitated the discontinuance of a number of programs and services over the years. However, our core mission of strengthening families remains intact with programs that serve individuals and families in our community throughout their lives. Our intent is to provide needed services to the people of our community for many generations to come!