The Central Illinois hub of Children’s Home & Aid has a new regional site director.
Mendy Smith started working at the Bloomington facility in 1998 as an infant teacher. That was when the local chapter was known as the Children’s Foundation.
Children’s Home & Aid provides services across Central Illinois to over 3,000 at risk children and families.
Though Smith said she still has days where she wants to go hold babies, her role now is much different. She works directly with the Children’s Home & Aid state office to find ways to better serve families and advocate for quality services.
“That's what's the great thing about this role is no matter if I'm here, or in one of the small offices off campus, or up in Chicago working with our state office, the vision is still the same," Smith said.
Smith noted a growth in services since she started over 20 years ago. What was initially a Bloomington-centric initiative, Children’s Home & Aid services now stretch into the rural communities of McLean County and beyond.
“I think the biggest thing has been that the way that we used to see certain services such as prevention services and early childhood education,” Smith said. “Those have developed into something that's much more robust and much more serving the whole family with the idea of getting children and families set up for success.”
One service expansion Smith said she is most proud of is the partnering of parent support groups and home visiting services.
“Home visiting services and parent support groups both have this basic need to strengthen families to provide these protective factors which help reduce child abuse and neglect," she said.
She said those services allow for care and education within the home setting, where families are most comfortable and where parenting is natural.
Though Children’s Home & Aid struggled alongside many other nonprofits when the state had no budget, causing limited funded programs and turnover, Smith said the regional Children’s Home & Aid still persevered and kept doors open.
“And during all that, (we were) still being innovative and collaborating with new partners,” Smith said. “It's been really exciting to see how in the darkest of times, we've come up with some of our most successful solutions to helping serve families.”
Smith credits the staff at Children’s Home & Aid and the local community for providing support during the tough times. The organization relies heavily on community volunteers. Smith said they are always looking for community members to assist with infant care, education, and even campus projects like landscaping and painting.
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