Spero Family Services, Foster Care Program celebrated exceeding their goal of achieving permanency for specialized foster youth in FY23. The team was recognized by Associate Deputy Director Deborah Kennedy and her team. During FY23, Spero’s Foster Care Program surpassed DCFS’s goal for placing children in adopted homes, with guardianships or returning the children home. Specialized Foster Care services for youth with mental health/behavioral special needs and/ or medical/developmental special needs.
Spero’s Foster Care Program received a program expansion from the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) to serve Home of Relative cases. Home of Relative Foster Care serves children placed in a licensed relative’s home due to experiencing abuse, neglect, dependence, or needing an out-of-home placement. “Spero has been given the opportunity to expand our Foster Care program. We have been serving Jefferson County and surrounding areas for many years and look forward to being able to support more children and families in our community! I truly believe that we wouldn’t be able to do our work without our foster parents’ continued dedication, says Elizabeth Carson, Adoption and Permanency Specialist.
Spero Family Services Foster Care Program is located on the 3rd Floor of The Mt. Vernon Innovation Hub located at 123 S. 10th Street.
When it comes to the perfect summer combination, nothing beats the warm sun, cool water, and the company of great people. This was the scene at the recent pool party hosted by the Parents As Teachers Program at the Mt. Vernon Aquatic Zoo. This joyous event brought together the program’s clients and their families for a day filled with laughter, sweet treats, water play, and a well-deserved cool-down from the summer heat. The success of this event would not have been possible without the invaluable support of Cornerstone United Methodist Church Centralia, whose transportation assistance ensured that everyone could enjoy this special day. The Parents As Teachers Program understands the importance of creating memorable experiences for families, and the pool party perfectly exemplified this belief. The event brought parents, children, and caregivers together for a day of laughter and bonding. As the little ones joyfully splashed and played in the water, parents and caregivers had the opportunity to relax, unwind, and connect with others facing similar parenting journeys. The pool party provided a much-needed break from the daily routine and a chance for families to create lasting memories in a safe and inclusive environment.
Spero Professional Development is now offering Adult Mental Health First Aid training. Mental Health First Aid is a national certification program providing skills-based training to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health or substance use challenges that many people in all different walks of life would benefit from.
Most of us would know how to help if we saw someone having a heart attack—we’d start CPR, or at the very least, call 9-1-1. But too few of us would know how to respond if we saw someone having a panic attack or were concerned that a friend or co-worker might be showing signs of alcoholism. Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder.
“This training would benefit county employees at all levels, including elected officials and county staff, human resources and benefits partners, front-line managers, law enforcement, corrections officers, fire and EMS services, teachers, administrators and I could go on”, says Kari Docherty, Spero Training Coordinator. “Unlike physical conditions, symptoms of mental health and substance use problems can be difficult to detect. Friends and family members may find it hard to know when and how to step in. As a result, those in need of mental health services often do not receive care until it is too late. Having this knowledge can help us take the necessary steps to help others and work to make our community a safe one”
To learn more about Mental Health First Aid Training, visit mentalhealthfirstaid.org/about. For pricing information or to schedule a training please call 618-242-1070 ext. 1259 or visit
Imagine it is your 12th birthday but instead of presents, a homemade cake, and a day of love you are greeted with trash bags to put your few but treasured items in. This is Michael’s story. A bright-eyed 12-year-old boy who loved Pokémon and Legos arrived on the Spero campus with a story that would break the heart of any seasoned social worker. Michael lived with us for over 5 years. He struggled with PTSD from the trauma that was forced upon him by the people who were supposed to love him most–his parents. He struggled to make friends and he continually destroyed things. He never hurt anyone instead, he chose to take his aggression out on the things in his room. His door was constantly being replaced because it was most frequently the target of his aggression. The hope for Michael was that eventually, he could step down after treatment in residential care to a foster home. He met with foster parents many times but after reading of his trauma and aggression, he was never the right fit for a family. It was a few months before Michael’s 18th birthday. He had made progress in therapy and had fewer outbursts of aggression. He had given up all hope on a Foster placement and instead was preparing to move to a Transitional Living Program. That was until John, an older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair, glasses and a limp in his stride pulled up to campus. He and his wife were new foster parents. When he met with the treatment team he asked to meet the child who had been here the longest. He knew from his time growing up in a group home in the 60’s that there was one child who was always left behind. He met with Michael and watched as he played Legos and attempted to seem interested when Michael explained every Pokémon card he owned. After an hour together it was decided Michael would have a new home and family! Visits took place over the course of a few months and a relationship blossomed. Michael moved just before his 18th birthday. Foster parents like John and his wife are not just a need, they are a necessity. Two people made a decision to become foster parents and changed the trajectory of a young man’s life forever. They gave Micheal hope in a world that he thought had forgotten about him and in that, they healed him.