Spero Now Offering Mental Health First Aid Training

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

May is National Foster Care Month-A Story of Hope & Healing

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.

Spero to Host Chamber Ribbon Cutting at New Location

Join us on Wednesday, May 24th from 12:00 P.M. to 1:00 P.M. to celebrate the relocation of our Foster Care, Nurturing Parents, and Wraparound Program. We’re excited for you to see our new location at The Mount Vernon Innovation Hub, 123 South 10th Street, Mt. Vernon, IL. We hope to see you there!

Spero Awarded Eagle Accreditation


Spero Awarded Eagle Accreditation MT. VERNON, IL – Spero Family Services has been awarded EAGLE Accreditation by the EAGLE Accreditation Commission. Educational Assessment Guidelines Leading toward Excellence (EAGLE) is the only faith-based accreditation program in the United States and is managed by the United Methodist Association of Health and Welfare Ministries (UMA). EAGLE is a voluntary program that recognizes health and human service organizations that go beyond the requirements of licensure to improve operational processes while pursuing excellence in a holistic, Christian mission. EAGLE challenges organizations not just to compete in challenging human services environments, but to soar above the competition while living their faith values.

“Being EAGLE Accredited means a lot to Spero Family Services. It adds to our credibility as a quality service provider and gives focus to our Christian-based mission work,” says Joe Bernard, Spero CEO. “Also, being peer-reviewed has allowed us to develop stronger relationships with other child care ministries as well as identifying opportunities for growth and improvement.”

The EAGLE Accreditation Program includes the compilation of a rigorous self-study that covers all facets of care delivery and operations followed by a site visit from a review team of independent healthcare and human service professionals from across the country. Designation as an EAGLE-accredited organization continues for four years, during which Spero will submit annual reports to ensure all accreditation standards are being met. “We extend our congratulations to Spero Family Services for its commitment to upholding EAGLE’s principles that reinforce the importance of faith-based mission, operational excellence, and responsible stewardship,” said Mary Kemper, President/CEO of UMA.



The Board of Directors for Spero Family Services announces with pleasure, the appointment of our new Chief Executive Officer, Joe Bernard. Joe has been acting CEO, since November 2021, when former CEO John Shadowens resigned.

“Joe has served as our CFO for a number of years and for the past seven months has been our acting CEO. During this time, he has proven that he is the person best suited to lead this agency.  Joe has a solid track record of financial expertise, positive relationships, and deep respect among fellow co-workers. He has the wisdom to make decisions that benefit the agency’s long-term success, even when those decisions are difficult,” said Rev. Victor Long, Board Chairperson.  “Most important are his strong leadership traits – good judgment, resilience, team building skills, and he is a tough-minded individual.”Joe began his career at Spero over 20 years ago as


Chief Financial Officer. During his tenure at Spero, Joe has served as an EAGLE Accreditation reviewer and was appointed to the EAGLE Accreditation Commission in 2016. He is also an active member of the Mt. Vernon Rotary Club. Bernard holds a B.S. degree in Communication from SIUC. He and his family currently reside in Mt. Vernon and are active in the community

Prior to Spero Family Services, Bernard, spent 5 years as a regional retail manager at Citizen’s Bank and 6 years as a district manager for Wax Works Inc. Joe was drawn to the non-profit arena due to his passion to help others.“I am proud for the opportunity to lead this organization because we help so many people right here in Southern Illinois. Spero has a passionate team of employees that have a heart for helping people,” said Joe Bernard.

The Spero Board of Directors invites the public to a reception in Joe’s honor on July 12, 2022, from 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm in the Youth Services Building at Spero main campus.



YouthBuild, a program of Spero Family Services, has been awarded a $864,000 grant from the US Department of Labor.  YouthBuild has been serving young adults in Jefferson and Marion counties since 2006 and continues to be an asset to the community.

YouthBuild is a federally funded, education and training program that helps at-risk youth complete high school or state equivalency degree programs, earn industry-recognized credentials for in-demand occupations, and undergo training to build housing for low-income or homeless individuals and families in their communities. “This was a very competitive grant process and we’re excited to be able to continue this important service. We will begin taking applications in late summer for our next cohort of students to begin this fall,” says Mandy Bernard, Spero Community Services Director.


One of the largest aspects of the YouthBuild program is the way they give back to the community while learning a skill.  Over the years, YouthBuild participants have partnered with the City of Centralia to build two shade shelters for the dog park, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, rehabilitated multiple homes in Mt. Vernon, and assisted community members in need with the construction of ramps for their homes.“We are excited to be fully funded for another two years and for what this means for the young people in our community,” says Cheryl Young, Program Manager.

This is a free program.  Anyone interested should apply online at www.sperofs.org/youthbuild.

Spero Welcomes New Congregate Care Director

MT. VERNON, IL- Spero Family Services is proud to welcome our newest Director of Congregate Care, Kim Tate. Kim joins Spero with over 26 years’ experience in the child welfare setting with 13 of those years at Spero Family Services. Her social work background includes case manager, QRTP home supervisor, and Residential Manager and Director. She has also held positions as the TASC-juvenile justice/substance abuse case manager, Rural Gang Initiative and Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program (SHOCAP). Kim has a master’s degree in Public Administration. She returns to Spero after working as a SASS supervisor for adolescents with mental health needs. Kim will be working in our Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) and group home.

At Spero, she will be overseeing the treatment services for residents in the QRTP and Group home programs. She will also help develop strategies for the Spero Youth Counselors, that work with youth, to facilitate good mental health and positive behavior support. “I am excited to make QRTP and group home the best it can be. I want us to be the premiere agency, where everyone wants their youth to receive treatment.” says Kim.

Spero QRTP and Group homes of Mt. Vernon is a team of highly qualified, experienced and caring professional Mental Health Therapists, Case Managers, Youth Care Workers, Nurses, Home Supervisor, Program Manager, Clinical Director and Spiritual Life Coordinator that are available to youth and their families around the clock. The programs support the whole child and their healthy development. While the primary focus is to support the youth’s mental health needs, we also provide opportunities for growth in spirituality, social skills, education, life skills and recreation both on and off campus.