CCFP names Bridie Johnson executive director and Lindsay Ellis residential specialist

SAULT STE. MARIE – While providing a secure and loving home to fostered teens is the Chippewa County Family Project’s rudimentary goal, rules and regulations suggest the means to that end can be a bit complex.

In addition to fund-raising, home construction and establishing policies, the CCFP is challenged with staffing the Arfstrom Faunt Teen Foster Home with personnel who meet the stringent State of Michigan guidelines. The CCFP fortunately landed a new executive director who checks off all the necessary boxes and brings more than 20 years of experience working with youth at risk or in the foster-care system.

The CCFP has named Bridie Johnson, LMSW, CAADC, as its new executive director. Johnson, who resides in Novi, is currently the assertive community treatment program supervisor at All Well Being Services. Before that, she was the previous behavioral health clinical supervisor for the American Indian Health and Family Services of South Eastern Michigan. Johnson has vast array of experience in residential and community based behavioral health clinic management, youth and adult licensing, crisis shelter oversight, assessment, and placement, as well as grant writing, programming, and budgeting. She was a foster and adoptive parent and the former foster care/independent living program supervisor at Holy Cross Children’s Services in Saginaw. She also supervised Ennis Center for Children’s juvenile delinquency programming for a few years in Detroit.

“Our board is so eager to learn from Bridie,” CCFP President Tracey Holt said. “We are fortunate to have landed an executive director with her background. She looks forward to seeing more of her family in Garden River, which was part of the lure of this position. She also wants to assure all youth have safe spaces to thrive in. Bridie is well-connected statewide throughout Michigan’s homeless services programs and tribal entities. She can help us get the doors open so we can welcome kids who need a warm bed and a safe space to live.”

Johnson will work remotely and oversee our newly-hired residential specialist Lindsay Ellis along with the house parents, group home workers and volunteers.

“Good leadership is instrumental to an organization’s growth, exposure to a community and in polishing staff,” said Ellis, who brings community-minded programming expertise to the CCFP. “I am eager to see Johnson’s background and skills lead the project.”

“I always sense when things are calling to me,” said Johnson, who, upon first impression, personifies empathy and take-charge leadership. “I’ll be making sure all the connections are made so this project gets off the ground.”

The Arfstrom Faunt Home is opening at a time when the state is prioritizing prevention and community-based care. While group homes are not a statewide focus, Johnson is confident the CCFP will fill a void in northern Michigan.

“There are certain meetings with the Department of Health and Human Services that the director could go to, and there we can market our open beds,” Johnson said. “They would have the list of youth in need, and we can look at their packets, pick and choose from that space.”

The CCFP’s top priority, obviously, is serving local youth, including obtaining funding to sponsor one or more beds for runaway or homeless youth in need. Most placements will be made by the MDHHS.

Johnson’s primary background is working with inner-city youth, but she is no novice to issues relating to rural Upper Peninsula youth.

“Kids will be kids, but I’m very individually focused when working with youth and I allow for them to assist in driving their own treatment/recovery,” Johnson said. “You can assume an inner-city kid likes rap music and a kid in Sault wouldn’t, but I find that tendency transposes sometimes and to look at each youth as their own individual. A kid deserves their own footprint and must be looked at that way to truly be understood.”

In addition to having her own biological, foster, and adoptive children, Johnson was homeless for a brief stint during graduate school. Her innate sense of empathy comes from her personal life experience as well as her years of education and professional endeavors, but she also credits a former professor with inspiring her passion for social justice in the work that she does.

“He (Dr. Craigs Beverly) said, ‘Dr. Bridie,’ and I don’t know why he said that to me, ‘there’s a human floor in which no one should fall below,’” Johnson recalled. “He’d say it and pound his fist like a gavel. I digested it. It was so powerful to me. Homeless youth services became a passion of mine.”

The Arfstrom-Faunt Home will open as soon as its foster-care license has been secured sometime early in 2021.

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This story was prepared by the staff at EUP News or contributed from an outside source.

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