Clegg: Family Service Agency of DeKalb County needs your help

Since 1956, Family Service Agency of DeKalb County has been providing critical services to the community.

As an agency in an aging building facing increases in clients served, community needs and program growth to meet the needs of the community, determining what a new home for FSA would look like was a priority.

In 2018 FSA launched our capital campaign with a goal of $1.9 million to purchase and renovate the building located at 1325 Sycamore Road in DeKalb. This move was critical to the continued services to the community. This was proven immediately when FSA was awarded the Community Service Block Grant to provide the DeKalb County Community Action Program. Because of FSA’s future home there was no hesitation to say yes to this much needed resource in our community.

Three and a half months after implementing the Community Action Program at FSA, the DeKalb community was devastated by a large apartment complex fire. 76 households, including 130 individuals were displaced.

One of the many roles of a Community Action Program is to assist with household emergencies. FSA opened its doors to those displaced with services, resources, and connections. Staff provided countless hours researching potential residences, connecting clients with critical resources and services and crisis intervention.

It was just two weeks later that the Sycamore community was also devastated by a large apartment complex fire. 44 households including 94 individuals were displaced. FSA staff jumped into action again. With help of friends and partners, FSA rallied to raise funds to aid displaced residents with finding and paying for a new home (first month rent and security deposits), basic needs, furniture, clothing, and other identified needs just as they did during for the residents affected by the fires in DeKalb.

One of the great benefits to Community Action now being a program of FSA is to not only be able to provide the critical case management and immediate needs but provide mental health support for those who needed it.

In March of 2020, with over half of the capital campaign funds raised, no one expected the twists, turns, and remoteness of 2020 affecting how business and fundraising was done. What was initially thought to be a short-term hiatus from the physical office turned into 15 months of remote working. The increase in funding received from local, state, and federal grants to provide financial assistance to individuals facing financial crisis due to the pandemic created more in-depth reporting and tracking.

Since March of 2020 FSA has provided Community Action services and financial assistance to over 2,000 community members, counseling supports to over 726 unique individuals, services to 154 children who were suspected victims of sexual and/or physical abuse. These increases were significant over prior years and the level of need for clients had drastically increased.

The renovated 16,000-square-foot building provided technological infrastructure with remote voice-over-internet-phones, virtual private network for remote access, and many other critical resources to allow us to operate effectively while remote. FSA experienced zero downtime with the transition of in office to remote working. This would not have been possible at our old location with the infrastructure that we had.

The foundational program of FSA, Center for Counseling (CFC), has brought innovative evidence-based practices to DeKalb County making FSA a leader in the county for mental health services. Multiple counselors are trained and/or certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which, with successful treatment, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.

As a community, many individuals are trauma-informed and/or trained. FSA’s counselors have expanded their knowledge and training when helping people who have experienced trauma by receiving Trauma Focused-Cognitive Behavioral Treatment certification. This certification helps counselors develop creative strategies for implementing components and increasing the success clients have.

In addition, Per US News and World Report, “the number of Americans seeking treatment for anxiety and depression has soared during the pandemic, creating what a leading medical association terms a ‘mental health tsunami’.” FSA has witnessed this tsunami with an 82% increase in number of sessions held over the same time period this year versus last year. Not only does FSA accept most private or commercial insurance plans, EAP’s, Medicare and Medicaid, FSA also works with individuals who have high deductibles or no insurance to break down barriers ensuring folks receive the services they need.

In June 2020, advocates for children throughout the state were concerned that reports of child abuse would drastically decline as children were becoming more isolated and invisible to the public and mandated reporters. As of December 2021, FSA’s Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) program is reporting that is not the case in DeKalb County. The number of interviews provided to children who are reporting abuse is on par with previous years. Children are sharing their truth to adults whom they feel safe with and getting the help they deserve, and we are helping to remove child abusers from our community.

In addition, the center’s participation with abuse prevention education and training will increase in the next year due to the passing of Illinois House Bill 3461 changes. The changes will: (1) make prevention education portion of the law a mandate instead of a recommendation to ensure that all K-12 students across the state are reached; (2) strengthen the law’s language to focus more on the education of adults, including school personnel and parents, instead of just students; (3) focus on educator sexual misconduct and grooming so that intervention can occur before concerning behaviors escalate to abuse.

FSA has just been notified that it has received expedited reaccreditation through the Council on Accreditation and was selected to bring Camp HOPE America to DeKalb County. This has all been possible through the efforts of agency staff and board and we are very excited to continue our work in 2022, for our 66th year.

Please consider helping us ensure that our time and efforts can continue to be focused on meeting our community’s needs.

This is just a small fraction of the work that Family Service Agency does in serving DeKalb County and now we need DeKalb County to help us continue providing these strong evidence-based services.

FSA focused all of its efforts on serving the community. Fundraising in general was halted which meant the capital campaign was also put on hold. FSA needs to raise an additional $650,000 to complete the capital campaign. Now more than ever Family Service Agency is asking the community to help reach this goal so there is a continued focus of efforts on the community and those who need our services. Please consider helping us reach our remaining goal.

If you would like a tour of FSA and/or to meet with staff and board to discuss support please reach out to Tynisha Clegg, executive director of Family Service Agency.

Family Service Agency (FSA) is a premier social service agency and has been providing model-practice services to people of all ages for more than 65 years. FSA exists to strengthen individuals and communities. This is accomplished through five distinct programs; Center for Counseling, Children’s Advocacy Center, Community Action Program, Senior Services, and Youth Mentoring. A host of services are available through these programs, please visit or call 815-758-8616 for more information. FSA is a United Way Agency, part of the Community Action Partnership, and accredited by Council on Accreditation.