“It’s a Calling”: Caring for Others Like Your Own Family

March 17, 2021

As part of the Liberty Lutheran family of services, The Hearth at Drexel offers assisted living and memory care to older adults. Nestled in the Main Line section of the greater Philadelphia area, the community is known for going above and beyond to offer its residents outstanding care and services.

When the coronavirus pandemic started last spring, the team bolstered its dedication to the well-being of residents.

“Our staff has really stepped up during this pandemic, placing the needs of our residents above themselves. For instance, during our strategic planning process, when we started talking about implementing safety precautions and the possibility of needing to offer special care, we had people stepping forward very early on to say ‘I’ll do it,’” said Dana O’Donnell, executive director of The Hearth.

She continues: “You often hear people in caregiver industries say, ‘What we do isn’t a job; it’s a calling.’ What I have seen over the past several months truly demonstrates that here. Our staff members have been incredible in the way they’ve come together to help the residents and their families throughout an ever-evolving situation.”

Throughout the pandemic, the team at The Hearth has become like family to those who call the community home. The provision of care and comfort has gone both ways. Staff members also continue to find strength, hope, and support in the kind words, smiles, and thoughtful gestures from residents and their families.

Lutheran Services in America is proud to highlight the work of The Hearth at Drexel and Liberty Lutheran Services as a source of care, compassion, and peace of mind for older adults and their families.

Liberty Lutheran Services is a member of Lutheran Services in America, a network of more than 300 health and human service organizations providing services in more than 1,400 communities across the United States. Together, the network makes a difference in the lives of one in 50 Americans every year.

Learn more about The Hearth at Drexel at www.TheHearthatDrexel.org.

Beacon Award Winner Beverly Jones Sees Results Innovation Lab as Start of ‘Ripple Effect’ Across Child Welfare System

July 15, 2021




It is uncommon to find success in momentous undertakings without support. In the world of social services, collaboration is key to achieving long-lasting result

s. This is especially true when seeking new solutions to age-old challenges related to the welfare of children and families. In recognition of this fact, Lutheran Services in America brings together its 300 member organizations and national partners, stakeholders and thought leaders through its Results Innovation Lab to find creative and innovative ways to create better outcomes for children, youth and families nationwide.

Strength in Numbers

Part of the work examined within the Results Innovation Lab are the racial disparities in outcomes in the child welfare system and the paralyzing effects they have on children and families. Within the Lab, Lutheran Services in America members disaggregate data by race to capture a clearer understanding of where inequities lie and how to transform programs and systems to address those inequities—all in efforts to strengthen families and reunite children with their families whenever possible.

Beverly Jones of the Chicago-based Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) knows all too well the importance of this task. The vice president and chief program officer’s team serves about 2,500 children each year in a state that is among the last with respect to permanency rates. “We wanted to really look at the reasoning behind that. We also knew that children of color are overrepresented in the foster care system,” she said in an interview with Lutheran Services in America. “Our team had been talking about wanting to do more work on this front specifically.”

Transforming Lives with an Eye on Equity

The Lutheran Services in America Results Innovation Lab was a natural fit for an LCFS team hungry for new insights on how to connect the dots. The Results Innovation Lab, which has improved the lives of over 7,000 youth thus far, is a visible product of the network’s firm commitment to equity and justice. By working to eliminate systemic racism in the United States, Lutheran Services in America and its member organizations are helping reverse the sizable toll its effects have on the health and well-being of people of color, their communities, and their children. “Being a part of Results Innovation Lab has been an opportunity to not only think and talk about answers to these questions when it came to our work with families and children, but really apply teachings from the Lab to some real work we’re doing for children and families in Illinois,” said Beverly.

LCFS has been at the forefront of addressing racial equity within the Illinois child welfare system. When it comes to equity and child welfare, Beverly insists that the two cannot be treated as two separate issues. “I say this often: racial equity considerations need to not be ‘in addition’ to our work; it should be woven into our efforts as a pervasive component,” she said. “And so the big questions are: What services and supports do families need so that children do not have to come into care? What are we learning? . . . I think being in the Results Innovation Lab not only exposes these factors and important questions, but helps us come up with strategies to address them.”

Beverly’s time as a participant of the Results Innovation Lab helped her realize areas where her team had not provided enough focus in their efforts to decrease the length of children’s stays in foster care. “I realized once we were immersed in the Results Innovation Lab that our initial goal of increasing permanency for youth of color by five percent was modest,” she said. “For each of our original five percent goals we were closer to 40 percent. So in hindsight, our original five percent goals were very conservative – but this is exactly the sort of valuable learning we’ve all been able to take away from the Lab. Lessons like this will inform our future work, as well.”

An Exercise in Leadership

These lessons have not only informed the work of her team at LCFS but also her own approach in supporting her fellow Lab mates in the search for solutions to common challenges. “I feel like I have a supportive community now,” she said. “You learn through the Lab helpful things like ‘Ah! I can use this practical data or tool,’ and apply lessons learned. In other words, it’s not just academic.”

In recognition of her leadership within the Results Innovation Lab and her insight into forging a successful road ahead at LCFS, Lutheran Services in America honored Beverly with one of three inaugural Beacon Awards. The Beacon Award recognizes Results Innovation Lab participants for advancing transformative change for children, youth and families through exceptional leadership across the Lutheran Services in America network.

For Beverly, the Results Innovation Lab is just a start. She is proud of the outcomes that have resulted from the Lab’s work, but the mission goes beyond any one person or even team of people. “In order to do this work, it takes more than just us,” she said. “It’s like throwing a stone in a pond—a ripple effect.”

Learn more about the Results Innovation Lab and the exceptional leaders moving it forward.

By the Lutheran Services in America team

Reflecting on Ken Daly’s Legacy as a Tireless Ambassador for Children & Youth

July 19, 2021

I recently lost an exemplary board member, Ken Daly, who some of our CEOs might recall led the CEO-Board session at CEO Summit 2015. Ken served the Lutheran Services in America board of directors with great commitment and a profound faith in God. He brought deep expertise having served as a senior partner at KPMG and as CEO of the National Association of Corporate Directors, a nonprofit association that advocates for best practices in corporate governance.

Ken connected his faith in God with the work of Lutheran social ministry on the ground. What I remember most about Ken is the sense of joy he brought to all of us. Ken cared deeply about people and was someone who always lifted you up, always made your day brighter, and always made you better. His sense of humor was contagious and his wealth of almost unbelievable stories kept you smiling and inspired.

For those who had the honor of knowing Ken, he was an extremely generous man with an exceptional gift for recognizing potential in people and organizations. He was a tireless ambassador who seemed to know just about everyone and to generously connect us and our members to leaders in healthcare, business and philanthropy who opened up doors and resources for Lutheran social ministry. Ken was particularly passionate in his support for the Lutheran Services in America Results Innovation Lab, to which he generously made a three-year commitment to help achieve our goal to improve the lives of 20,000 children and youth by 2024 so they can grow up to be healthy productive adults. Ken felt deeply that every child deserved to have the opportunity to thrive. This year alone, over 45 leaders in our network who work with almost 9,000 children and youth participated in the program that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of children and youth.

I’m blessed to have a strong board of directors at Lutheran Services in America, but there’s an empty seat at the table. Ken will be greatly missed but not forgotten because his legacy lives on in our hearts and in the difference he made in the lives of so many.

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path Gad laid for me
I took His hand when I heard him call
I turned my back and left it all.

— “I’m Free,” by anonymous author

By Charlotte Haberaecker, President & CEO

Beacon Award Winner Amanda Krzykowski Reassesses Data to Transform Social Work in Wisconsin, Upper Michigan

July 29, 2021


Each day, Lutheran Services in America and our members across the country work with 12,000 children in foster care and more than 400,000 children and families. In the interest of children, families, and communities throughout America, our national network is pursuing new ways to meet contemporary challenges and realities to strengthen families and ensure children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Many of our efforts start in our Results Innovation Lab, which empowers our network’s children, youth and family advocates to address inequities found in America’s child welfare system through data-driven strategies and results-based leadership. Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is amongst our network’s 100 child and family service providers that are implementing the Lab’s framework to achieve results on the ground.

What’s the Difference?

For Amanda Krzykowski, director of performance and quality improvement at LSS, the first step in revamping the organization’s approach to improve outcomes for children lay with the collection of information. Amanda’s participation in the Results Innovation Lab led her to focus not only on the quantity of data but also the quality.

“The Lab helped me hone in on what the team should be measuring—not just ‘how much,’ but ‘how well and what was the difference made,’” Amanda told Lutheran Services in America in an interview. “We wanted to use the data to achieve results from an equity standpoint and remain accountable. We want to provide services that help everybody.”

Real-world Results

For the past six years, Amanda has helmed her department that focuses, among many areas, on indicators and outcomes for children, constantly relying on data for quality improvement. The changes her team implemented based on lessons learned from the Results Innovation Lab resulted in noticeable improvement across the organization’s initiatives, including its School-Centered Mental Health (SCMH) program. “With SCMH, we saw a reduction in mental health symptoms and an improvement in social determinants of health,” she said.

LSS also teamed up with local schools for application within classroom settings. “We looked at individuals in the school and what they needed—teacher and student. We offered techniques to teachers to use that could help their students and build closeness within the classroom,” Amanda said. “In partnership with the schools, we witnessed an increase in reading levels, sometimes as high as 50 percent for children who spoke English as a second language.”

Navigating through COVID

As with everything else last year, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a sizeable wrench into LSS’s efforts. The pandemic hampered the organization’s ability to properly provide services as it had, resulting in often devastating consequences for the people Amanda’s team worked to serve each day.

“During COVID, we got pre-assessments done but no post-assessments,” said Amanda. “However, LSS has been able to still see improvement with kids.”

The pandemic poses practical obstacles that still remain unresolved. To overcome these challenges, Amanda’s team turned to technology to move their work forward.

“With COVID, resources are short in supply, especially tech-wise. On the flip side, LSS has been able to meet with families still, even if it is through Zoom,” she said. “We’ve started to capture data related to telehealth. We’ve seen the same results with telehealth in quality of service for most people, which was interesting to see.” When Wisconsin considered banning telehealth as an option for its residents, LSS joined with other human service advocates to push back. “Our coalition provided data about its impact, especially in rural communities,” Amanda said. The coalition’s efforts ultimately led to a decision by the state to increase funding for telehealth and allow providers to continue to offer certain telehealth services.

Leading and Learning through Experience

Amanda’s leadership in applying data-based approaches to improving outcomes for children earned her a Lutheran Services in America Beacon Award alongside her colleagues Beverly Jones of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois and Rebecca Kiesow-Knudsen of Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota.

Amanda’s track record as a recognized leader applies not only within the confines of LSS, but also amongst her Lutheran Services in America peers within the Results Innovation Lab. Her time as a coach to her Lab mates has been a huge “growing jump professionally,” she said, and has helped inform her own experience. “Coaching forced me to learn differently. It has made me more confident.” The Lab is a mutual learning opportunity for all participants, a trusted space where members exchange a wide variety of views and perspectives in their efforts to produce new strategies. By participating in the Lab, Amanda has learned a great deal from her peers while also making a crucial difference as an effective coach for the teams.

Through the ups and downs, Amanda remains focused on using data to improve the quality of services in her region to make a difference. At the end of the day, it’s all about the community.

Learn more about the Results Innovation Lab and the exceptional leaders moving it forward.

By Christopher Findlay, Senior Marketing Manager

Listening, Learning, and Leadership: Partnering with Families and Communities to Prevent Entry into Foster Care

August 26, 2021

We are excited for the opportunity to partner with four of our social service ministries in efforts to prevent families from entering the foster care system and close racial disparities. The Family Stabilization Initiative is a unique opportunity because it provides funding to implement evidence-based wraparound programs while, at the same time, building organizational capacity and peer support.

Our member organizations are using the WISe and C.A.R.E.S. models because both have a strong commitment to recognizing family strengths and understanding local and culturally specific context. Both prioritize having large and diverse community partnerships and ensuring flexibility in responding to and advocating for families.

We recognize that even the strongest evidence-based programs have not always been studied or designed to close racial disparities. With this in mind, and as part of the Lutheran Services in America Results Innovation Lab, the cohort of organizations in the Family Stabilization Initiative are concurrently working through a series of six results-based sessions that ensure we collect disaggregated data by race, analyze data with a racial lens, and develop strategies and program implementation with families and partners who are most closely impacted by child welfare. In addition to program fidelity measures, the member organizations will be setting clear goals and indicators for this project and will test and iterate along the journey.

Finally, we hope the cohort serves as a peer community where learning, trouble-shooting, and best practices thrive and can be shared across teams and across states. This collaboration and group accountability will reinforce our commitment to closing racial disparities, scaling more successful programs, and developing more effective sustainability plans.

We look forward to sharing our learning along the way!

Learn more about our Family Stabilization Initiative.

By Paula R. Young, Director of Strategy and Implementation for Child, Youth, and Family Initiatives