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Dr. Veneese V. Chandler


Project CHILL

1939 S. Division
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Dr. Veneese Chandler worries about kids. She worries about their families, their education, and their physical and emotional well-being. As the head of the Family Outreach Center in Grand Rapids, she is confronted with these issues daily, but finds solace in her work and confidence in being backed by a staff with extensive experience and involvement in children’s welfare. 
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Family Outreach Center, Inc. Executive Director and CEO Dr. Veneese V. Chandler: To me, being a leader means maintaining the ability to recognize and respect the gifts and talents of others. A leader can do this while providing support, encouragement, instruction and guidance that people need to achieve success.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is that they would have access to all of the social, emotional, educational, and economic resources needed to support their healthy development. This is crucial to their success and to their ability to become productive
There are so many barriers that affect the healthy growth and development of the children in our community.
There are so many barriers that affect the healthy growth and development of the children in our community. These barriers include – but are not limited to – chaotic home environments, the impact of poverty on their lives and the way that they function, and poor nutrition and educational concerns. These are just some of the issues that our community should focus on to ensure healthier outcomes for our kids. 
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
One of the things that I think would be helpful is to put a greater emphasis on collaboration verses competition -- both with agencies that do the kind of work that we do, as well as other organizations in the human services arena, like other outpatient mental health and family support services agencies.
There would be significant benefits if people could share their time, talents, expertise, and resources in the social sector to benefit consumers instead of always having to focus on funding support.
How do you know you’re making progress?
We service an underserved population. I’m talking about poor people and people of color in the Grand Rapids area. The fact that these segments of the population have started to readily seek and engage in mental health services demonstrates our
The fact that these segments of the population have started to readily seek and engage in mental health services demonstrates our progress.
progress. We have seen a steady increase in consumers requesting agency services over the past few years, and it’s an increase of 20 to 30 percent in our numbers. Significantly, more men are using our services, too.
I think that all of this progress is partly because we have expanded our outreach efforts. We offer support services in English, Spanish, and several other languages.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the staff that we have been able to assemble at the agency. They are racially and culturally reflective of the diverse Kent County community. I’m very proud of our ability to offer a continuum of services that are designed to address the needs of children, youth, adults, and families.
What keeps you awake at night?
I stay awake concerned about the funding of the services that we need to offer to address the growing needs of children, youth, and families in this community. By that, I mean the dollars we need to support prevention education and treatment. Treatment options continue to be scarce and have not kept pace with the existing needs.
I stay awake wondering about homelessness. I worry about how homelessness affects children in the families that find themselves in that situation. I think about them, and I wonder, not only about their quality of life, but about the quality of their educations, their social interactions, and their overall stability. Those are the things that keep me awake.
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Program Profile

  • Project CHILL
    Supporting kids whose parents are receiving mental health services


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