Functional Family Facilitators

Providing facilitation and support for families in transition, with an emphasis on the needs and value of each family member, in order for families to meet their unique community living goals.

Kaitlyn Jorges
Kaitlyn JorgesFunctional Family Facilitator
Kaitlyn is one of our Functional Family Facilitator’s and has been with us since February of 2020. She is also on course to work in family support with probation. Kaitlyn has worked in childcare from an early age. Prior to working with Independence Rising, she was a toddler teacher in a public daycare and cared for children of an array of ages. Kaitlyn created educational lesson plans specific to developmental milestones of each child in Kaitlyn’s classroom. Kaitlyn has a child of her own which helps her to have an open mind as well as compassion for each family that she advocates for. She has the strengths of problem solving and patience. Kaitlyn has used these strengths to find solutions for each family Kaitlyn helps and being able to keep working on family’s goals until they are achieved. Kaitlyn has completed training’s in abuse and neglect, discipline in childcare, infant safety, child development and more.
Macey Widick
Macey WidickFunctional Family Facilitator and Program Enhancement Representative
Macey has been working for Independence Rising since October of 2019. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and she is pursuing a degree in Family Studies. She started working as a functional family facilitator in January of 2020 and has continued to do various jobs for Independence Rising wherever needed. Macey has taken classes that make her great with public relations and understanding family dynamics. She loves working with families because she hopes to help kids develop stronger relationships with their parents.
Mariah Reeves
Mariah ReevesIndependent Living Specialist and Functional Family Facilitator
Mariah has been with Independence Rising since February of 2017. She has worked in many different programs within Independence Rising such as Independent Living, family support, and many more. Her primary position is working with the Census Project. Prior to Independence Rising, Mariah worked as a Preschool Teacher and an after-school program site Director. Mariah has an Associate’s degree in general studies and a one-year diploma in Family and Consumer Science with an emphasis in early childhood education. She has completed training in Mental Health First Aid, the Systems of Care series, Trauma-informed, and Helping Victims and their Advocates Normalizing the Grieving Process.
Julie Peterson
Julie Peterson Functional Family Facilitator
Julie Peterson is fairly new to Independence Rising. Julie worked at a gas station for three years prior to coming to work with Independence Rising. Prior to working at the gas station, Julie worked at Kids Academy for two years. There she worked with children with special needs. Even though it seems Julie has done a lot of work in the retail area, Julie also has experience as an in-home care provider and did that for about for two years. Julie does have experience working with families as well. She really enjoys the work Julie does with Independence and sees herself being a part of this company for a very long time.
Billie Taylor
Billie TaylorFunctional Family Facilitator and Registered Service Provider through the office of Probation
Billie has been a Functional Family Facilitator for Independence Rising for almost 4 years. She is also a part of Family Support and administers drug testing. Billie has recently been registered as a Service Provider with Probation for Juvenile Services. In the time Billie has been with us, she has also spent her time in the Independent Living and Peer Mentoring programs. Billie has also been a Foster Parent, which gives her the ability to see what it is like for everyone involved in the foster care system. Billie has worked with kids for a very long time. She does have 2 of her own children, along with 2 stepchildren and 2 foster children, that are all grown. Along with several other kids that came and lived with Billie and her husband to get through school. Billie is also a grandma to 4 granddaughters with a grandson soon to come. When Billie’s kids were younger, she coached Swim Team, Wrestling, and Youth Basketball for several years. Before coming to Independence Rising, Billie did some home care, ran a trucking company for several years, was a farmhand, an EMT, a Lifeguard, and has been a server and bartender for many years. Currently, she is still the Manager of a Club House at a golf course in the summertime. The one thing Billie loves about working with families and children, would be that we get to help change people’s lives hopefully for the better. As much time as we spend with these families, you get to know them, when everything works out, the smiles on the kids’ faces make it all worth it.
Nina Wagoner
Nina WagonerFunctional Family Facilitator
Nina is currently a Functional Family Facilitator (FFF) for Independence Rising. She is from Columbus, NE and has recently just moved back. Nina has been with Independence Rising for about 9 months. She recently graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) in December of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science with a major being in Social Work. While studying at UNK Nina completed an internship with The Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) in Kearney, NE. She also graduated from Central Community College (CCC) in December of 2017 from the Columbus, NE campus with an Associates of Arts degree. Nina has had numerous trainings while attending college such as a CPR class, a Trauma 101 class, and a Mental health and First Aid class. While attending CCC in Columbus Nina worked at the After-School Program in one of the Columbus Elementary Schools. At the After-School Program she was a lead teacher where she put together games, crafts, STEAM activities for the children to do. She would also assist children with their homework and studying. Nina then moved to Kearney in January of 2018 to attend UNK. While at UNK she worked at a daycare center and two in- home daycares. In August of 2019 Nina started my Internship with DHHS. During my time at DHHS she was able to follow an initial worker, ongoing worker, and permanency worker. She was able to observe as well interact with children and clients. Nina experienced several FAN interviews, attended and lead several family team meetings, wrote several court reports, attended court, entered documentation, visited a parent in jail and prison, filled out paperwork for children to go to school and counseling, emailed professionals and had daily/weekly interactions with supervisors at DHHS. Overall, she loves working with children and families and being able to have a positive impact on their lives.
Whitney Edwards
Whitney Edwards Functional Family Facilitator
Whitney works in family support and has been with the company for 2 years. She is currently
Pursuing a degree in social work so she can go on to be a caseworker. Her work experience includes being a teacher in a daycare for about three years and she is also a single mom of an amazing 4-year-old boy. Whitney’s strengths are being well organized, good communication skills, and always being ready for any new challenges that may come her way. One thing she loves about working for Independence Rising is helping people meet their goals and seeing happy families.
Taylor Buescher
Taylor BuescherFunctional Family Facilitator
Taylor Buescher is currently on the Family Support team and has recently joined our staff. She attended Sutton High School and graduated in 2019. Taylor now attends Chadron State College as a sophomore and is in the RHOP program for Pre-Dentistry. She is working on a human biology major with chemistry and business minors, planning to have her own dental practice someday. Taylor has taken many courses that have prepared her for this line of work. These courses include Psychology, Sociology, Medical Terminology, Relationships 2.0, Healthy Skepticism, Technical Writing, and Nutrition. She previously worked as a childcare provider where she learned how to properly care for children of all ages. Taylor enjoys connecting with others and bringing families closer together.
Lydia Connell
Lydia ConnellFunctional Family Facilitator
Lydia Connell has been working for Independence Rising as a Functional Family Facilitator since January of 2021. Her duties within Independence Rising include accurately documenting visitations within families, safely transporting children to visits, and connecting with parents to improve parenting skills and reunite them with their children. She is currently a sophomore at Chadron State College studying human biology as a pre-medical student. In addition to babysitting and working with children in a classroom setting, Lydia has been able to take psychology and counseling courses that allow her to better understand familial relationships and effectively work with children and families. Prior to working for Independence Rising, Lydia worked as a CNA for three years. She is certified in First Aid and BLS for infants, children, and adults. Her strengths include working with others, punctuality, and being highly detail-oriented. Lydia loves connecting with children and finds it rewarding to watch the growth of the relationship within families.
Candi Gibbens
Candi GibbensFunctional Family Facilitator
Candi does family support and parenting time with Independence Rising. Candi just started February 1st with Independence Rising and enjoys working with families and children. Candi has three boys who are grown and has grandbabies now. Candi also has four stepkids. Candi has worked with kids most of her life and has done in-home daycare. She has also worked for the school system with a before and after-school program. Candi loves to work with children and see how they change and grow and what their likes are and what they want to be when they grow up. Candi is married and loves to spend time with her family.
Karsyn Huck
Karsyn HuckFunctional Family Facilitator
Karsyn Huck joined Independence Rising in March of 2021 working as a Functional Family Facilitator. Karsyn is on the family support team. She is currently a freshman at Chadron State College studying secondary education to become a high school teacher. She has taken many courses including Personal Health and Wellness and Fundamentals of Oral Communication to more effectively work with children and their families. Karsyn has two younger brothers that she lived with for ten years. She has also worked with kids of all ages in the classroom setting. Karsyn’s strengths include being very organized as well as punctual. She enjoys getting to connect with families and watching families grow closer to one another.
Whitney Frost
Whitney FrostFunctional Family Facilitator
Whitney Frost is a Functional Family Facilitator and has just begun her journey at Independence Rising. She attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology. She also has an Associate’s degree in Biology which she obtained at Central Community College in Kearney, NE. She has completed many courses on topics such as mental health, trauma, social work, and the psychology behind adolescence and adulthood. She has similar experience working with kids and families after previously working as a Family Support Worker in Omaha, NE. Whitney has lived in Orlando, FL, Austin, TX, Omaha, NE, and an abundance of other cities which allowed for a variety of job experiences. Though she has regularly worked as a CNA for eight years, she has experience as a Claims Adjuster for workers’ compensation, phlebotomy, retail, and foodservice. She has three nephews and a niece that she spends an exceptional amount of time with, and she grew up with siblings that she remains close to. Whitney is looking forward to helping families progress towards their goals.
Susanne Shald
Susanne ShaldFunctional Family Facilitator
Susanne L. Shald is currently a Functional Family Facilitator located in McCook, Nebraska. Susanne has
most recently been in the eldercare field first as a medication aid in an assisted living facility and later in
the home care field inside senior’s homes taking care of household maintenance to the organization of
meals and medications as well as personal care and supportive care with clients on hospice care. This
field required patience and stepping into the shoes of those she cared for to understand their needs.
She is a mother of 3 children ranging in ages between 21 and 17. Susanne has been a single parent for
nearly 18 years after the loss of her husband. She volunteered many hours at school with her children’s
activities and supported their many activities. She feels her years raising children alone as well as
knowing the friends of her children and volunteering at school has given her patience and experience
with children of all backgrounds. When applying for this position she felt like she has much more to give
and help others.
Breanna Bluhm
Breanna BluhmFunctional Family Facilitator
Breanna Bluhm is a Family Functional Facilitator that began her journey with Independence Rising in mid-July of 2021. She has previously worked for the Nebraska Youth Center with youth that needed redirection. She learned to help children redirect negative behavior, help them correctly do chores, and overall helped care for their well-being. She also worked as a CNA for several years, including at the Kansas Soldiers Home. There she worked closely with soldiers and wives of soldiers that are Veterans. She has first aid experience, as well as some former medical training. Breanna is a hard worker, prepared, and loves working with people to accomplish their goals. When Breanna is not working, she is doting on her dog and cats.
Kelsey Newburn
Kelsey NewburnFunctional Family Facilitator
Kelsey has been with Independence Rising since August 2021. She has worked in the Healthcare field since 2015 and has a lot of experience with families. She has a toddler son and a niece that she loves dearly. Kelsey loves working with children and families and getting to see the faces of children and parents when they get to see each other. She is excited to see where this journey takes her out of the nursing field and into a whole new outlook on life.
Chelsey Hardy
Chelsey HardyFunctional Family Facilitator
Chelsey is one of our Function Family Facilitators and has been with us since August 2021. She is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, pursuing a degree in psychology and criminal justice. She aspires to use her degree to help children and families in the legal system. Chelsey has completed courses that help her communicate and understand family dynamics, such as human development, conflict resolution, and social work. Before working for Independence Rising, she spent her time focusing on her education while being a full-time mom. Her strengths include professionalism, organization, and a passion for human service
Jessica Goodall
Jessica GoodallFunctional Family Facilitator
Jessica Goodall started with independence rising in August of 2021. She is working as a Functional Family
Facilitator with hopes or rising through independence rising to become a leader one day. Jessica has
completed her full CDA (child development associate) training, along with countless hour and
certificates in the child development and behavior field. Jessica is certified In AED, first aid and CPR for
other adult and pediatric. Jessica has no. Children of her own however regularly cares for her nieces and
nephews, she also plans to adopt one day. Before coming to independence Rising Jessica was a director
of curriculum and enrollment specialist for the leading child care in Rapid City South Dakota. While there
Jessica regularly worked with children in a range of ages from 4 weeks to 13 years. Jessica is excited to
continue growing her education looking at the trauma of children and getting social work classes.
Courtnie Swanson
Courtnie Swanson Functional Family Facilitator
Courtnie Swanson has been working for Independence Rising as a Functional Family Facilitator since August of 2021. Her duties within Independence Rising include accurately documenting visitations within families, safely transporting children to visits, and connecting with parents to improve parenting skills and reunite them with their children.

Courtnie does not have any children of her own, but her family has fostered children for as long as she can remember, and she has a little brother and plenty of younger cousins whom she has regularly helped care for throughout the years.

Prior to working for Independence Rising, Courtnie worked as a Corrections Corporal and had been promoted to Corrections Caseworker during that time. It was during her time as a Caseworker that she realized that working with children and families was what was right for her.

Courtnie has a bright and energetic personality with a positive outlook on life, and she enjoys sharing that with kids to help them through their journey of growth and personal development. Her strengths include teamwork, communication, and being highly detail-oriented.

Hayley Hebblethwaite
Hayley HebblethwaiteFunctional Family Facilitator
Hayley Hebblethwaite is a Family Functional Facilitator at Independence Rising. She is completing her Associate of Arts degree at Mid Plains Community College this Fall, she hopes to continue to study K-6 Education. She started at Independence Rising in August 2021. Her family is a foster family, so it gives her a different point of view. She volunteers for her local Royal Family Kids Camp, which is a week long camp for foster children! She spends time with the kids and they learn more about each other. Hayley is trained in CPR and First Aid, she enjoys being around children. She also keeps organized and is punctual. She loves working with children because no one is the same, they are always unique. There is always something to learn about children.
Amanda Welch
Amanda WelchFunctional Family Facilitator
Amanda has been with Independence Rising since September 2021. She is currently working as a Functional Family Facilitator her duties include documenting visitations with families, safely transporting children to visits and connecting with parents to improve parenting skills and reunite them with their children. She has worked in the healthcare field as a traveling Medication Aide and Certified Nursing Assistant. Amanda has also been a Child Care Provider for several years. Amanda loves working with children and families. Amanda has four children of her own, three girls and a boy. Amanda loves spending time with her children and family.
Brittany James
Brittany JamesFunctional Family Facilitator
Shannon Cahill-Hayman
Shannon Cahill-Hayman Functional Family Facilitator
Serenity Sterkel
Serenity SterkelFunctional Family Facilitator
Serenity is from Alliance, NE, but is currently going to college at Chadron State to obtain a bachelor’s in Social Work. She will be graduating in May 2023 and plans to continue her education at the University of Omaha to obtain her master’s in Social Work. Serenity recently started
working at Independence Rising in February of 2022, to gain more knowledge and experience for her future as a social

worker. Her job here at Independence Rising is family support. For most of her life, she has worked with
children and families as a babysitter and spent many years in daycares as a daycare worker. Serenity loves being able to work one on one with the kids and the families. Helping people and being around kids are two things that make her heart happy.

Emily Secrest
Emily SecrestFunctional Family Facilitator
Emily Secrest is one of our Functional Family Facilitators and is new to our agency as of February 2022. She attended the University of Nebraska for two years studying Elementary Education. Emily has taken many courses in the interest of children, giving her experience in her field of work along with her previous employment. These courses would include education courses and practicum experience. Emily has previously worked as a childcare provider in a variety of settings making her proficient with children of all ages, interacting, entertaining, as well as teaching age-appropriate skills to children in her care. She has gained quality experience as a daycare provider, personal nanny, and student-teacher that brings valuable skills to our team.
Mercedes Sloan
Mercedes SloanFunctional Family Facilitator
Mercedes is from Tonopah, Az, but is currently going to college at Chadron State to obtain a
Bachelor’s in Social Work. She will be graduating in May 2023 and plans to continue her
education possibly at the University of Nebraska Lincoln to obtain her master's degree in Social
Work. Mercedes recently started working at Independence Rising in March of 2022, to gain
more experience for her future as a social worker. Her job here at Independence Rising is family
support. For almost her entire life, she has worked with children and families as a babysitter and
for a few years she worked in daycares. Mercedes absolutely adores children and wants to work
and communicate one on one with children and families. Mercedes has always wanted to work
with children and families and looks forward to may new opportunities in the future.
Emily Beye
Emily BeyeFunctional Family Facilitator
Rebekah Huff
Rebekah HuffFunctional Family Facilitator
Elizabeth Pristavec
Elizabeth PristavecFunctional Family Facilitator
Logan Holloway
Logan Holloway Functional Family Facilitator
Carmen Lobdell
Carmen Lobdell Functional Family Facilitator
Patricia Hiegel
Patricia HiegelFunctional Family Facilitator
Raven Jack
Raven JackFunctional Family Facilitator
Associate Degree in Early Childhood Ed with Behavioral education. I have been a director of childcares for the past 4 years and am currently the director of two site locations within North Platte on my off hours. I have worked
in childcare for 9 years and in home health with special needs adults for 2 years. I am a single mother of two boys. Started with Independence Rising in November 2021.

I enjoy working with children to give them a positive person in their lives and be a change in children’s lives. I grew up not having the greatest positivity around me and become an adult without that was difficult and I want
to be able to help children and families live more positive lives.

I have over 45000 hours of Early Childhood Training 1200 hours of behavioral training with kids and have always had First Aid and CPR. I feel that these trainings have made me a better parent and always encourage other parents
to give it a go. I feel that I am always willing to learn, and grow regardless of the challenges and that would be my biggest credibility.

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