Donate Now

Home adds coordinator position to oversee growing Family Bridges program

As the Family Bridges program grows, the Home has added a coordinator position to oversee daily operations.

Family Bridges Director Sharon Moore announced that Johnna McGowan has been promoted to serve as Coordinator of Family Bridges to oversee the administrative tasks needed to ensure the program runs smoothly for staff and the families and children we help.

Moore chose McGowan for the job because of her “unique blend of education, knowledge, and work experience” and her “deep understanding of the program’s daily operations.” McGowan played a key role handling these tasks after the Home unexpectedly lost previous Family Bridges Director Felicia Ayers Storey in February 2023. 

Family Bridges provides intensive in-home services to help families in Talladega and six nearby counties who have the potential to stay together or to reunite by helping parents establish a safe, stable setting to raise children. 

The State of Alabama Department of Human Resources recently awarded the Home an expanded contract that allows the program to serve 16 families in need in East Central Alabama, a growth of 23 percent.

McGowan and coworker Elayne Funderburke have served as Family Support Specialists in the program for six years, and the Home now will be hiring an additional family support specialist to handle the growth of cases.

Before her work with the Home, McGowan worked as a bookkeeper as she raised her daughter, “but I was always the one people went to when they needed support and encouragement,” she said. When her daughter grew up, McGowan returned to school and earned a degree in psychology and criminal justice from Jacksonville State University. She worked as a counselor at Highland Health Systems in Anniston before coming to the Home.

At Family Bridges, Family Support Specialists are contracted by the Department of Human Resources to work with families whose children have been placed in foster care, or their children are at risk of being placed in foster care. Family Support Specialists offer parents techniques and strategies for behavior interventions, crisis intervention, networking, and support aimed at the reunification, preservation, and strengthening of the family. 

“We teach them the skills they need to help with parenting, conflict resolution, anger management, whatever they need,” McGowan said. They work alongside counselors to help parents deal with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. 

“Many of the people we work with have a generational history with DHR, and many struggle with substance abuse issues,” McGowan said.

The Family Support Specialist visits the families twice a week for six to nine months. Families must agree to participate, she said. 

Some homes they visit are in town, but some are up long dirt roads. In her role, McGowan has shared space with dogs of all sizes, as well as a bearded dragon and a room full of snakes. The snakes were in cages in another room, and McGowan said she asked the homeowners to close the door.

McGowan said she likes the variety and work culture at the Home. “I don’t like helicopter bosses,” McGowan said. “I don’t have that here. I’m trusted to do my job, and if I have questions, I find who I need to ask.”

Website development by Infomedia