Meet Our Team

The professional team at Tanager Place is made up of compassionate care advocates, nurses, family support specialists and trained social workers. We’re 100% family-focused and driven to meet the unique needs of every child and family who walks through our doors.

Administration

Okpara Rice

Chief Executive Officer

Okpara Rice joined Tanager Place of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as executive director in July 2013, and assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer July 2015. Okpara is the first African American to hold executive office at Tanager Place in its more than 140 year history.

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He brings leadership experience to Tanager from his work at the Jewish Child Care Association in Pleasantville, New York, the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, the Youth Campus in Park Ridge, Ill and Starr Columbus in Columbus, Ohio.

Okpara is active in the field and his community and currently serves on a wide number of boards and advisory committees locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The issues that fuel his passion and involvement include juvenile justice, access to services, health equity, education and leadership development. Most recently he was appointed to Governor Kim Reynolds’ Children’s System State Board, formed to innovatively create solutions for youth in Iowa. Okpara also led the more than 60-year old Association of Children’s Residential Centers as its first African American Board President.

Okpara has presented internationally in Europe and Canada on issues that affect children. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, and a Master of Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the Brown School in 2018. He also holds an Executive Management certification from Georgetown University, Washington DC, and an Executive Scholar Certificate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Okpara lives in Marion, Iowa with his wife Julie and sons Malcolm and Dylan.

Kim Venner

Chief Operating Officer

Kim Venner joined Tanager Place in 2013 as the Pediatric Integrated Health Administrator. Previously, she worked with various populations including pregnant and parenting teens, developmentally disabled children, delinquent adolescents, and preschool children.

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She has served as a peer reviewer for the Council on Accreditation for nine years, and has administrative experience in quality improvement; regulatory, accreditation, and technology management. Kim holds a MSW from The University of Iowa and a BSW from Mount Mercy University.

Mike Hines

Senior Vice President of Programming

Mike Hines has worked at Tanager Place since 1986. Before becoming a full time caseworker for the sexual abuse program, he worked in the PMIC unit for two years. He soon became supervisor for the Community Based programs.

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Mike has been part of the Executive Administration team since 2010 and was named Senior Vice President of Programming in 2015.  He is also involved with many projects throughout Tanager Place, YouthPort, the Cedar Rapids School District, Mental Health Resource Committee, United Way Reading into Success, and other community organizations.

Bradley Thatcher

Vice President of Finance

Brad Thatcher joined Tanager Place in January 2016. Prior to starting at Tanager Place, Brad served for 4 years as the Controller for Four Oaks Family and Children’s Services, a year as the Controller for the University of Iowa Foundation, and 8 years as an …

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auditor of not-for-profit and governmental organizations at McGladrey & Pullen, LLP.

Brad graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Master’s of Accounting degree in 2003 and became a licensed CPA in 2005. Brad was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and is committed to helping Tanager Place successfully navigate financially.

Tonya Hotchkin

Associate Vice President of Programming

Working with children and families is inspirational to me. Passion is defined as any powerful or compelling notion or feeling. Denis Diderot once said, “Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things.” In my soul …

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I feel that children and families are the most beautiful creatures on the earth. I believe that it is through human relationships, connections, nurturing and love that we open the door to inspire greatness; inspire
potential in the soul. I love being a part of a system that focuses on strengths, hope, well being and resiliency. I hope to be a stepping stone, a planted seed, a part of someone’s journey that invites them to see their reflection and feel their greatness.

Michelle Allmandinger

Director of Inpatient Services

Michelle joined Tanager Place in September 2018. Previously she was employed for 28 years at Four Oaks where she served as Program Manager for a variety of juvenile justice/child welfare programs.

Joan Hackbarth

Director of Advancement

Joan Hackbarth has been an active member of the team at Tanager Place since 1991. Working initially as a volunteer Joan helped to grow the annual Tanager Place Summer Fest. She was hired in the Department of Advancement in 2003.

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Born in Iowa City, and a graduate from Iowa State University, Joan has lived in Iowa all her life. She works hard for the mission of Tanager Place and leads the Department of Advancement to meet its goals in building awareness, advocacy and fundraising.

Lorrie Erusha

Director of Philanthropy, MOL, CFRE

Lorrie Erusha joined Tanager Place in November 2014. Prior to joining the staff Lorrie served in a variety of administrative and management roles as a consultant, business owner, …

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recruiter, trainer, and buyer.

Lorrie graduated from the University of Arizona and received her M.A. Organizational Leadership from St. Ambrose University. Lorrie’s passionate commitment to the Tanager Place mission helps facilitate relationship building and philanthropy. She works with donors in major gifts and planned giving.

Autism

Blake Stephenson

LMSW, BCBA
ASD Program Manager

Blake is a graduate from Saint Louis University and holds a Masters of Social Work …

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with emphasis in applied behavior analysis.  Blake was appointed a member of the Governor’s Autism Council in 2019.

“Do good, take data.” – Dr. Todd Risley
Such a simple quote is, perhaps, the epitome of my life and the work I do. I was raised from a young age to learn the importance of service to
others. Whether it was through my time volunteering as a coach for the Special Olympics, or working at camps for children, adolescents, and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the mantra of “do good” was instilled in me.

“Take data” came when I started my journey into higher education. I was magnetically drawn to applied behavior analysis (ABA) and the science of human of behavior. It felt like the answer to my questions: It provided me with structure and the ability to know that when I am working with you or your child, what I am doing is effective and evidence-based. I take pleasure and pride in the work that I do.

Deanne Drummy

ABA Technician

Deanne strongly believes in the work of Tanager Place and its mission.

Monica Ryan-Rausch

LMSW

Shawn Grommon

ABA Technician

Shawn earned a BBA from Mount Mercy University. …

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I want all children to feel included, loved and valued – especially children with Autism. Teaching them the skills needed to boost confidence and build relationships, guiding them through frustrations and witnessing successes is very rewarding.

Coralville Clinic

Jillian Polaski

LMFT
Clinic Therapist

Jillian earned a degree in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa and her Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mt. Mercy University. …

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“Prior to becoming a therapist, I studied and taught creative writing for many years, focusing on personal narrative writing. I found that what I loved so much about writing was the process of making sense out of my life, and the way that storying process changed me.

“I see therapy as also being a storying effort, one requiring imagination and play. Whatever age we are, we need to play and we need to imagine in order to generate possibility and hope, to overcome trauma, to tell ourselves stories that go beyond the self and embed us in some larger context.

“Our stories, and our selves, cannot exist in absolute isolation. We are marked by the people and the environments around us, and we need relationship. When we can integrate these relationships into a coherent narrative that makes sense to us and to the others around us, I think we can say we are on the path to healing.”

Joella Gerber

LISW
Clinic Therapist

Joella earned a degree in Psychology at Cedarville University, and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa. …

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“Clients always amaze me with their resilience and drive to keep working through hard life circumstances. I also love Tanager’s mission to compassionately and empathetically work with people with the most need.”

Kelly Mayer

LISW
Clinic Therapist

Kelly received her Bachelors of Social Work and Masters of Social Work from University of Iowa School of Social Work. …

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Her therapeutic style includes Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Trauma Informed Care, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, and Adlerian Play Therapy techniques.

“When I think what fills my bucket, I always come back to serving others. What this looks like has changed over time and serves as an anchor to ground me in times where I seek to re-center myself.

“Working alongside children and families as they grow and learn and mold into stronger more empowered versions of themselves is what keeps me coming back each day. While I hope to teach and lead by example, the real learning comes from the clients sitting across from me each day. Every client is unique and holds their own key to a fulfilling and resilient future. I am honored to be a part of their journey.”

CR Clinic

Amber Cook

LMFT-t, MT-BC
Clinic Therapist

Amber is a graduate from Wartburg College and holds a Bachelor’s in Music Education, having majored in music therapy.

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Amber specialized in developmental disabilities and Autism treatment, and works with clients through the Mental Health Clinic on an outpatient basis.

Andrew Beer

Ph.D, LMFT, RPT
Clinician Supervisor

Andrew received his degree from Mount Mercy University and his doctorate from the University of Iowa.

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Andrew’s leadership extends statewide as a member of the Governor’s Autism Council. Unlike many adults, being playful has never stopped being a part of my life. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to freely apply that playfulness in the work that I do. This has allowed me to relate to and communicate with children and families in a way that I never thought was possible. The language of play allows me to bridge the worlds of adults and children, helping them connect, reconnect, or form entirely new fulfilling relationships that can help them thrive. Each day brings a new challenge. Some end in smiles, others in tears. In the end, I can only hope to fill their hearts in the way that they fill mine.

Angelo LaRocco

Clinical Psychologist

Angelo attended Western Illinois University where he gained a BS in Psychology. At the University of Iowa he earned both an Educational Specialist degree and Ph.D. in School Psychology.

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I want to help provide insight and data-based direction to families struggling to find answers in regards to their child’s cognitive, developmental, academic, or behavioral needs.

Ashley Hart

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

Ashley attended the University of Iowa where she received a degree in Social Work. She also was a Social Work undergrad at Winona State University. …

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I find value in working with youth and their families and supporting them as they work towards reaching their goals.

I believe that everyone possesses traits that make them unique, valuable, important and wonderful individuals. It is my goal to assist others in recognizing and celebrating those aspects in themselves.

I believe that everyone deserves to be seen as the unique and wonderful person they are while having supports to understand, believe in and be with them as they navigate life’s struggles.

I hope to provide a space for youth to be themselves and feel comfortable as they grow towards their goals.

Bethany Gugliano

LMSW, CTP
Clinic Therapist

Bethany earned her Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Iowa in 2014. I enjoy working with families and children who have …

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a history of trauma, anxiety, or depression. I understand that the family is a unit and whole has to be fit and functional in order for each part to be whole.

Bethany Roberts

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

Bethany attended the University of Iowa where she earned both a Masters in Social Work and a BA in Psychology.

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I decided to join the Tanager Place team as a clinic therapist because I believe the mind is so complex and powerful, that those who have experienced trauma and overwhelming emotions or life events have the ability within themselves to create positive change in their lives, and embrace radical acceptance when they are given an opportunity to do so within a safe and nurturing environment. It is my mission to provide a safe space for people who are hurting, to build them up with unconditional positive regard and encouragement to move forward from their suffering and create a life worth living for themselves one step at a time.

Bridget Sicchio

MS, ATR
Art Therapist

Bridget earned her Master of Science in Art Therapy from Mount Mary University and has a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa.

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She practiced art therapy for six years in Wisconsin, giving children with special needs and individuals with disabilities the opportunity to by using the art process as a way to heal. In 2012, Bridget joined the Expressive Arts program at Tanager Place where she works as a Registered Art therapist, helping at-risk children explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and develop social skills.

Debra Brockington

LMHC-t, MT-BC
Clinic Therapist

Debra attended St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana as well as Walden University in Minnesota, earning master’s degrees in music therapy and marriage, couple and family counseling. …

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She is also a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, who gravitates toward a CBT therapeutic style but is willing to provide what works best for her client.

Debra can play every musical instrument of the orchestra – and a few more that aren’t! She came to Tanager Place because our organizational mission closely aligns with her own.

“My primary goal as a clinician is to be a partner in care – a partner of the client, the family, the treatment team.

“Our clients know what they need to feel better. Some days they need a safe place to share. Other days they need assistance navigating their mental health with strategic education focused on their challenges and the therapeutic process.

“My second goal as a clinician is to take care of myself. If I am not as healthy as I can be, I won’t have the energy to give to my family and my clients. It can be professional rewarding to save the world. It also can lead to burn out. Even Superman took time for a vacation.”

Emily Michener

LMHC
Clinic Therapist

Emily studied at the University of Iowa and chose Tanager Place because she wanted to help give back to the community and “work with kiddos.” …

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She says, “I like getting to be that safe space for kiddos because I didn’t have that as a child, and I really wish more services had been available to me.”

She believes everyone needs a champion – someone who offers support all the time, not only when the person is doing well. “When you have a champion helping you through tough times, you are able to flourish and truly recognize your own strength and resilience.”

Emily’s therapeutic style includes DBT and CBT.

“Mental health needs to be talked about and advocated for more. Too many people don’t seek out the help they need due to fear of the stigma attached to mental health. This stigma only leads to further isolation. Mental health professionals need to advocate on behalf of clients unable to do so for themselves.”

Erin Forbes

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

Erin earned degrees at the University of St. Thomas for Clinical Social Work and …

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Mount Mercy University for Psychology and English.

I want to be a part of building a stronger community and helping the young people in this community truly experience opportunities to reach their full potential. Tanager Place’s mission and core values are very much in line with service to the community.

Heather Ward

LMHC-t, CADC
Clinic Therapist

Heather attended the University of Iowa where she earned her Master’s in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling. …

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She says she chose Tanager Place because of the opportunities to learn and grow, personally and professionally. She enjoys the opportunity to serve those who often feel they don’t have a voice or are not being heard.

Her therapeutic styles include CBT, Person Centered, Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused.

“I know every minute I spend with a client lends me the opportunity to make an impact on this world; a ripple effect. I believe that connection is what we all crave. I believe having someone listen and understand makes us feel not so alone in the world. As a therapist, I have the opportunity to be a source of unconditional, positive regard for my clients – the opportunity to provide a space that makes people feel heard, safe and understood.”

Jennie Null

LMFT
Outpatient Clinical Manager

Jennie received her Bachelors’ degree in Psychology and her Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mount Mercy University.

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​I love when a child, parent, family, or staff are able to recognize their internal strengths and beauty. In turn to see that individual or family grow and blossom into their most authentic, confident, and resilient self.

Joining in relationships with people from all walks of life creates passion in my heart. I believe therapeutic relationships are built on trust, secure vulnerability and compassion. Brene’ Brown says “vulnerability is birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change” I believe that it is through these strong yet vulnerable relationships people can get to know themselves from all different angles and learn to appreciate all parts of their stories, thus created courage and change. I believe everyone has unlimited potential to take ownership and create change in their life’s story. Seeing growth in clients, interns, colleagues and myself through these relationships is the most rewarding and motivating outcome I experience.

Jennifer Vanscoy

LMHC
Clinic Therapist

Jennifer earned an MS degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Walden University. …

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Everyone that I meet has a story to be told and heard.

To me, the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with individuals and hear them tell their story is the very best job I can think of.  Every person I meet has a past, a present, and a future.

Although our past is a part of us, the present and what we do with our past is what defines us in the present and in the future.  It is my job to hear and understand your story, and to help you build the skills you need to have the future you want.

Joalene Grissel

MA, LMFT-t
Clinic Therapist

Joalene attended Coe College for her bachelor’s degree in psychology before continuing her education at Mount Mercy University, earning a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy. …

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She says choosing to join Tanager Place was easy. “Being a native Cedar Rapidian, I have long known Tanager to be a pillar of hope and strength in our community. To work with children is to be a steward of our future, and I believe the services at Tanager truly provide children and their families opportunities to be inspired, empowered and healed.”

Her therapeutic style is client-centered, understanding and compassionate.

“Virginia Satir once said that ‘feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.’ My great hope is that children and families who enter my care will find new ways to explore these aspects of growing their nurturing connection as a family. I count my career as a blessing in my life, and the resiliency and determination I see in children and their families inspires and grows me daily.”

Joe Robinson

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

Joe attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a master’s degree in social work, a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a certificate of Critical Cultural Competence. …

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… He also has trained in Psychological First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills.

The Tanager Place mission – to provide services to children and families that inspire, empower and heal – aligns with Joe’s passion for helping people seeking change to improve their lives.

“I believe that Tanager offers an environment that fosters personal growth by enriching lives through cooperation between therapist and client. I feel that practicing at Tanager Place allows me to have maximum positive impact in helping to improve individuals, families and, in turn, the community’s mental health and wellbeing.”

Joe practices using Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and motivational interviewing.

“I practice mental health therapy to help children and families that have found themselves at points in their lives where they need assistance with their journey. I strive to collaborate with families to help them develop the goals for a life worth living and the skills to achieve them.”

Josh Sarnecky

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

I chose Tanager Place because I believe in the organization’s commitment to children in our community…

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Through its combined focus on prevention, treatment, and outreach, Tanager Place is a dynamic network that I am proud to be a part of.

My work as a therapist is grounded in my belief that all of us have special talents and a responsibility to use those abilities for the good of others. As much as I love stories about superheroes, I have learned over time that such heroism does not truly reflect my role as a therapist. I am not tasked with swooping in and preventing catastrophes. Rather, my responsibility is to help my clients find their own strengths and learn how to effectively use them to solve the challenges in their lives. Clients do not need to be saved; rather, clients need assistance gaining insight into their areas for growth and developing the skills to attain that growth. My greatest responsibility is to provide guidance so that clients can tap into their potential. With support and encouragement from a therapist, clients can discover their own powers and become their own heroes.

Kristen Thom

LMFT-t
Clinic Therapist

Working with children and families has lit a passion deep in my soul for helping others…

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I love being a part of something that makes a difference in the world simply by connecting with others on a basic human level. I believe connection is the ability to be vulnerable and within the collaborative vulnerability it is there that I, as a therapist, can make a difference. By nurturing the love and acceptance my clients have for themselves and others I am planting the seeds of resilience, strength and hope.We can open great doors and tap into the potential that our souls have to offer this world when we engage in mutual trust with in the therapeutic relationship.  I hope to be a small part my clients journey by planting seeds for further soul exploration and flourishing in the future.

Kirsten Pancione

Telehealth ARNP

Lindsey Swales

LISW, CTP, RPT-S
Outpatient Clinical Manager

Lindsey earned a MSW degree from St. Ambrose University. She also has a Bachelors …

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in Psychology with a minor in Human Relations from the University of Iowa.

I make a significant effort to create a healthy connection with my clients by utilizing my strengths of compassion, humor, and a non-judgmental approach to build a strong, trusting relationship.  I strive to create a warm and nurturing environment for my clients to experience feelings of safety and stability in order to heal and cultivate lasting change.  I utilize a variety of evidence based practices to provide  individualized treatment to my clients including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solution Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Adlerian Play Therapy, AutPlay, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Marie Villhauer

LMHC-t
Clinic Therapist

Marie earned a degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of …

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San Diego. My friends and family have always referred to me as a “cheerleader” because I am always cheering them on and encouraging them to achieve their dreams and goals. I try to bring that enthusiasm to work with me with children and families. I feel inspired by the future of the children I meet and believe every child is full of potential. My goal in meeting your family  is to help create an environment that allows you to learn new skills that help you overcome challenges and explore existing strengths that you have within.

Molly Chambers

LMFT-t
Clinic Therapist

Molly received her Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mount Mercy University…

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I know that providing support, acceptance and knowledge to children and families, and working with them to reach their goals is essential to the growth, happiness and safety of the individual, as well as the family, and the community as a whole.

I can’t fix anyone else’s problems, but I can ensure they don’t face them alone, and to quote Robert Ingersoll; “We rise by lifting others.”

I am just one individual but by giving my hand, providing empathy, sharing my knowledge, giving freely acceptance, and offering understanding I can create a positive ripple, heal a single heart and in turn nurture my own- invigorating myself to continue offering my hand a thousand times over.

Pamela Moen

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

Pamela earned her Masters of  Social Work from the University of Iowa. She enjoys building relationships and collaborating with her clients so that they can live out their best lives.

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I knew since I was very young that I wanted to be a therapist when I got older. I have always loved getting to know people, forming relationships and hearing people tell their stories. I believe it is my role as a therapist to create a safe place for people to share about themselves and tell their story. I want to collaborate with clients as they explore, discover and grow. I believe in a focus on the person’s strengths as well as areas they would like to see change in order to help them live the life they want for themselves. I have a lot of compassion and genuinely care about people. I feel grateful to be able to serve clients as their therapist here at Tanager Place.

Robin Hoffman

LMSW
Clinic Therapist

From as long as I can remember I have enjoyed interacting and helping children. My interest in engaging with children grew into a passion that has blossomed as my career continues to unfold.

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Each child is different and because of this each child’s needs are met in unique ways. When I welcome children and families into my office it is my hope that children can display their true selves while also having the opportunity to learn and discover. My professional goal is to create a safe space where children can cultivate and enhance skills while also incorporating intentional engagement from each child’s caregivers.

Change is not impossible, but change is a process. Each child has the potential to be their best self if given the opportunity. It is my hope that children and families will strengthen their relationships while also enriching desired goals. Compassion, patience, and understanding are three components to assist with this process. Being able to shed light on hope and future improvements for children and families is one step in this direction. Through collaborative efforts I believe all clients can get to their desired place.

Stacey Struble

RN/MSN, ARNP, PMHNP
Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Stacey earned a Master of Nursing from Mount Mercy College and then completed a post-master’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program at Allen College. …

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She and her husband live on a small farm with their four sons, who are active in wrestling and football. The family also shares their home with a dog and bearded dragon.

When Stacey isn’t working, she enjoys water sports like swimming, kayaking or fishing.

Tabitha Webster

Ph.D., LMFT
Clinic Therapist

Tabitha attended Brigham Young University and earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy. …

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She also spent a year in a neuroscience Ph.D. program before choosing to pursue therapy. Her background includes training in TF-CBT, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Functional Family Therapy and Yoga Teacher Training. And her therapeutic style is experiential, expressive, CBT and emotion-focused.

She chose Tanager Place because the organizational mission – to provide services to children and families that inspire, empower and heal – represents her personal reasons for joining this profession.

When Tabitha isn’t in the office, there’s a good chance you’ll find her enjoying the outdoors. She has a goal of visiting all the national parks, and has so far crossed 21 of them off her list. She was once a yoga instructor, and also enjoys acrylic painting and creating pottery.

Tina Ghinazzi Patterson

LMFT-t
Clinic Therapist

Tina earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before continuing her education and …

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earning master’s degrees from the University of Iowa (rehabilitation counseling) and Mount Mercy University (marriage and family therapy).

“The culture of unconditional positive regard for clients and families makes Tanager Place an environment that not only satisfies my own personal mission, but offers a safe place for children and families to seek their best lives. I was drawn by the deep commitment the people from Tanager Place have to their clients and the supportive atmosphere in which to work. This was my destination career path and I am very happy to have been able to join the team here.”

Tina describes her therapeutic style as experiential therapy, solution-focused brief therapy and child-centered.

“There are nurturers in our world who seek out ways to help others live a better life. Since I was a child, this has been my path. I want to see the caterpillar turn into the butterfly, the tadpole become a handsome frog, and the child grow to be a happy, healthy adult.”

School Based

Abby Seyfer

LISW
Clinician Supervisor

Abby earned her Master of Social Work from University of Iowa and attended Luth College for undergraduate degree with a double major in psychology and sociology.As I work with children and their families, I strive to create a warm…

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and inviting environment in which all of our parts are welcome. The part of you that is motivated; the part of you that is hurt; the part of you that is doing whatever it needs to do to keep you safe.  I am most passionate about inviting the ‘inner child’ within each of us to “come out and play” in our work together, as this is a part of us that is not often valued or cherished in our society, but that holds significant truth and meaning. Through my work, I have realized my calling of nurturing and mending ‘old wounds’ that may have been forgotten about in everyday life but that are still ringing true in our hearts and in our beliefs about  who we are as an individual, as a child, as a parent, as a co-worker. My hope is that clients are able to walk out of my office knowing that they are valued, cared for, and possess endless resources within themselves to be their most authentic, healthy self.

Maggie Hartzler

LISW, CTP
Clinical Supervisor

Maggie attended St. Ambrose University where she earned her Masters of Social Work degree. She also received a BA in Psychology and Philosophy as an undergraduate at Coe College.

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I find great worth and value in working with children and families.  I feel that each person has talents, characteristics, and qualities that make them important and special and beautiful.  I believe that my own gifts allow me to easily and quickly see the strength and beauty in others.  Every person deserves to have someone who can see them for who they really are and who they are meant to be – someone to believe in them, connect with them, and sit with them in their struggles and successes.  I want to be that person for the children and families I serve.  It is my hope that each person who walks into my space can leave knowing that they are beautiful and worthy and filled to the brim with greatness and potential.

Alexis Erger

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Alexis has her Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa. In all experiences, I use a strengths-based approach, and include a combination of family systems therapy, …

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dialectical behavior therapy, and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. I utilize play in much of my work, which I believe enables children to foster skills and work through traumatic experiences. My days spent working with kids are embedded into my heart and rooted in my soul; they have provided me with precious opportunities to bear witness to strength, courage, trials and triumphs. I am honored to experience the vast richness and exquisite beauty found in human connection, and always strive to utilize this connection to foster hope. With each child that I work with, I seek to create a safe, nurturing space that promotes the child’s resilience, affirms their value, and empowers them to realize their inherent strengths.

Amanda Vanis

LMHC
School Based Therapist

Amanda has a Masters in Counseling and Human Services from the University of Colorado. She also has a BA in Psychology and a BS in Sociology from the University of Iowa.

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A graduate school professor once told me, “Just because the process hurts, doesn’t mean the results won’t be beautiful.” I promote this daily with the children and families I work with, always fostering safety, hope, and confidence in themselves. Giving children the tools and encouragement to navigate difficult situations and come out stronger on the other side, is nothing short of amazing, and what drives me to provide a supportive environment to all clients. I believe that a strong foundation is what gives children the ability to be resilient, overcome, and take charge, all which are pivotal in giving them a voice. And it is with that voice that they are able to value their true selves, and begin their journey, no matter what the path may hold.

Amy Jennings

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Amy earned a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa before continuing her education at St. Ambrose University where she received her Master of Social Work. …

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She says she felt the welcoming environment at Tanager Place from the moment she walked through the front doors.

“I felt the warmth and kindness of staff members I had the opportunity to interact with, and felt well connected to Tanager Place’s mission statement ‘to provide children and families with services that inspire, empower and heal.’”

Amy has lived in Cedar Rapids for most her of adult life and says she knows Tanager Place is well respected throughout the community.

“I believe it is important for every person to know their value, to be loved and cared for, and to know how to love and care for others. This can be accomplished in lots of ways, but most importantly by sitting with someone in their space, by hearing their dreams and wishes, their heartaches and heartbreaks, their worries and stresses, their successes and celebrations. Life is all of these things and every person, no matter how big or small, should be heard, should have the opportunity to be their authentic self, and should be celebrated.”

Cassie Kehoe

LMSW, CTP
School Based Therapist

Cassie attended the University of Iowa where she received her Masters in Social Work. She also has a BS in criminal justice and psychology at the College of Brockport in New York.

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It is my core belief that we are all trying to do the best with what we have. Sometimes, we get stuck, and sometimes we need someone to be able to show us that what we have is enough. It is my goal and my want to help children and families to be able to explore that potential within them. To help them see that they are enough, and that they are capable of what they want to achieve and be. I feel grateful for all the families and children I meet on a daily basis, as they teach me about overcoming challenges, as well as show me how resilient they are. My hope is to provide a safe, nurturing space for all those who visit, and can leave with the belief that they are enough, that their feelings are valid and that they can accomplsh their goals. “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. A. A. Milne”.

Chantelle Mobberley

LMFT-t
School Based Therapist

Chantelle has her  Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her therapeutic style includes Internal Family Systems, Alderian and CBT. She’s also trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

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I believe a person is more than who is standing before us.Each person is a complex entity that still manages to share a wide range of emotions, or parts if you will. Each of us have happiness, joy, sadness, fears, insecurities, etc.  These parts are  shaped by not only our family we grew up with but also each and every decision we make. Through this process we are shaped and shape ourselves continuously. This includes how we should care for parts of ourselves, even ones we do not like. I believe all of our emotions and parts are inherently good. Even if some people only see those parts as bad, I invite curiosity and hope that we can learn from ourselves and those parts.

Darren Kirk

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Darren earned an associate’s degree in human services at Kirkwood Community College, a bachelor’s degree in social work at Mount Mercy University, and, at St. Ambrose University, completed his Master of Social Work. …

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“I chose Tanager Place because the organization aligns with my core values of helping children and their families reach their inner potential through empowerment and healing.”

Former NFL player and fitness enthusiast Terry Crews said, “All it takes is one person to believe in a young man or woman for them to reach their dreams.

“This is what I strive to be for children each day when I go to work. My own experiences as a child taught me life can bring its own challenges and hurdles that can leave you feeling lost, stuck and down. I feel passionate about being able to give support to children that allows them to feel safe and able to build resiliency to overcome the challenges they face. I strive to be an individual that will inspire hope, empower action and assist in the navigation toward healing so my clients can reach their inner potential and, ultimately, achieve their dreams.”

Dawn Neff

LISW
School Based Therapist

Dawn has earned several degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with a minor in sociology, at Mount Mercy University. At the University of Denver, she earned a Master of Social Work and a certificate in interpersonal trauma. She’s been trained in EMDR. …

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… “I love Tanager Place for the mission, culture and amazing staff,” she said.

“I love being able to help others grow and become their own version of successful. I enjoy spending time with children, and allowing them to be fully human to discover, create and grow. It’s a true privilege to be a witness to their story and part of their journey. I often find that I learn more from my clients about growth, strength and perseverance than I teach them.”

Deb Wiethorn

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Deb has her MA in Social Work from the University of Iowa. Her therapeutic areas of focus include: art and play therapy techniques, trauma informed, as well as the development of self-esteem and self-worth.

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“One hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the type of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child” After I graduated from college, I was given a canvas with this quote printed on it. I have continued to carry this message with me over the 20 years I have worked in the mental health field. I enjoy the opportunity to work with children to help them work through difficult situations in their lives so they can heal and find their own inner strength. I feel we all have the opportunity to learn from those that enter our lives. I have found that I have learned a great deal from the children and families that I have had the opportunity to work with over the years. It is my hope that when children complete their time with me they leave with a greater sense of empowerment, resiliency, and self-worth to facilitate change within their lives.

Elizabeth Heiar

LMFT
School Based Therapist

Elizabeth has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from and her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mount Mercy University. Her therapeutic style includes Trauma-Informed-Care, Systems Theory, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, and is collaborative.

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As a single mother, my passion is in supporting and empowering other single parents. Parents and caregivers play one of the most important roles in a child’s life, therefore engaging families in the treatment of their children is equally important. I value the diversity and uniqueness of each family as a unit, in addition to each member of the family individually.

Emma Redington

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Emma earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Northern Iowa. Her academic experience emphasized Trauma-Informed Care. …

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She sees play as an essential part of child communication, and also practices trauma processing, CBT and client-centered modalities to encompass the whole person, including natural strengths and resources.

“I chose Tanager Place because the organization’s mission aligns with my purpose with each client interaction. Tanager Place holds its clients as the main priority and driving force of operation, and my goal is to live up to the organizational mission of inspiring, empowering and healing each person I have the privilege to come in contact with.”

Emma says she strives each day to provide children and families a secure and welcoming environment to facility healing and acceptance.

“I believe every person has natural resources, strengths and abilities to realize their full potential. Each child has a voice. My passion is not to lead people to a sense of healing, but to walk alongside them while inspiring and empowering them and their families. I am honored to have the privilege to join each child and family on their acceptance of the past as well as their journey into the future.”

Erin Gumm

LMHC
School Based Therapist

Erin earned a bachelor degree in music education and music therapy from the University of Kansas. She also earned her Master of Arts in Counseling from Eastern Mennonite University. …

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She has advanced training in Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience, ASIST, and DBT, and says her therapeutic style is person-centered, family systems and attachment focused.

“My experience includes working with trauma, attachment, adolescence, children and family relationships, within co-occurring diagnoses, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and women’s issues. I am comfortable working in crisis/risk management and safety protocol.

“I enjoy working with children and families, and helping them through transitions in school and other life changes and challenges, particularly in transition to adulthood.”

Jen Angus

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Jen attended Northwestern College for undergraduate degree with a double major in social work and Spanish and has her Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa.

I have an eclectic therapeutic …

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orientation incorporating a variety of therapeutic styles dependent upon client needs. Family systems theory is a large influencer as I feel it is essential to recognize the impact of outside factors. CBT is also very impactful due to the importance of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. In working with children I also feel the incorporation of play is essential as it is the way in which children best know how to communicate.

I have always had an incredibly strong passion for children and helping others. I was led to the field of Social Work when this simple question was posed to me: “If you never had to worry about money, what would you want to do with your life?” The response from my heart was to play with kids, and I am so grateful that I have been able to make that my life’s work. I am beyond blessed to be able to do this work and by all that I am able to learn and gain from the children and families I work with. It is my hope to provide them a place where they find safety, healing, empowerment, and know they are trusted, cared for, and valued for every part of themselves.

Jenny Topliff

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Jenny earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Northern Iowa. Her Master of Social Work program emphasized Trauma-Informed Care. …

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… “My mission is to advocate for and inspire people to heal through the most difficult times in their lives. Everyone has the potential to learn and grow from life experiences. My role is to provide a safe and nurturing environment.”

Her therapeutic styles include play and art interventions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and trauma-informed practice. She says vulnerability can be a powerful gift.

“It allows people to realize perfection is an illusion, and that it is OK to admit that we do not have all the answers and may need to reach out for help. My goal is to help children and their families by guiding them through these feelings. My role is to assist children and families to see the value in their strengths and acknowledge they are enough and capable of overcoming all barriers.”

As Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Joe Hunt Wassink

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Joe received his Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. He is certified in Cultural Compitency, Psychological First Aid, Training in Trauma Informed CBT, Motivational Interviewing, and Applied Suicide Intervention.

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I  grew up the middle of 5 children, so my most familiar family role became peacemaker, and I am no stranger to complex sibling and parent-child dynamics. I also experienced the life-giving power of that same loving and supportive family. Having benefited from that experience, it is my goal to help all individuals in the families I work with develop deep understanding and trust of one another. I have a life-long passion for working to liberate and empower children and a commitment to supporting them at every age and level of interaction; from the individual, to the family, to their participation in broader systems such as schools and friendship groups. I aspire to facilitate a future for the children I serve in which they grow up feeling the full support of their family and their community, and have all the resources they need to grow into successful and happy adults.

Karli Moellers

LISW
School Based Therapist

Karli earned her Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work at the University of Iowa, and provides a relaxed and client-centered therapeutic style. …

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… Tanager Place appealed to her because of the organization’s “people first” approach.

“I wanted to join an agency where the clients are truly being served and their needs are being met. The culture of Tanager Place fits my passion and style. I was excited to work in a place where I would be accepted and could feel good about the work I do.”

She believes every person deserves to have someone who truly sees them.

“My biggest hope within this career is for the children and families I work with to have reassurance they can trust me and that I value them as people. I believe I can bring compassion and authenticity into the work I do, and I want to show that building a relationship with a person in an honest and open way can make all the difference.”

She has found passion in this work by meeting clients where they are and “walking with them through the journey of change.”

Her favorite quote is from Albus Dumbledore, wizard and Hogwarts headmaster in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series, “There are all kinds of courage.” (And, yes, feel free to chat with Karli about all things Harry Potter.)

Kristin Cannon

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Kristin received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I approach therapeutic relationships with the belief that each person is the expert on their own lives.

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When I work with children and families, I want to help them find a place of safety, comfort, and empowerment in themselves and within their communities. I love being able to be a part of the stories of children and families and to help them be successful in all the things they can accomplish. I work to build a unique relationship with each person I work with, and I let them guide their own goals and the work they will do with me.

Larry Johnson

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Larry earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from Wartburg College and his master’s degree from the University of Southern California. …

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“As a child I felt unwanted. I felt trapped in a world that seemed so small and suffocating. But I dreamed of a world in neon colors when I closed my eyes at night. I felt this energy inside myself. I felt that I could accomplish everything I was told would never happen.

“Despite my hardships, the universe let me land on grass, rather than concrete, so that I could pick myself up again. As a man, I now reflect on my reality with humility and grace. My journey to this place was not alone. I was never alone. I never have to be, and neither do you.

“Tanager Place exemplifies an institution that accepts and acknowledges both the human condition (imperfection) and the human spirit (resilience). Together, these two things equal the human existence. There is nothing we can’t work through with the right approach and support. But we must accept our imperfections and acknowledge our resilience.”

Meghan Adams

LMHC-t
School Based Therapist

Meghan earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and earned her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Antioch New England. …

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… She says she signed on with Tanager Place because of the organization’s strong focus on prevention, trauma-informed care, and advocacy for children and youth.

“It is my belief that establishing lines of communication through open dialogue is key to keeping children grow and reach their true potential. As a therapist, I strive to create a warm, nurturing, inclusive environment for each child to feel safe and be their most authentic self. Through a non-judgmental and empathetic approach, I hope to create a therapeutic relationship rooted in mutual trust, while also empowering children to recognize their own strengths, to overcome challenges, and to better their lives.”

One of her favorite quotes is by Fred Rogers, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Michael C.M. Johnson

LMHC-t
School Based Therapist

Michael earned his bachelor’s degree in history at the University of St. Thomas, and his Master of Science in counselor education at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. …

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… “The opportunity to work with kids in this kind of manner is something entirely unique to my experience. And, honestly, it is something I wish had been provided in the schools I attended growing up. The ability to impact kids in this way, provide support and care, and just be a positive presence for them is something I felt connected to, especially when meeting the team I’d be a part of at Tanager Place.”

Michael is an outdoor enthusiast and says the opportunity with Tanager Place was an experience he couldn’t pass up.

Molly Rathe

LMHC-t, NCC
School Based Therapist

Molly received her BA in Psychology and MA in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of Iowa. Her therapeutic style includes CBT, person-centered and trauma-informed.

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It has been a long time goal of mine to pursue a career focused on helping others to find a way to live more fulfilling and contented lives. Children and adolescents inspire me with their level of resiliency and strength, and I feel very fortunate to work in a setting where I am able to learn so much from the clients I interact with. I believe every person possesses unique traits and abililties, and sometimes it takes assistance to identify and utilize these strengths. My mission as a therapist at Tanager Place is to create a safe and nurturing environment where my clients can grow and recognize their worth and potential as individuals.

Nikki Lown

LMHC-t
School Based Therapist

Nikki earned a bachelor’s in psychology and human services as well as a master’s in mental health counseling at Upper Iowa University. She offers an eclectic therapeutic style that includes Dialectical Behavior Therapy. …

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“I chose Tanager Place because of its organization mission and philosophy toward children and families. Tanager meets individuals where they are and embraces each client’s journey – walking beside the client, rather than ahead.”

John Lennon is quoted as saying, “What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive. Because without it, we’ll sink.” This statement, which has become a mantra for Nikki and her career path.

“Throughout my journey, I have faced many individuals and families at a point of utter loss – of not knowing what to do next, not knowing if anything in life would get better. I feel passionate about inspiring and sparking hope within my clients so they can press forward through adversity. I strive to be a support when support is most needed; to walk alongside others on their journey.”

Rebecca Montville

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Rebecca attended the University of Northern Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor and Master of Social Work. …

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… She also has level one Theraplay training, Group Theraplay training, TF-CBT, and Family Development Specialist training.

“I have a passion for working with kids and families, and I have always wanted to put passion into practice in a school setting. I completed my internship at a Cedar Falls elementary school, working alongside the school counselor. This experience solidified the fact that I wanted to continue practicing in a school setting. Needless to say, I’m very excited for this next chapter.”

Rebecca wants to give kids a voice, especially those who may not believe they have one.

“Every child has a story, deserves to tell that story, and have someone listen to their story. I feel when children are able to tell their stories, they are able to rewrite their ending and build resiliency. People face different struggles throughout their lives, which makes it important to have someone who provides support, even if that someone just listens.”

Shawna Eischeid

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Shawna earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Northern Iowa as well as a master’s degree in social work from Pacific University. …

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… While at UNI, she also obtained certificates in mental health and conflict resolution.

“Throughout my growth as a social worker, I began to realize the importance of children feeling safe within their school system. Unfortunately for many children, school is one of the few places where they can obtain consistent meals, see consistent people, and hopefully feel consistently safe.”

“I came to Tanager Place because I wanted to continue providing therapy to children, as well as be a part of the process that gives children consistency and safety within their school day. Tanager Place offered me this opportunity.”

Tawny Schafbuch

LISW
School Based Therapist

Tawny earned her Masters of Social Work from the St. Ambrose University. She also received a BA in Social Work from Mount Mercy University. Children represent the future of the …

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world we live in. I am motivated to help encourage each child to become the best they can be, despite the adverse situations they may be faced with. In my own experience as a child, I did not have many options for support for the life situations my family was facing. I feel passionate about not letting children feel that they have no one to talk to or listen to them, as I did when I was their age. To me, it is important to recognize the uniqueness and diversity in every child and allow them to express this appropriately and in a safe place.

Taylor Peterson

LMSW
School Based Therapist

Taylor earned undergraduate and graduate (MSW) degrees at the University of Northern Iowa. …

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“I picked Tanager Place because I always wanted to work in the school system. I want to work not only with middle school students, but with their educators, so they can develop a more trauma-informed perspective. I also chose Tanager Place because of the sense of community at the organization, which allowed me to be vulnerable during my initial meetings and employment interviews.”

Taylor has always had a passion for working with youth and families.

“I want to be the reason youth don’t give up. I believe everyone has a different story and different struggles in life, and that a therapist is a person who cares about people, wants to make things better and hopes to make a difference.

“Each client deserves a warm and safe environment, allowing the client to speak openly and feel supported while doing so. I strive to provide additional support to youth so they can access their voice during times of need. I also strive to help them see that they can get through difficult moments in life.”

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