Family Shelter Service and Metropolitan Family Services – DuPage: A Merger

The Vision: Leveraging Organizational Strengths to Create a Comprehensive Domestic Violence Program

The merger leverages two organizational strengths: domestic violence programs and behavioral health programs including education, mental health, addiction, and physical health.

There wasn’t any emergency happening at Family Shelter Service; they were operating in the black with over 90 days of cash; the Executive Director, Judie Caribeaux, and her team were doing a great job. The Board was unusually strong for a nonprofit organization of its size, $2.7M in annual revenues. Family Shelter Service (“FSS”) was the only provider of domestic violence services in all of DuPage County, located west of Chicago. FSS serving approximately 2,000 clients and 10,000 callers, annually, with 65 staff members. FSS programs included a 24-hour hotline, court advocacy, and 41-bed emergency shelter, among others.

There were no crises driving Family Shelter Service to consider a merger strategy. So why was Judie considering a merger in 2018? Judie knew, that as hard as her team, board, and volunteers were working, FSS could not meet all of the needs the clients had. In addition, Judie had other concerns for her organization as well, including strengthening her administrative systems. This is why she eventually began to consider a merger strategy. However, it had to be a merger with the right partner that could “trade” the appropriate resources to meet FSS’s needs. That right partner was the Metropolitan Family Services (“MFS”).

MFS in DuPage is the largest provider of community services in the County, with services ranging from behavioral health to early childhood services. The corporate organization had annual revenues in FY ’18 of nearly $64M. MFS – DuPage is one of eight community centers of Metropolitan Family Services and serves approximately 6,000 clients in its behavioral health programs annually and 3,000 clients in its early childhood programs. The FY ’18 annual budget for MFS—DuPage was approximately $11M and currently MFS—DuPage has approximately 226 staff members.  The Executive Director position was vacant at the time of the merger, but was later filled.

The merger leverages two organizational strengths: domestic violence programs and behavioral health programs including early childhood education and mental health services.

The merger process began with a feasibility analysis of a proposed merger in January of 2018, produced by M+S. The final report was very positive, and so the two boards approved a letter of intent to negotiate a merger led by a Joint Negotiating Committee, composed of an equal number of board representatives plus a staff executive from each organization.

The first step in the merger process was to negotiate a memorandum of understanding. The MOU outlined the proposed purpose of the merger and the goals, along with the governance and operations plan. The goals identified in the first three years of the merger included:

  1. To create an expanded victim-directed, comprehensive, integrated service model
  2. To create a groundbreaking public/private business model that is financially sustainable
  3. To make DuPage a benchmark community where victims are supported, abusers are held accountable, and the next generation knows alternative strategies to power and control in a relationship
  4. To ensure that our clients will experience a greater, clinically significant reduction in trauma symptoms as a result of our comprehensive integrated services
  5. To expand capacity to serve more victims through exploration and evaluation.

The parties completed their MOU in December, 2018, closed on their merger in March, 2019, and launched the merger April 1, 2019. Judie Caribeaux was offered the position of Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation, based in the corporate office of MFS, but she not assume this position right away. She overlapped with the transition process for FSS for a period of three months and then gradually moved over to her new position. The former FSS employees had a new leader who worked with Judie for the last six months of the integration planning and the launch of the merger.

MFS—Dupage website