The Yellowstone Conference: Lighting The Way-Systems & Solutions

Join Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for our annual Montana youth centered conference with professional panel discussions on systems and solutions for Montana’s youth.

Thursday August 2, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Franklin & Merle Robbie Chapel, located on YBGR’s main campus at 1732 S. 72nd St. W, Billings, MT 59106

Lunch will be provided

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Registration
9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Welcome
9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Montana Foster Care Panel
11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break
11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Trauma Informer Care Panel
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Overcoming Obstacles Panel
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Collaborating for Outcomes
4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Keynote Speakers

Register Today!

Montana Foster Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Montana Foster Care will focus on the causes and solutions for children, families, government and providers.

Moderator: Charise Lemelin, is the Regional Clinical Director for YBGR Community Based Services.  Charise joined the YBGR family in 2000 and has served in a number of capacities over the years.  She has been in the Clinical Director position for the past 4 years.  Charise earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montana State University Billings and her Master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University.  Charise is a Montana native and enjoys working in YBGR’s  rural satellite programs, especially Therapeutic Foster Care.  She is actively involved in her home community of Dillon where she is a part of the local ACES Task Force and a Board Member of the CASA program. 


Steve Bryan, Co-Founder/Executive Director Child Bridge. Steve is the Executive Director of Child Bridge, a faith-based non-profit that finds and equips foster and adoptive families for Montana children in need.

Steve and his wife Mary founded Child Bridge in late 2010 when they became aware of the severe shortage of foster homes and a lack of supports and resources to help families care for childhood victims of trauma.  Child Bridge now serves families caring for children in foster or adoptive care in 22 counties across the state from Child Bridge hubs in the Flathead, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings.

Steve and Mary have been foster parents, and understand the issues children “from hard places” face. Steve’s faith is a foremost priority in his life and he brings that focus to his work with children, families, churches, pastors and other child welfare providers daily.

He is a seasoned professional with over 40 years of proven experience in entrepreneurship and small business executive management skills. Steve attended Montana State University and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Special Forces Unit. He was honorably discharged and received the Medal of Valor.

Steve and Mary are parents of two daughters and grandparents of two young boys. They have been foster parents to a teenage boy (now 22), who they have an ongoing relationship with, as well as his biological parents.  Their foster son is now married, recently had a baby boy, and named Steve and Mary as grandparents to his son.

Tricia Hergett, CASA, is the Program Administrator for CASA of Yellowstone County.  Tricia has been with CASA for 5 years and provides program coordination to all staff and CASA volunteers advocates.  Additionally, she acts as the staff liaison with the Department of Child and Family Services and she works with all stakeholders to create the priority list of cases for CASAs to take and monitors hearings for cases on the priority list as they wait for CASAs to be assigned.  Tricia previously worked at RiverStone Health as an Assistant to the Vice President, Medicaid Health Improvement Program Administration and the Yellowstone County Registrar. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at ASU.

Keisha Gilbert (YBGR Therapeutic Foster parent) I have been married for 16 years and have 4 children including 3 biological children and 1 foster love. Their ages are 15, 13, 7, and 5. My Christian faith and my family are the highlights of my life. I have a degree in child development and education. I have been working with children for 16 years in various capacities including childcare centers, preschool, public school, church ministry, parenting, fostering, and private school. I currently teach 1st through 8th grade in a small private school and tutor high school students. My husband and I have been therapeutic foster parents with YBGR for about a year and a half.  Coming from a hard place myself, I truly seek to help children from hard places. My mission is to give every child in my path real hope for the future, to share my story of resilience and healing that it might encourage others on that same journey.

Lori Ketchum, ISU-CPS, I was born and raised in Montana in a rural community west of Billings.  I have lived in Billings the past 18 years and have been with Child & Family Services for 6 ½ years.  I currently work in the Intensive Services Unit, ISU, as a Child Protection Specialist primarily working with older children the Department has Permanent Legal Custody of. These children are usually placed in congregate care settings requiring intensive supports to aid in their successful transition into permanent and stable placements.  The ISU utilizes an intensive engagement model to provide youth in congregate care facilities services to expedite transitions into lower levels of care and move the youth successfully to permanency. My main goal is to find adoptive homes willing to care for these children who have been in care for an extensive amount of time.  I attempt to think outside the box and explore previous relationships youth have had or attempt to find appropriate family members.    

Christine Ellerbee, is a a Child Protection Specialist.

Trauma Informed Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Trauma Informed Care will focus on moving beyond theory to practice.

Moderator: Dr. Taylor Mayer, PhD, LCPC – Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations at YBGR. Dr. Mayer first joined YBGR in 1993 as a Mental Health Worker, he returned in the role of Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations in 2017. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor in Montana and Wyoming, and is a Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association.


Susan Frew, LCPC, LMFT – Clinical Director at YBGR Community Based Services.  Susan Frew joined YBGR in June 2010.  She began as a therapist in our residential program and later joined Community Based Services (CBS), serving as a therapist, Clinical Supervisor and now serves as the Clinical Director at CBS.  Susan became a trauma-informed care trainer in the community and has presented within schools to help offer further understanding/guidance on what it means to be trauma-informed.  She has recently been certified through the ChildTrauma Academy to complete the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).  The NMT approach helps to integrate core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to help inform the work with children/families/communities.  Susan holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Mercyhurst University and a Master of Science in Marriage & Family Therapy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.  She is licensed as a Professional Counselor and Marriage & Family Therapist in Montana, and she is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy.

Erica Schuppe is the owner and occupational therapy lead at Wild Roots Therapy, PC. When not at work she is also a busy mom to three, wife, and a yoga, gardening, and camping enthusiast. Erica has been an occupational therapist for 15 years and in private practice for more than half of that time.  Erica started her career working in the rural schools and has served Montana districts from Colstrip, to Broadview, Red Lodge, and all the miles in between. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming and her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR.

Erica’s clinical expertise is in the evaluation and treatment of children from babies to teens with various developmental disabilities including autism, sensory processing disorders and neurodevelopmental differences from childhood trauma.

Jim FitzGerald, CEO Intermountain. Jim joined Intermountain in 1978, working as a cottage counselor in the residential services program. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2001, Jim was Director of Operations, working in all facets of program development, training, policy, and finance.

Throughout his career, Jim has focused the agency upon strengthening families and improving society’s ability to provide prevention, protection, treatment and permanency for all vulnerable youth. A dedicated leader in youth advocacy, he has played a vital role in the state and national forum of child welfare, mental health, and public policy. Working with a dynamic Board and staff, he is responsible for guiding the vision and mission of Intermountain, and transforming Intermountain into a nationally recognized children’s mental health agency.

Jim is also the CEO of ChildWise Institute, a Montana not-for-profit 501c (3) organization established by Intermountain. The mission of ChildWise is to elevate the well-being of vulnerable children through advancing awareness, accelerating knowledge, and advocating for positive societal change. ChildWise has garnered attention across the State of Montana and at the national level.

Jim holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Montana.

Angela Freyenhagen I have been a business woman in the BILLINGS community since 2006 working in Hotels, medical Field, staffing and Real Estate.   I was very active in different nonprofit organizations and served as a board member on Head Start and Make a Wish Foundation, SHRM. I served as a committee member for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and Big Sky Economic Development workforce program.

I am a survivor of abuse, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and cancer. My life at an early age was affected by sexual abuse by family member and older teens in the neighborhood. At the age of 22 I was abducted, held hostage and raped and left for dead. I then turned to drugs and alcohol and ended up in a very domesticated violent relationship. I believe in the restorative power of God, counseling and treatment programs and have been able to live a life of sobriety, happiness and joy beyond my wildest dreams.

Tara French, is a juvenile probation officer for the Yellowstone County Court Services.


Overcoming Obstacles:

The panel on Overcoming Obstacles will focus on the barriers to positive outcomes from drop-out, homelessness, delinquency and chemical dependency issues.

Moderator: Kim Chouinard, M.Ed. – Executive Director of YBGR Community Based Services.  Kim Chouinard joined the Ranch team in 2004. She began as a mental health worker in our residential lodges and in 2006 joined our Community Based Services (CBS) team. Chouinard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Montana State University Billings. She has been serving in the mental health field since 2002. As the Executive Director of CBS, her areas of oversight include school based services, home support services, therapeutic foster care, case management, supported employment, outpatient therapy, therapeutic youth mentoring, and chemical dependency.  She has a passion for children’s mental health and bringing awareness to our communities.


Erika Willis, M.S. joined Tumbleweed in October of 2016 as the Executive Director.    Erika launched her career 28 years ago in the social sector providing direct services for children and families in need, eventually expanding her role into organizational leadership. 

Erika has held positions in a variety of organizations in both the social and private sectors most recently as Company Leader, Customer Experience for Elation, Inc. and prior to that, Executive Director of STEP, Inc.  Before her tenure in leadership, Erika’s work spanned from direct services with children with disabilities to crisis counseling, case management, fundraising and organizational development.

Erika has a B.S in Human Services and M.S in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from Montana State University-Billings and is the Chair of the Yellowstone County Continuum of Care.   She was born and raised in Billings and raised two adult sons in Billings.

Sergeant Robert Lester has been in his current assignment since September of 2013 and has been a sworn deputy since January of 2008. He is the Field Training Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office, and prior to his promotion to Sergeant, he was a Field Training Officer. He previously served on the Yellowstone County SWAT team and was the Vice President for the Mountain States Tactical Officers Association. He is a POST certified S.F.S.T. Instructor and has been the lead SFST Instructor at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. He is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor and teaches a variety of DUI and drug related classes. He has testified in Federal, District, Justice and City Court, at times serving as an expert witness. Sergeant Lester currently holds a POST Advanced and POST Supervisory certificate. He was previously employed as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger for the National Park Service. He worked in Yellowstone National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as a front county Ranger. Sergeant Lester is a graduate of Montana State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberals Studies, with an emphasis in Justice Studies. For the past 7 years he has coached little league baseball for the Laurel Little League and also is the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 421 in Laurel, MT. He has four children and has been married to his wife Julie for 16 years.

Kristin Lundgren, M.Ed.  Kristin grew up in Chad, Africa, where her parents did public health and famine relief.  She came to Minnesota for college and made her way to Billings in 2000 where she began work on the prevention of youth substance abuse and violence.  That worked morphed into her current role as Director of Impact at United Way of Yellowstone County, where she oversees strategies to increase graduation rates to 95% by 2025 and keep vulnerable seniors independent in their homes.  Solving these problems includes a portfolio of strategies including investments in direct service programs but also multi-sector collaborations to innovate and work on system solutions to complex problems like substance abuse, homelessness or early childhood adversity.  

Joseph Osborne has been a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for over 10 years. After 19 weeks of training at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA, he was temporarily assigned to the Oklahoma City District Office for 8 months. After that, he spent the next 7 years in Laredo, TX (the largest land port in the US) trying to slow the flow of illicit drugs being brought into our country by the Mexican Cartels. In 2016, he was transferred to Billings, MT to work in the Tactical Diversion Squad, to combat the growing opioid epidemic here in Montana.  

Collaborating For Outcomes:

The panel on Collaborating for Outcomes will focus on government and provider relations and how they impact youth and families.

Moderator: Michael Chavers –  joined YBGR in August of 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer. Born and raised in Idaho, Chavers pursued his education and career in Illinois. Before moving to Montana, he worked at Indian Oaks Academy, Nexus, for 22 years. Most recently, he severed as the Executive Director of the organization. Chavers holds a Masters of Arts in Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Moody Bible Institute. He is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.


Sheila Hogan was appointed in December 2016 by Governor Steve Bullock to be the Director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). She has been a champion for the thousands of Montanans this agency serves through her work in public service for over 30 years and is thrilled to begin her tenure at DPHHS.

Prior to her recent appointment, she served as the Director of the state’s Department of Administration for four years, with a focus of strategic health care initiatives, customer service, and streamlining government processes to better serve Montana communities.

She led a multi-pronged initiative in the state healthcare plan that saved the state and taxpayers more than $30 million. She led staff in a top-to-bottom review of the state health plan, resulting in the streamlining of services, saving taxpayer money, and increasing government efficiency.

Director Hogan led new efforts to help Montana businesses do business with the state, including: the creation of “Procurement Forecasts” of upcoming bid opportunities for Montana businesses, instituting procurement workshops across the state, serving more than 100 businesses as they learn best practices for submitting successful bids; establishing an online submission program that streamlines the submission process and cuts down on red tape; and creating of a pre-qualified pool of businesses and vendors, which creates greater efficiency in obtaining contracts.

She ensured that veterans and national guardsman had access to Employee Assistance Programs. She instituted training for more than 1,400 individuals through the Confront the Stigma suicide prevention campaign, and made government more accessible to citizens by establishing a free shuttle during the legislative session through a partnership with local government.

Through this work and leadership, Sheila has led innovative change initiatives, motivated teams, cut costs, and empowered employees through strategic thinking, planning, and management. She has directed multi-funded, multi-divisional, multi-disciplinary organizations utilizing performance management techniques and standards and maintaining goal-oriented approaches to effectuate positive change. She specializes in formulating effective, versatile and efficient solutions while maintaining focus and persistence to initiate and implement meaningful change.

Meghan Peel is the Bureau Chief for the Montana Children’s Mental Health Bureau, since May of 2018.  Previously, Meghan was the Program Manager for Montana’s Medicaid Expansion and CHIP Programs within the Department of Public Health and Human Services. In this role, Meghan served as the liaison between the Department and its Third Party Administrator. Additionally, Meghan has managed several 1115 demonstration waivers, including Montana’s Medicaid Expansion demonstration waiver. Before joining Montana Medicaid, Meghan worked as an auditor for Ernst & Young in the Bay Area of California. Meghan received a B.S. in Business and holds a Master’s of Professional Accountancy, both from Montana State University. She lives in Helena, Montana with her husband and two sons.

Jeff Folsom is the President of Folsom Strategies, LLC and the Director of Policy and Special Projects at the Center for Children and Families and Workforce Development at the University of Montana. Jeff’s has leadership experience in all facets of behavioral health delivery systems spanning the past 35 years. Foundational experiences include providing direct care services in a variety of treatment settings, moving from front line into clinical, supervisory and ultimately executive management.  Jeff’s dual qualifications in both law and clinical social work foster leadership in running programs and advocating with the state legislature and governmental agencies.  Jeff is recognized for his solution focused approach to his work and his leadership role in shaping state policies and regulations to reduce systemic barriers to delivering behavioral health care, improving access and promoting the quality of care for Montana’s children and families.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy is the Executive Director of Disability Rights Montana. She sets the tone and ensures that DRM’s mission of Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All and advocating for equal rights protection for Montanans with disabilities is being accomplished through the work of the staff. Every person is entitled to the same legal and civil rights, freedoms, and protections; something that DRM is actively accomplishing for people with disabilities.

Bernie grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Chaminade University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1983. Her past legal experience includes: Law Clerk for the First Judicial Circuit Court in Hawaii, Founding Executive Director of the Hawaii Bar Foundation, Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City and County of Honolulu, and the Attorney and Director of Programs for the Protection and Advocacy system in Hawaii. Bernie is licensed to practice law in Hawaii and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bernie has been DRM’s Executive Director for 20 years and served as president of the National Disability Rights Network.

Keynote Speakers:

Kurt G. Alme is an American attorney and the current United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Prior to assuming his current role, he served as president and general counsel of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation. A graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School, Alme clerked for Charles C. Lovell of the United States District Court for the District of Montana. He was a partner with the law firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich, PLLP. From 2003 to 2010, Alme served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, and was the first assistant U.S. Attorney from 2006 to 2010. He previously served as director of the Montana Department of Revenue.

Scott Pederson, Deputy County Attorney for Yellowstone County and Guardian ad Litem for 13th Judicial District (Yellowstone County). Scott litigates in the area of child abuse and neglect, including an attorney who represents children and court-appointed special advocates.

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