Meet the Northern Region staff
By Coleen Turner Protective Services Manager II, Sara Alden, PSM I, Joanne Simmerman PSM I
The Northern Region Office of Children Services covers approximately 50 percent of the state — about 300,000 square miles. It includes communities in and around Barrow, Nome, Kotzebue, Galena, McGrath, Delta and Interior rural communities connected with the Tanana Chiefs Region, Fairbanks/North Pole and surrounding areas.
Our regional manager Coleen Turner oversees the agency for this entire region. She came to the agency approximately five years ago after spending 20 years in the nonprofit world, directing service agencies that worked closely with the Office of Children's Services. Mary Graudon, our administrative manager, has been with the agency for the last 13 years. She helps manage a multimillion dollar budget, oversees office buildings and equipment, and supervises some of the most dedicated and hard working staff in the state. JoAnne Simmerman is the manager of the offices in the rural communities in the region. She came first to the agency as an intern 14 years ago and then worked in the Fairbanks office both as a family services worker and then a long-term supervisor before returning to her roots in rural Alaska. Sara Alden manages the Fairbanks office and has been with the agency for almost 18 years, first doing investigations, and then moving into permanency, adoptions, and then a supervisor before taking over the management of the local office.
The Northern Region management team has seen a lot of success over the years, in large part due to the strong, committed, passionate, and highly dedicated staff who work in the various offices in the region. That staff has sacrificed too many hours to count providing services to the families. The region has some of the lowest rates of children in custody living out-of-state and/or in institutionalized care settings.
While most of the work is very challenging — from trying to find funding for desperately needed supplies and equipment; to licensing foster homes; to obtaining IV-E reimbursements; to opening and closing offices and tracking all sorts of paperwork; to trying to determine if children have been abuse or neglected; to helping families keep them safe; to working with families to help them reunify or find other families to provide forever care — it is by and far one of the most rewarding professions. We are so honored and appreciative for the men and women who have chosen this agency and have chosen to serve families in this region through the Office of Children's Services.