Staff are selected not only for their education qualifications, but also their experience in the field and commitment to helping at-risk youth. Further, our comprehensive policy and procedure manual dictates our high expectations and needs for personal conduct, confidentiality and on-going evidence-based training.
All staff members are trained in CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention), CPR, First Aid, Cultural Sensitivity/Diversity, Cognitive-Behavioral approaches and interventions, and DCFS Mandated Reporting.
In short, you can trust Focus House staff members to have the education, experience and passion to make a real and significant difference in the lives of the youth placed here, and, that the children will be treated with respect and concern for their well-being.
Meet Our Staff
Brenda Mason, LCPC- Focus House Director
Mrs. Mason grew up in Ladd, IL and graduated from Spring Valley Hall High School in 2001. From there she attended Western Illinois University and obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration in 2005. Following that, she began her career as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Bridgeway in Monmouth, IL. In 2008 she moved to this area and began working at Sinnissippi Centers in Oregon while attending NIU, subsequently obtaining her Master’s Degree in Counseling. During her tenure at Sinnissippi she helped launch New Horizons Ogle County Drug Court and was the treatment provider for Drug Court clients. Brenda continued working at Sinnissippi as a Behavioral Health Services Clinician until 2015 when she joined Focus House as the Clinical Supervisor. Mrs. Mason was named Focus House Director in July 2018.
Katie Whitmore MSW, LSW- Clinical Supervisor
Mrs. Whitmore graduated from University of Illinois at Chicago with her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. Katie started her career at an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center for adolescents. She worked as a truancy officer for Rockford Public Schools before moving to working with youth in foster care. Katie also facilitated a Life Skills program for teenagers in foster care before joining the Focus House team in December 2014 as a Residential Counselor/Juvenile Probation Officer. Katie since obtained her Masters of Social Work in May 2018 and was named the Clinical Supervisor in July 2018.
Joe Shaw- Residential Supervisor
Mr. Shaw graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2003. He began his career as a Residential Treatment Specialist at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in Nachusa in 2004 then went to Focus House in 2005 as an Adolescent Treatment Specialist. He transitioned to Ogle County Court Services as an Adult Probation Officer in 2007 where he worked for eleven years. In 2018 he was named Residential Supervisor at Focus House.
Janice Prusator- Head Teacher
Mrs. Prusator was raised in a southwest suburb of Chicago and then graduated with a BA in psychology from Knox College, where she met her husband Todd. Together they have two grown children, Alexandra (Chicago) and Grant (Indianapolis). After a year and a half traveling the country in sales, Janice went back to school for her master’s degree in special education. Her first teaching job was in Polo, IL. She then taught for a year each in Monmouth, IL, and in the Rochelle Elementary district before being hired by Rochelle Township HS to teach at Focus House, in 1991. Throughout the last 28 years, Mrs. Prusator has taught a wide variety of classes in subject areas like English/language arts, social sciences, math, the arts, and consumer economics here at Focus House. She says she can’t imagine a better teaching job in the country. “Here, building relationships among students and staff to positively impact the living and learning environments, and to build student resilience is not just a possibility; it is a priority.”
Michelle Aldridge, R.N.- Focus House Nurse
A graduate of Kishwaukee College’s Nursing Program in 2008, Michele first worked at Focus House for the summer of 2012. Michele joined Focus House full time in 2013. Michele has lived in Ogle County for the past 32 years, moving to Illinois from Alaska
Becca Moser- Counselor/Juvenile Probation Officer
Ms. Moser attended the University of Illinois-Springfield (formerly Sangamon University) where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education/History, and completed graduate studies in Public History. Ms. Moser spent nine years working with DCFS clients at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois before joining the Focus House staff in 2001. She first served in the role as the House Manager/Probation Officer at Focus House and moved to the Farm House in 2002 as the Residential Counselor. Ms. Moser enjoys being able to serve the youth of Ogle County and beyond.
Chandler Farris- Counselor/Juvenile Probation Officer
Ms. Farris received her Bachelor’s degree from Marquette University, where she majored in biology and minored in psychology. During her time at Marquette she worked for campus security and helped build programs to increase student access to safe rides and safe walking escorts. After graduation she chose to continue her work with young adults as a Life Skills Counselor for Harmony Transitional Living Program on Chicago’s south side. While there she helped homeless youth learn to live independently and access the social services they needed. She also proposed and implemented several changes to the case planning policies and subsequently was able to increase group attendance and youth participation at Harmony’s outreach events. In the Spring of 2018 she initially joined the Focus House team as a House Manager, becoming familiar with the organization and the County. After spending the summer of 2018 organizing NIU’s Summer Program, she returned to school to pursue my Masters of Public Health and rejoined Focus House in her current position.
Lydia Hill- Counselor/Juvenile Probation Officer
Lydia received her Bachelors of Arts from Monmouth College in 2018 where she majored in Psychology and minored in History. Afterwards, she went on to earn her Masters in Social Work at the University of St. Francis-Joliet while working at Focus House as an Adolescent Treatment Specialist. Lydia has experience working in sexual and domestic violence prevention and bystander intervention, substance misuse treatment, anger management, and crisis care
Jeff Birr- Adolescent Treatment Specialist/Juvenile Probation Officer
Mr. Birr joined us at Focus House nearly 3 years ago. He had recently relocated back to the Midwest from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado in order to be closer to family. He is originally from Wheaton, Illinois. He has nearly 30 years of experience working with children and youth in Residential Treatment and Educational settings. He holds a Bachelors of Arts degree from Marycrest College in Davenport, Iowa and completed additional studies in Education at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colorado. At Focus House he serves as a Juvenile Probation Officer and Adolescent Treatment Specialist III.
Matt Schiltz- Adolescent Treatment Specialist/Juvenile Probation Officer
Mr. Schiltz graduated from Western Illinois University in 1995 with an RPTA Degree and a minor in Coaching. Matt started at Focus House in November of 2000. He was promoted to Juvenile Probation Officer in 2004.
Samantha Doyle- Alternative Program Coordinator
Mrs. Doyle Graduated from Northern Illinois University in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. While attending NIU she also studied to receive a minor in Family and Child Studies and a certificate in Criminology. After graduation she began her career with the Ogle County Reporting Center which has since become the Alternative Program of Focus House. In June 2021 she was promoted to Alternative Program and Quality Assurance coordinator.
Bonnie Moore- Administrative Assistant
Ms. Moore graduated from Kishwaukee College and Capella University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She began work with Focus House in 2010 as an insurance clerk and became the Administrative Assistant in 2014. She is a lifelong resident of Illinois.
Jeni Hardin- Community Projects/Marketing Coordinator
Mrs. Hardin grew up in Warrenville, IL before joining the Army to serve her country. She served three years and did tours in Germany and Kosovo as a Supply Specialist. After getting out of the military, she continued serving the community and helping people as an Activities Director for an assisted living facility. She also worked as a Marketing Coordinator and Community Outreach for hospice. She has a big heart and a passion for helping people in any way that she can. She enjoys interacting with the community and putting together events that will help people and organizations, which is what drew her to Focus House.