Our History

A Fernbrook Tale


Once upon a time there was a social worker named Jon who worked providing mental health services to children and families at an agency called Cedar House.  Although he did amazing work, one day the agency leadership decided to cut children’s programming.  Because Jon had a golden touch, the agency offered to keep him on staff working with adults.  After consideration, Jon decided that he need to follow his passion for working with children and families.  To make this happen, Jon needed options.  After talking it over, Jon and his wife, Mandy, made the decision to start a new agency focused on serving children and families.  The timing was perfect.  Jon and Mandy lived in a Minneapolis suburb and Mandy was pregnant with their first child…it was natural for them to pull up stakes, move, and take a huge personal financial risk.  Jon talked with the leadership team at Cedar House and got approval to begin a new agency to continue providing services to children and families.  Jon was to be the clinical director, Mandy was to be the business manager, they had relationships with other professionals in the service delivery area, and they had permission from Cedar House to take a full caseload along.  It was the perfect start to a family business.

This new business needed a name.  But what to call it?  Jon and Mandy wanted a name that had an “air of confidentiality” about it- something gentle and nondescript so that when it was discussed in grocery store lines the privacy of clients would still be protected.  One day Jon and Mandy were visiting Jon’s parents’ cabin in Wisconsin and went for a hike.  Mandy saw a fern and thought that fern-something might be a good name for their new venture.  So Jon and Mandy started randomly naming objects until Mandy came up with brook…and so Fernbrook Family Center was named.

Now, as a social worker Jon had hoops to jump through before he could open a new agency.  At the time of our tale Jon had completed his required licensure supervision and was getting ready to take his exam to practice independently.  Although the hero of our story is a brilliant clinician, studying for licensing tests was never part of his plan.  After all, he passed his first exam with no problems, so why should the next test be any different?  Except…

4 months before Fernbrook was scheduled to open Jon took his licensing exam and was told that he failed by 2%.  The Minnesota Board of Social Work requires a 90-day waiting period between exams, so the pressure was on.  During this time, Jon decided that because the stakes were high studying for the retest might be a good idea, so he took a review course and studied while continuing preparations for opening Fernbrook.  His preparation paid off, and Jon passed his licensing exam retest.  It looked like everything was on track, and with one whole week to spare.  Joy reigned, and Jon and Mandy started to breathe again.

Armed with a shiny new license, a fantastic business manager, a new house in Owatonna, a basement full of desks, and three staff members, Fernbrook Family Center opened for business on November 1, 2001.  And the rest, as they say, is history.


Nothing is ever as it seems.  6 months after receiving the news that he had passed his second exam, Jon got another letter from the Board of Social Work.  This time the letter stated that there had been a mistake on the part of the company that scores the licensing exams…Jon had actually passed his first test.  Jon demanded a refund of his review course and retest fees.  After going back and forth Jon received a partial refund for his troubles and counted it as a victory.