The Difference a Social Worker Can Make

No matter the circumstance surrounding a child’s interaction with a social worker, children remember how they were treated, and how their social worker made them feel. This March, in honor of National Social Work Month, One Hope United is proud to share the impact that our social workers make in the lives of thousands of children and families each year.  

According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, children learn to trust others, regulate their emotions, and interact with the world through their relationships with their primary caregivers. If a child has experienced trauma and, as a result, feels that they can’t trust their parent or caregiver, a social worker may be one of the only consistent and dependable adult figures in that child’s life. 

A child may meet their social worker for the first time when they’re waiting for a foster care placement, traveling for a visit with their biological family members, or in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. Having a caring figure in these turbulent moments gives children a sense of stability. Courtney Dundee, therapist with One Hope United’s Community Based Family Services, described her role as “walking alongside children during the hardest part of their little lives, and helping them get to the other side where they feel hopeful and safe once again.”

One Hope United’s former clients have shared that the small interactions they had with their social worker made all the difference. Whether a social worker remembered their favorite flavor of soda or chatted with them about a TV show, these moments helped them to feel seen and recognized. 

Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of OHU’s Florida Services, shared a memory of a young boy who spent one day at her office while waiting for his next foster care placement. He exhibited several complex behavioral issues related to past trauma and was having a hard day. His case manager told Sarah what his favorite food and drink items were from a few restaurants in the area, and after Sarah picked them up and the boy had his meal, he felt much calmer, and was able to relax. “We spend a lot of time with these children during ‘in-between’ times, riding in the car or waiting at the office,” Sarah said. “The in-between moments seem small, but they allow children to have more interactions with people who really care.”

Teenagers involved in the child welfare system also benefit from a supportive and caring social worker. They may keep in touch with their social worker even after services end, often turning to them for help connecting to community resources, or simply for someone to listen. Mallory Johnston, Case Manager with One Hope United’s Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) program, described her experience working with a homeless teenager in December of 2020. She helped him move into a homeless shelter in Mount Vernon, Illinois on his 18th birthday, and throughout their 90 days together, Mallory helped him to enroll in high school and obtain a medical card. They also discussed his future and worked on important life skills. He is currently on-track to graduate in May of 2021. Mallory said, “He sees me as a constant support system, and as someone who is willing to help him with whatever he needs at the time. There is hardly a day that goes by that I do not receive a ‘good morning’ text from him.”

Additionally, social workers support parents who may feel they have almost no one else to turn to. Dennis Delgado, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Community Based Family Services, shared about a 17-year-old single mother of two who received services from a One Hope United social worker. This young woman was a senior in high school and working part-time to care for her children.  She also was a victim of domestic violence and had recently lost the support of her mother. She often shared concerns about having had to grow up too soon and missing out on her youth.

This young woman shared that she felt her life was transformed after receiving domestic violence services, paid day care services, and individual counseling. She also received day-to-day household essentials, including food, diapers, and children’s clothes. While working with her OHU case manager, she decided to fully end her relationship with her children’s father, and obtained an order of protection against him. She was also able to attend her senior prom and graduate from high school.

Initially, this young woman could not believe her social worker would actually help her with her needs,” Dennis said. “They were successful because they collaborated for the good of the family.”

Dennis concluded, “Social workers are essentially a light in the darkness that the children and families we serve often face. They are often angels in disguise.     

Hope Talks | February 2021

Hope Talks

Investing in Communities for the Health of our Children

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Hope Talks

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve.

In this month’s episode, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer is joined by Bryan Echols, Principal and Founder of BE. The Change Consulting, to discuss Investing in Communities for the Health of our Children.

About Bryan Echols

Bryan Echols is currently a Senior Advisor for Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs. In his capacity as a Senior Advisor, Bryan brings his years of banking, financial services, nonprofit management and academic experiences to serve the Treasurer and the State of Illinois. Before coming to the State Treasurer’s office, he served as the Community Restorative Justice Hubs Director in the city of Chicago.

Bryan is also the Principal and Founder of BE. The Change Consulting. BE. The Change Consulting works in the areas of youth leadership development, civic engagement, community organizing, the intersectionality of race and class, and cross-cultural equity work. He enjoys teaching Master’s level and Ph.D. students at Adler University in the Social Justice Practicum. He has chaired the Multicultural Leadership Council for the American Heart Association for the last 3 years. Echols is currently a board member for the Workers Center for Racial Justice, Board Treasurer for United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations, and a Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Fellow.

About One Hope United

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential.

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Celebrating Black History Month

February is Black History Month. It is a time to reflect on the central role Black Americans have played in our country’s history, while celebrating their achievements and contributions.

Below, you can learn about Black leaders who advanced the Child and Family Welfare sector throughout history.


Carter Godwin Woodson

Black History Month grew out of Negro History Week, which was the brainchild of noted historian, author and journalist, Carter Godwin Woodson. While studying at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, Woodson noted that the teaching of American history largely ignored African Americans. He dedicated his life to educating the public about the accomplishments of African Americans, and because of his work, we celebrate the central role African Americans have played in American history every February. He chose February because the month contained the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two prominent men whose historic achievements African Americans already celebrated.

Source: History.com


Thyra Edwards

Thyra J. Edwards, born in 1897, the granddaughter of runaway slaves, grew up in Houston, Texas and started her career there as a school teacher. Edwards would eventually become a world lecturer, journalist, labor organizer, women’s rights advocate, and civil rights activist all before her 40th birthday. After World War II ended, she opened the first child care program in Rome to serve survivors of the Holocaust.

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University



Fanny Jackson Coppin

Fanny Jackson Coppin was a teacher, principal, lecturer, and missionary to Africa. She was born a slave, but fervently pursued education, and felt her purpose in life was to provide educational opportunities for Black youth. She taught evening classes for freedmen while earning her degree at Oberlin College, and eventually became the first Black school principal in the United States. She once said, “It was in me… to get an education and to teach my people. This idea was deep in my soul.”

Source: Coppin State University



Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman began her career in the mid-60s when, as the first Black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death. In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund, and lobbied Congress to increase resources for adoption, change the foster care system, and support children in need.

Source: Children’s Defense Fund


Janie Porter Barrett

Janie Porter Barrett founded the Locust Street Social Settlement to educate African American youth in 1890. In 1915, she founded the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls to help young women become self-reliant, educated, and prepared for employment. She is best known for her work to rehabilitate young African American women who had been imprisoned.

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University


Understanding Black history is critical to understanding our progress as a nation, as well as the work that is still left to do. These leaders paved the way for One Hope United’s Case Managers, Social Workers, Therapists, and Teachers who work tirelessly to ensure the wellbeing of the children, youth and families we serve. We are grateful for their legacy of leadership.



Hope Talks | January 2021

Hope Talks

“The Intersection of Community-Based Organizations”

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Hope Talks

One Hope United is proud to bring you Hope Talks, monthly conversations with leaders in the child and family welfare sector. By having these conversations, we hope to inspire actionable change and work together to improve outcomes for the children and families we serve.

In the first episode of Hope Talks, “The Intersection of Community-Based Organizations,” Howard Brown Health President and CEO, David Ernesto Munar, joins President and CEO of One Hope United, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer, to discuss the similar challenges their organizations face in serving their communities and the steps they’ve taken to meet this historic moment.

About David Ernesto Munar

Since joining Howard Brown Health in 2014, David Ernesto Munar has focused on ensuring the delivery of excellent patient services, strengthening finances and operations, and positioning the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ organization for long-term sustainability and growth.  Prior to Howard Brown, Munar honed his career at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago where he held several positions, including President and CEO.

He served on the boards of the Cook County Health and Hospital System, the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, AllianceChicago, and the Black AIDS Institute.  In 2007, he helped launch a national coalition that led to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy unveiled by President Obama in July 2010.  In 2019, he co-chaired Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s Healthy Children & Families Transition Committee and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Health and Human Services Transition Committee.

About One Hope United

Founded in 1895, One Hope United is a multistate nonprofit that helps children and families build the skills to live life without limits. We serve over 10,000 children and families each year through education centers, child and family services, counseling, and residential programs. With our evidence-based and trauma-informed practices, we empower children and families to see and create a future where, regardless of their past, they can reach their full potential.

Don't miss out on future Hope Talks!

Sign up to have future Hope Talks emailed directly to your inbox and never miss a future episode!

No Longer Silent

“You are the strongest person to ever sit in that chair,” Judge Ericka Sanders said to 16-year-old Bailey*. Bailey and her team of OHU counselors listened intently as Judge Sanders went on to praise Bailey for sharing her story of trauma and abuse, and bravely taking the next step in her healing process.   

Bailey’s testimony comes three years after that of her twin sister, Bree*, who testified in court to the horrific abuse both girls endured at the hands of their adoptive father. This man is now in prison for the sexual assault of Bree that resulted in a pregnancy at the age of 13, and for the kidnapping of Bree and her son, Eli*. In the same year that Bree became pregnant, the girls lost their mother to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, a disease that also inhabits Bailey’s body.   

Because Bree was the only victim identified in the case, Bailey was denied the opportunity to testify at their adopted father’s trial. For three years, Bailey has carried the weight of this forced silence with her. She has since been placed at One Hope United’s Centralia residential home for a second time after struggling with self-harm, suicidal ideations, and depression.  

In February of 2020, Bailey’s counselors had an idea. The team wondered what would be different for Bailey if she could rewrite her narrative. What if she could tell her story to someone who could make real changes in the system? How would life be different for Bailey if she had her day in court? Judge Ericka Sanders, the Marion County Juvenile Judge, agreed that Bailey deserved this opportunity.  

Judge Sanders has made great efforts to prioritize the mental health of any youth who comes into her courtroom. Knowing Judge Sanders’ propensity to be an agent of change, Bailey’s care team reached out to her with a novel idea. The team wanted to bring Bailey to the courthouse to testify in front of a judge and to share the story she had been unable to tell three years prior. Within 15 minutes of the email being sent, Judge Sanders responded saying she would be honored to help.   

Two weeks later, Judge Sanders met with Bailey’s care team at a local coffee house to iron out the details. OHU counselors Jayme Godoyo, Sarah Downen, Brandon Newcomer, and Jessica Perry shared more details of Bailey’s story with Judge Sanders. They agreed that Bailey’s court session should be treated as if it were a real court session, complete with Judge Sanders in her black robe and calling court into session for The People vs. Bailey’s abuser. Judge Sanders also shared with the team that the courthouse now has access to a therapy dog, and that it would be a good idea for Bailey to first practice being in the courtroom. The team agreed Bailey would love this idea, and it would be the perfect opportunity for the dog to use his skills.   

On the day of Bailey’s court session, Judge Sanders offered her the choice to sit at a table or in the witness stand. Without hesitating, Bailey chose the witness stand.   

When Bailey took her seat to the left side of the judge, she paused for a moment. Bailey was given the space and silence she needed to collect herself as her counselor, Jayme Godoyo, took a seat next to her. Quietly, Jayme provided Bailey the comfort she needed to regain her composure. Not sure where to begin, Jayme encouraged Bailey to start with her earliest memory.  

The adults in the room sat silent and still, fighting back tears at times, as Bailey took the next thirty minutes to tell the story she had waited years to tell. With Jayme at her side, Bailey recounted the abuse she endured, the devastation she felt over her mom’s death, and the guilt she still carries with her today because she couldn’t stop her sister Bree’s sexual assault. “I’m protective of her,” Bailey said. “I’m happy we have Eli [Bree’s son], but I’m sad she got pregnant.”   

When Bailey finished, she looked out onto the small crowd of people and said, “does anyone have any questions?” The conviction in her tone was that of a young woman in control of a room. When asked what advice she would give to other young girls who may have shared similar experiences, without hesitation Bailey softly but strongly stated, “Keep fighting…always keep fighting.”   

*Names have been changed to protect privacy. 


Hope for the Holidays

“Someday, I want my kids to live in a house like this,” Michael said, looking around at the three-story renovated home for the first time.

Michael had just toured One Hope United’s new residential home, called Hope House, in Fort Lauderdale. He told house parents he had never stepped foot in a place like this before. Dancing around, he confidently stated he wants to do what’s right, so he can live somewhere like this when he grows up.

Before moving into Hope House, Michael faced many struggles. Michael is a dually involved teenager, which means he’s interacted with both the child welfare and juvenile detention systems in his young life. Dually involved young people often face a high level of difficulty obtaining a placement in foster care, significant barriers to achieving permanency and are at a higher risk for lengthy stays in detention facilities.

Hope House is uniquely positioned to serve young people aged 14-17 like Michael. The staff ratio at Hope House is 4:1, which means more individualized attention from house parents. In choosing a property, Sarah Tunning, Executive Director of OHU’s services in Florida, wanted to provide “a really nice home environment for the young men, first and foremost.”

One Hope United focuses on making sure the environment at Hope House is not only inclusive, but it sets youth up for success. For example, when a young person is placed at Hope House, they first go to a local retail store with one of their house parents, so they can choose the right hygiene products for their unique skin and hair needs. In other group home or foster care placements, these young men may have had to use whatever personal care products were on hand in the home, even if it irritated their skin or wasn’t right for their hair. Then, they go out to dinner with a house parent, where they discuss strategies that will help them grow and develop in the coming months.

After they settle into their new home, these young men focus on independent living skills like improving academic performance, getting a part-time job, and opening a savings account. “Our goal is that when these young men turn 18, they’re on a college or career path, and they’ve strengthened healthy relationships with their family members and mentors in the area,” Sarah shared.

Sarah has noticed strong connections forming already between the youth currently living at Hope House. Two of the young men living in the house, Matthew and Ben, developed a strong friendship in just a few weeks. When Matthew had a mental health episode and had to go to the hospital, Ben made sure to look after his things while he was gone.

“These are kids that are used to fighting for everything,” Sarah said. “We want them to feel they are safe here, and to know their house parents really care about them.”

To celebrate the holidays, the young men living at Hope House will enjoy a special meal prepared by their house dad who loves to cook. Then, they’ll play board games together in the living room, lit by their Christmas tree.

You can purchase specific items requested by house parents and the young men living at Hope House here. You can also learn about our other residential programs at this link.

*names of the young men living at Hope House have been changed to protect privacy. 


National Adoption Month 2020

November is National Adoption Month

November is Adoption Awareness Month. You may be surprised to learn that although no more than 2% of Americans are adopted, over 1/3 of Americans have considered adopting a child. Whether you’ve thought about adopting a child, have been personally affected by adoption or are simply interested in the topic, November is the perfect time to learn more.

Common Misconceptions About Adoption

There are many misconceptions about what adoption is really like. Below, you’ll find a few common misunderstandings about the process.

Adopted children are not wanted by their birth parents.

The idea that when a parent places a child up for adoption they are giving up, or giving up on, their child is simply not true. Placing a child up for adoption is a show of unconditional love by the child’s birth parents. They want to provide a better life for their child than they are currently able to offer, and even though the decision is painful, they make the sacrifice to create a happy, healthy future for their child.

Adopted children shouldn’t be told they are adopted.

In an interview with CBS news, Adam Pertman, author of “American Adoption,” said, “My favorite story is of a social worker friend who was asked by a couple, whom she handed a brand-new baby, and they whispered to her, ‘When do we tell her she’s adopted?’ Why are they whispering in front of a five-day-old baby is another question. My friend says to them, ‘On the way out.’ And that is the right answer. We keep secrets of things we are ashamed of and embarrassed about. We should never be ashamed of our children or our families.”

In the 1970s, most parents didn’t tell their adopted child about their family history. However, some research has shown that after a certain age, finding this information can have an adverse impact on a person’s mental health. A study conducted in 2019 found those in the earliest age group of adoption discovery, birth to 2 years of age, reported both the least distress and the highest level of life satisfaction.

If you’re unsure of when or whether to tell your adopted child they are adopted, speaking with an adoption counselor can help. Contact One Hope United for more information.

Infants are the largest group of children waiting to be adopted.

The average age of a child waiting to be adopted is 7.7 years old, and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care. In certain states, including Illinois, adoptive parents must first become licensed as foster care parents, and foster a child for at least 6 months before adopting them. While there are many infants in need of loving homes, older children in foster care are in the same position.

When parents adopt a youth in care through a One Hope United program, they work closely with a Case Manager to ensure all needs of the child in care are met prior to adoption completion. Parents who adopt through an OHU program report finding fulfillment from growing their families and providing unconditional love, safety and security. A parent who adopted through a One Hope United program in our Florida region shared this quote:

“We met our son at a One Hope United teen match event, and there was an almost instant bond. We decided to adopt him. Not every day was easy at first, but we were able to build a loving home based on mutual respect and empathy. Now, he’s getting ready for his senior year at the University of Miami. We’re so proud of all he has accomplished.”

Benefits of Adoption

“I would say being an adoptive father has made me a more empathetic and thoughtful person. I raised a beautiful young woman, and as a result, I am a more insightful, understanding, and well-rounded.” – Jim Webster, Data Analyst, One Hope United

Adoption benefits families just as much as adopted children. Adoption allows thousands of loving couples to become parents each year. And children who gain a sibling through adoption add a loving family member to grow and learn with throughout their lives.

And, of course, children who are adopted benefit from finding their forever home. Dittrich also shared, “Most children that find their forever home blossom into thriving young adults and can demonstrate that love to their children, thus creating a beautiful cycle of acceptance, understanding and love.” In fact, a report titled Adoption USA found that 85 percent of children who are adopted are in excellent or very good health, and that adopted children were less likely to live in households below the poverty threshold.

How to Celebrate National Adoption Month

Re-telling your child’s adoption story to them and reflecting on favorite family memories are two great ways to celebrate National Adoption Month. You can also spread awareness through social media, find community events in your area, and educate friends and family members about adoption. If you are interested in adopting, contact One Hope United. You can also learn more about adopting through a One Hope United program here.


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