OHU Seeks Therapists for Illinois ‘Service Deserts’

One Hope United is currently searching for therapists interested in serving Illinois children and families who do not have immediate access to much needed counseling services.

Our counseling services are focused on the areas around Charleston, Effingham, Mt. Vernon, Olney and Chicago. Many of these communities are effectively facing a “service desert,” and countless families are unable to access the therapy they and their children need due to a lack of Medicaid-fundable resources. We believe that there are therapists who would like to serve these families but their current private practice does not have the capacity to handle the complexity of billing the array of Medicaid MCOs.

We are looking to partner with skilled therapists who would like to provide an evening or even a full day of services. If interested or to learn more, please contact Margaret Vimont at mvimont@onehopeunited.org.

Become a Baby’s Foster Parent and Make a Measurable Difference

One Hope United is recruiting Cook County foster parents to take part in an innovative and effective new program specifically for infants and toddlers under the age of 4. The Illinois Early Childhood Court Team (ECCT), sometimes referred to as “Baby Court,” is a new approach to helping the youngest children in the foster care system achieve permanency more quickly. One Hope United is one of only two agencies in Cook County that provide this service.

A team-based approach to foster care

When a family participates in the ECCT program, they work with a Court Team – a group of supportive players including their case manager and community practice coordinator who help the child’s parents address the goals in their service plan and access the resources to help them succeed.  Along with this comes more opportunities for parents to visit with their children and build their relationship.

Children undergo rapid development in their first three years and require intensive monitoring to make sure that emerging needs are quickly addressed. The Court Team model helps ensure that these young children in foster care get the resources they need, and their foster parents play an indispensable role.

What makes ECCT foster parents different

In many ways, an ECCT foster parent is the same as traditional foster parenting, requiring the same licensing (One Hope United can help new foster parents become licensed). ECCT foster parents need to have a suitable crib or bed for the child and be able to accept a new case on a moment’s notice.

The differences are that most of the children in ECCT are under the age of 4, and the foster parents are encouraged to actively participate in the Court Team. This includes developing a co-parenting relationship with the children’s parents by hosting at least 1 of 3 parent visits a week, and by attending the Court Team meeting once a month. In addition to the standard benefits and reimbursements that all foster parents receive, ECCT foster parents receive additional benefits for hosting parent visits, up to $400/month.

Making a real impact on babies’ lives

ECCT foster parents have the opportunity to help a young child stay on track during these formative years and improve their outcomes beyond what is typically found in traditional foster care. Studies of this model have shown that 97% of children and families receive their needed services and make substantial progress in their goals, and children reach permanency 3 times faster than the national norm.

One reason for this is that, unlike traditional foster care, ECCT does concurrent planning for the children’s permanency while the parents are working toward their goals. In the event that the children are not able to return home to their parents, there is already a plan in place for them to be adopted. This prevents the attachment disruptions that can occur when children move through families on the way to permanency.

Ready to make a difference in a baby’s life? Start the process today by contacting our licensing supervisor, Yeni Rojas, at yrojas@onehopeunited.org or 312-949-5540.

OHU Dedicates the Toni Sandor Smith Future Scholars Learning Lab in Edgewater

With a giant pair of child-safe scissors in hand, Toni Sandor Smith, a member of One Hope United’s board of directors for nearly 20 years, cut the ribbon at a ceremony in her honor on Friday, August 17th.

The dedication took place at our Edgewater Early Learning Center, where One Hope United celebrated her contributions to the center, the board, and the Edgewater community by naming the center’s second floor the Toni Sandor Smith Future Scholars Learning Lab.

Friends of Toni, fellow board members and OHU staff gathered for the ceremony, along with Alderman Harry Osterman, who shared his appreciation for Toni’s and the center’s contributions to the Edgewater community.

“The real impact of her work with kids in our community is amazing,” said the Alderman. “Very early in life, the gift of education, when they come here, opens up their world and entire future.”

An Edgewater resident, Toni is a frequent visitor to the Edgewater Early Learning Center and has become a favorite storybook reader of our students. And as a member of the board and former chair, she has made a major impact on our organization.

“It takes a special person to take the time and interact with the kids like Toni does – and be able to ask really insightful questions at board meetings,” said CEO Todd Schultz.

“Toni’s legacy of leadership and her relentless commitment to governing and growth have allowed One Hope United to experience higher levels of service, deeper community relationships, and stronger strategic partnerships,” shared OHU Board Chair, Theresa A. Dear.

In addition to naming the second floor in Toni’s honor, the board also established a scholarship in her name.

Though Toni was the guest of honor, she made sure to recognize the One Hope United staff and the programs at Edgewater. “It’s not about me, it’s not about a wing – it’s about supporting something really important,” she explained. “This is an honor, but I’m a surrogate for the work of the staff.”

Following the ceremony, students surprised Toni with a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork before singing a special song. Guests then enjoyed refreshments and a musical performance by award-winning saxophonist Michael Salter, a teaching artist with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, which brings jazz education into Chicago Public Schools.

To learn more about the Edgewater Early Learning Center, visit https://onehopeunited.wpengine.com/edgewater-early-learning-center.

PHOTO: Toni Sandor Smith (with scissors, center) cuts the ribbon to dedicate the Toni Sandor Smith Future Scholars Learning Lab at Edgewater Early Learning Center. She is joined by (from left) Anthony Ruth, SVP, Marketing & Communications; Todd Schultz, CEO; Rosanne DeGregorio, Director of Programs; Alderman Harry Osterman; Board Chair Theresa Dear; and musician Michael Salter.

Staff Spotlight: Jokotade Greenberg

Meet Jokotade Greenberg, Family Support Coordinator for Head Start and Early Head Start programs at our early learning centers!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am the Family Services Coordinator for the Early/Head Start programs and have been with One Hope United since January 2016.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

I have always been fascinated by how important the years from birth to age five are in a person’s life. When I had an opportunity to work in a capacity where I could support families in giving their children the best possible start at life, I leapt at the chance.

Why are your programs so important?

Our programs work to identify families who would benefit the most from having a partner come alongside them to support their work with their young children. For many who live with some level of social isolation, having the resources that our programs provide makes all the difference when it comes to supporting their children’s development. This is why our programs are such a vital part of the communities that we serve.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

I am currently very excited about the coalition of public health stakeholders that I have been able to gather to serve on the Health Services Advisory Committee for our Early Head Start program in Waukegan, IL. The children in that program are our youngest participants and Lake County has a unique set of challenges when it comes to serving the health needs of low income families. Therefore, I have been very proud of my work of bringing in relevant members of the local health community to address the needs and concerns related to health that are relevant to our participating families.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

I am excited to expand the reach of our Bridgeport centers more into the McKinley Park and New City communities.


Head Start programs promote school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by supporting their development in a comprehensive way. The Head Start model provides a nurturing environment that supports the healthy growth and development of each child in the context of the child’s family, culture and community. 


Program Spotlight: Pathfinders

One Hope United is dedicated to providing children and families with the resources and services that they need to thrive. One such program is Pathfinders, which helps children who are having struggles in school and exhibiting behaviors such as aggressive outbursts, difficulty moving from one activity to another, or general fearfulness.

Recent research suggests that children who experience trauma in their early lives are more likely to exhibit negative social emotional behaviors in school settings. This was the case at our Elgin Child and Family Resource Center, where teachers were having difficulty handling the challenging behaviors displayed by several of the students in their classrooms. Since One Hope United already offers comprehensive services for individuals and families in need of intensive treatment and counseling through our Community-Based Family Services, we could address this problem using expertise that already existed within the organization.

Pathfinders, which is currently available at three of our early learning centers, is led by a licensed clinical social worker. This social worker spends time in the classrooms doing observations, providing coaching support to teachers, and most importantly working one on one with the students. Services are even offered in the home or other community locations to make them more accessible for the family. Having a social worker in the classroom has made a tremendous difference. Our teachers feel better knowing there is an expert in this area to help them provide exactly what their students need to succeed.

“There was a family at our center dealing with the stress of preparing for a move and eventually enrolling their son, who struggled with self-regulation, difficulties with transitions, and outbursts into a new school. With the help of our teachers, social worker and the Pathfinders program, this difficult transition went as smoothly as possible. On their last day, the mother shared with me that she couldn’t be more thankful for everything our center had done to help them”, shared Sara Gray, Director at Elgin Child and Family Resource Center.

Your support is what makes it possible for One Hope United to offer important programs just like Pathfinders.

Sprouted Child Care & Early Education Now Open!

This month, our Wilmette child center officially reopened as Sprouted Child Care & Early Education, by One Hope United!

Sprouted celebrated its grand opening Tuesday, July 27th. Parents, children, staff, and new and old neighbors and friends were invited to tour the new center at 3201 Old Glenview Road, as well as participate in a variety of fun, interactive activities. The special event featured healthy refreshments, a flower planting activity and an official ribbon cutting ceremony. There was even a fire truck and police cruiser on site for kids to explore!


While the name and address are new, Sprouted has planted deep roots in the Wilmette community for more than 30 years and has served the education and child care needs of thousands of North Shore families.

This new center has been redesigned from the ground up with little learners in mind, and its modern, nature-themed décor and unique design elements make every day a discovery waiting to happen.

“Thank you for seeing the value in our program,” said Sprouted director Kristin Pettice as she prepared to cut the ribbon with her students. “We are just ecstatic to start this new chapter as Sprouted.” Kristin and the students were joined by OHU Chief Operation Officer, Margret Vimont, and Julie Yusim, Executive Director of the Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce in Wilmette.

Great fun was had by all and everyone was very excited to offically welcome Sprouted to the neighborhood!

Couldn’t attend the event? Call Sprouted at 847.256.6600 to schedule a tour!

From Left: Margaret Vimont, COO, and Sonja Crum Knight, Executive Director, Early Learning & Child Development, at One Hope United; Kristin Pettice, Director of Sprouted; and Julie Yusim, Executive Director, Wilmette/Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce.
Members of the Sprouted teaching staff.
Sprouted students got to explore a real fire truck.
Future firefighter in training.
It almost fits!

Staff Spotlight: Gino Hernaiz

Meet Gino Hernaiz, (center) Lead Preschool Teacher at the Aurora Early Learning Center!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am a lead preschool teacher here at the Aurora Early Learning Center and I have been employed here since October 10, 2016.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

My interest has ALWAYS been in the education field. My brother is 7 years younger than me and my sister is 6 years younger than me and when they were younger, I would pretend to be their teacher and actually teach them. I would print worksheets, make my own gradebook, etc. Going into college, I majored in psychology because I wanted to learn more about personality and the brain in hopes of one day teaching it myself. I ended up finding a job as an assistant teacher at an early childhood center in LaSalle, Illinois and since then, I have found that I truly enjoy working with children and seeing their growth and development. It is an amazing opportunity to get to develop relationships with the children and seeing them laugh and just be there for them through the good and the bad.

I also have a big interest in baking and cooking, so I try to incorporate a food experience in my classroom twice a month which the children have tons of fun with! It’s funny because I have a YouTube baking/cooking channel and some of the children actually tell their parents about it and they watch it and try to reenact some cooking techniques and baking techniques when they play in the kitchen dramatic play center.

Why is early childhood education so important?

Early childhood education is crucial because it is a key foundation for learning. Through early childcare, children can really learn a multitude of skills ranging from social to physical, and the core learning subjects including science, mathematics, and language.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

Being a preschool teacher, I have come across many obstacles and challenges. One such challenge was a child who had come into my classroom late October of 2017. From the first day, she was throwing tantrums, flipping tables, and did not really know how to vocalize any frustrations. She did not want anything to do with circle time or small group activities and was sometimes hostile towards teachers and children. After many conversations with the child and her family and numerous attempts to try and learn the best ways to interact with her, I can say that she has made an enormous amount of progress.

Last week, she moved up into the next age classroom and the progress and development that she has made is truly remarkable. She went from fighting with children and running around the classroom and dumping out bins of toys without cleaning them up, to being able to socialize and interact with some of the other children and actually playing with the toys in the classroom. She went from someone inclined to use physical means to someone who can now acknowledge the feelings of others and understand that hitting is not a nice thing to do. She went from someone who refused to join circle time or small group activities to being a major component of them. This progress is one of the many things that I am truly proud of.  She has been stopping by every morning before going to her new classroom to give me a hug and to tell me that she misses me. I tell her that the children and I miss her as well and that we will see her in the hallways when we pass her classroom. This is one example of a relationship with a child that makes this job so incredibly rewarding despite the difficulty that may arise through the process.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

I am most excited about my future here at One Hope United. I am someone that absolutely loves to learn and I am excited to hopefully learn new roles and gain new responsibilities as my time with the organization continues in order to positively impact the classroom environment and the work environment.

Supporters ‘Rise Up for Children’ at Hope In Action Fundraiser

One of the most iconic figures of the 1960s civil rights movement—a little girl named Ruby Bridges, who came to represent the courage and dreams of an entire generation striving for racial equality—rose up for hope once again at One Hope United’s annual gala, Hope In Action: Rise Up for Children, on Saturday, May 4, at the Hilton Chicago.

In conversation with Chicago Tonight‘s Brandis Friedman, Bridges recalled integrating New Orleans’s public schools at just six years old, and the courage it took her family to take that stand.

Ruby Bridges (right) in conversation with Brandis Friedman

“I remember people shouting and throwing things; I knew that if I got past the crowd and got into the school, everything was going to be OK,” Bridges said. But her mother would “pray every day until 3 o’clock” when Bridges made it safely home from school. Still, the family persevered, and Bridges’ mother taught her, “If you really wanted to see change, you had to step up to the plate and do it yourself.”

Guests and sponsors of Hope In Action stepped up and raised over $261,000, a 6% net increase over the previous year. We’re very appreciative of the immense support that has been shown for our organization, which brings us one step closer to fulfilling our vision, “For every child and family, life without limits.”

Two of the biggest highlights of the night were the presentations of the 4th Annual Ermit Finch Impact Award to Jeremy Harvey and the Leadership in Giving award to the Grand Victoria Foundation! Check out Jeremy’s inspiring story captured in the video below.

Jeremy Harvey received the Ermit Finch Impact Award

The evening concluded with an energetic and heartfelt performance by Miguel Cervantes, who plays Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton: An American Musical in Chicago. Cervantes spoke movingly about having the ability to meet the needs of his daughter Adelaide, who was diagnosed at a young age with epilepsy, and thanked the audience for rising up to support the children served by One Hope United.

Miguel Cervantes (Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton – Chicago) performed.

Visit us on Facebook to view all of the fun photos from the night. Be sure to tag yourself and your friends!

Bridges with Adiat Baker (left) and Iya Bakare.

A big thank you to all who came out to “Rise Up for Children” and help make the evening such a success. Didn’t have the chance to raise your paddle at Hope In Action 2018? You can still support OHU by clicking here.


Staff Spotlight: Emily Owen

Meet Emily Owen, Assistant Director of Programs for Centralia’s Residential and Group Homes at OHU!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am the Assistant Director of Programs for Centralia Residential and Group Home. This year I will celebrate my 12 year anniversary at OHU.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

I graduated from SIUC in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice. I graduated college and moved back home for the summer while trying to find a “career.” I saw an ad for One Hope United, which I already had some exposure to while I was interning at Marion County Probation that semester. I applied and was offered the job. At the time, I thought I was just going to stick out the summer at the children’s home as a “job”.  I didn’t know at the time that I had found my life’s work and career.

Why are your programs so important?

Residential treatment is one of the most unique jobs on the planet. We take care of the most traumatized youth in the State of Illinois , 24 hours a day, for a minimum of a year. The population we serve have often bounced from one home to another, from one school to another and were often told that they were “too hard to manage” in a home setting. More importantly, we are working with teenagers ages 13-18 who are in their most impressionable years to determine the person that they want to be for the rest of their lives. In our program, they are offered a clean and homey environment where they are usually provided with more consistency and stability than they have ever known in their lives.

I often tell my staff that residential is one of the most unconventional jobs on the planet. You work with kids in their “home” and get paid to hang out with kids and go on activities on the good days. The bad days, well, they are emotionally and physically challenging. But I ALWAYS say, there are more good days than bad.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

I really could talk on this topic for DAYS.  I have had kids reach out to me to share their experience while living at the children’s home. I have watched some of the most challenging youth make tremendous progress day by day. I have watched youth care workers who often come to OHU as their first job become great leaders and grow personally and professionally.

I often joke and say that I “grew up at the children’s home”, but that statement is so true. I have worked with children who have taught me values and life lessons that I will carry with me forever. I have defined the woman that I am today because of the work I have done with OHU and for that, I am humbled and thankful every day.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

I was recently promoted to Assistant Director of Programs and will likely be in this role for as long as OHU will have me. I have been presented with amazing opportunities since my mentors trusted me with this job, and I have been challenged to grow and pushed in ways that I could not have imagined. At this time in my career, I am now focusing on how to balance all of the great demands of the job and making sure that the kids and staff I serve are safe and supported.

One Hope United Talks #GoBlue4OHU on WGN Radio 720 AM

One Hope United’s Todd Schultz and Jenaeth Markaj were live on WGN Radio 720 AM with Steve Bertrand yesterday afternoon to talk about our programs for Child Abuse Prevention Month, including our #GoBlue4OHU Restaurant Collective.

Check out the full interview here.

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