Reunification Made Possible with Community Support

Foster parents can be one of the most impactful resources in helping children reunify with a biological parent successfully. While a mother named Stacy* worked to be reunified with her three children, she built strong relationships with the foster parents caring for her youngest son and the paternal grandparents caring for her oldest son. This support system would end up being the difference in reunifying Stacy with her children.

Stacy struggled with undiagnosed mental health and substance abuse problems for many years. When OHU Case Manager Monaya Crossen began working with Stacy, she soon noticed that Stacy frequently rescheduled home visits, and seemed drowsy and disorganized at meetings. When Stacy’s mother passed away while incarcerated, she seemed to lose all hope.

A huge wakeup call came for Stacy at a court hearing a few months later. She had been working to obtain stable housing and employment but had not yet been reunified with her children. When Stacy learned the judge had added a dual goal of adoption for her children, she became very emotional, and feared she was about to lose her children forever. This moment turned out to be a turning point in her life, and eventually led to a bright future for her and her family.

Though Stacy did not like asking for help, she eventually built a strong relationship with her Case Manager, Monaya, and still asks her advice when she faces tough situations. Stacy eventually conquered her addiction and got a new apartment. After three years apart, Stacy has been reunified with her children, and her family is in a much better place.

While they were living apart, Stacy was there for her children at school conferences, holidays, and everything in-between. The foster parents and grandparents who cared for her kids were always in Stacy’s corner. “They played a major role in this reunification,” Monaya shared. “They didn’t put up any roadblocks. They drove Stacy to see apartments, brought the kids to her home for visits, and always included her in parent-teacher conferences.”

Stacy’s 5-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism and has made significant progress since transferring to a special needs school, where he “soared.” They are now working on transitioning him to his siblings’ school.

When Stacy saw signs of the same mental illness she struggles with in her daughter, she acted right away to get her help. All of Stacy’s kids are doing well in school, and they still see their foster parents regularly for haircuts and visits.

“This story shows that no one is perfect, and we all need to ask for help,” Monaya concluded. “I’m glad Stacy felt she could trust and lean on me.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Foster Alumnus Dedicates Career to Foster Care Advocacy

“When we talk about improving outcomes for youth in foster care, it’s critical to make sure current foster youth and foster alumni have a seat at the table where decisions are being made. We need to approach system reform from the perspective of the young people who are meant to be benefitting from these programs,” James McIntyre shared.

James McIntyre spent 17 years in the foster care system before aging out of foster care at age 21. Since then, he has dedicated his career to advocacy and system reform. James currently serves as the Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cook County, and he served for five years as President of the Foster Care Alumni Association in Illinois. OHU was proud to present its President’s Award to James in 2020 in recognition of his unwavering dedication to bringing about true and lasting reform.

“I was physically abused as a child, and eventually I needed therapy and care at a high-level Residential home,” James said. “I made it out of the system and worked as hard as I could to improve my circumstances. For years I worked a full-time job while also working with the Foster Care Association of Illinois at nights and on weekends. I’ve only begun to see my efforts come to fruition in recent years and seeing that my sacrifices were worth it means everything.”

James believes social services providers have a duty “to walk hand-in-hand with foster youth, and make sure they feel like people, not commodities.” While James was living at One Hope United’s Residential home in Lake Villa, he saw Executive Directors and other members of OHU’s leadership team visiting campus regularly and developing positive relationships with youth there. He shared that this was the first time he saw leadership choosing to be actively involved in the lives of the children in their programs, from holiday visits to day-to-day activities. “We felt cared for – we didn’t feel like we were just a paycheck,” James said.

At 18, James was invited to join the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Youth Advisory Board. He said this experience motivated him to think more about his place in the world, and the places where he could make an impact. “Seeing agencies having honest conversations with young people and with their constituents was huge for me,” James shared.

Rather than viewing the challenges he’s faced as entirely negative experiences, James focuses on the knowledge he can use to improve systems for other foster youth. “Coming from the foster care system and the environments where I grew up, I know we can do better,” he said. “When children are placed in a bureaucratic system, their firsthand knowledge and lived experience should inform decisions about their care.”

Growing up in the foster care system, there were times when James did not feel like his perspective was valued, or that he could openly express who he was. “I always knew I was queer, but in certain situations I was forced by people in my life to remain in the closet, or to go back into the closet,” he said. James went on to say he was impressed by the work OHU has put into accepting and celebrating LGBTQ+ children, youth and families. “There is a lot of visual representation of LGBTQ+ staff and leaders here, which is crucial in making sure a young queer kid knows that where they’re going will be safe and affirming. And for a queer foster youth to see LGBTQ+ leaders like OHU’s President and CEO, Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer, who are out, proud, and at the top of their field – that could make a dramatic difference in a young person’s life.”

James shared that the messages and lessons instilled in him by staff members at the Lake Villa campus have often played out in his life as an adult. “People like Glen Seymour told me I would look back and understand what they were talking about, and that’s really true,” James said. “The Residential team helped me gain strength and confidence in myself. They helped shape me into the advocate I am today.”

When asked how he feels people can make a positive impact for a youth in foster care, James shared that he sees many ways to get involved outside of becoming a foster parent. “You don’t have to be an attorney or a child welfare expert – anyone can make that positive impact just by being a caring, stable figure in a young person’s life,” James concluded. “One consistent adult can make all the difference.”

Creating an Affirming Home for Transgender Youth

When Owen* first arrived at One Hope United’s Centralia Residential home, he hadn’t yet come out as transgender. In the past, when he disclosed to therapists that he was trans, they didn’t believe him, and told Owen he must be feeling this way due to his history of trauma and physical abuse.

After Owen had been living at OHU’s Centralia home and working with his therapist, Stephanie, for about 45 days, he decided to share his identity with her. Stephanie responded with openness and compassion. Her first concern was making sure Owen had his needs met, and that he received gender-affirming care. She immediately went to work, obtaining things like gender-affirming clothes and a chest binder, and arranging for Owen to have the haircut he desired. Owen chose to come out more publicly, and community members at the Centralia home, including staff members and other youth in the program, transitioned to using his chosen name, Owen.

Owen has since been reunified with his birth mother and will be graduating high school this spring. After a family therapy session with Stephanie and his mom, Owen complimented Stephanie, saying, “Other people have treated my mom so badly. You make her feel like a person. And you were the first therapist who accepted me for who I am.”

Jessica Perry, Director of Residential Clinical Services for One Hope United’s Centralia Residential home, said stories like Owen’s make her incredibly proud. “If Stephanie hadn’t reacted with acceptance, Owen may have shut down,” she said. “When a transgender youth first arrives at our program, they’re still asking the question, ‘Is this a safe place to be who I am?’ We strive to make sure they always feel comfortable, safe, and loved.”

Owen is one of many young people in the child and family welfare system seeking a home where he can live as his authentic self. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, on any given day, there are more than 100,000 youth living in group homes in the United States. Each of these young people arrives at a group home with a unique set of life experiences and care needs. One Hope United team members help these young people address any challenges they are facing, understand and accept who they are, and work towards a happy and healthy future.

One Hope United’s exceptional standards of care haven’t just been noticed by our own staff members. About five years ago, Jessica Perry and Melissa Webster, Executive Director of OHU’s Residential Programs, took part in an all-provider meeting at the Illinois State Senate. During a Senate subcommittee meeting on human trafficking, they learned more about the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ (DCFS) efforts to improve services for transgender youth. Soon after, DCFS asked Melissa if One Hope United could serve as the point organization in standard-setting for transgender care in residential group homes.

Since then, Melissa has never wavered in her conviction that her team could lead the way and help define what it means to provide excellent care for transgender youth. Jessica Perry has spearheaded these initiatives and works closely with DCFS leadership toward one goal: making sure both agencies are always doing what is best for their kids.

“Ensuring this philosophy is top of mind for all of our team members is important to Jessica and me,” Melissa shared. “We don’t use dead names or misgender youth. From daily interactions to responding to a crisis in the middle of the night, we provide training and coaching to make sure our staff are implementing these standards of care, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Leading the way in caring for transgender youth is a multi-faceted undertaking. In practice, it means ongoing trainings for staff, gender-affirming healthcare, LGBTQIA+ youth support groups, and in some cases, hormone therapy. And in many instances, it means allowing youth the space they need to discover who they are.

“If a youth is exploring their gender identity, they may experiment with different pronouns, clothing, and ways of expressing themselves,” Jessica shared. “We let our kids take the lead. We never want young people to feel like we don’t believe them, or think that we don’t believe they know themselves and the identity they are developing and discovering.”

In certain cases, transgender youth in care are ready to begin hormone therapy. To meet youth’s medical needs, Jessica’s team works with a healthcare provider in the region. A transgender youth at the Centralia home received hormone therapy for a little over one year at this clinic. They are the first minor in Illinois DCFS residential care history to receive hormone therapy. “This young person’s nurse and gender clinic team taught him how to administer hormones himself, which was a great step forward,” Jessica said.

Jessica shared that she will never forget the day it was decided that this young person could start hormone therapy. Her team struggled at the time and wanted to make sure they were making the right decision with the youth, since hormone therapy has lasting effects, and the youth was still a minor. They worked closely with their DCFS guardian and psychologist, who determined this young person was ready to move forward with treatment. This DCFS guardian works with other transgender youth in the program to help determine whether a young person is ready to start hormone therapy now, or whether they could benefit from hormone therapy in the future but aren’t ready yet to begin this treatment.

Melissa and Jessica are proud of their “phenomenal nursing staff,” who they consider to be among the best nurses in the state for youth in Residential homes. They’re also proud of the growth and understanding exhibited by their staff.

“Even if staff have personal or religious beliefs that differ, our youth would never know, because their main focus is on making sure youth feel loved,” Melissa said. “When you know someone and you see their heart, you can say, ‘I don’t understand your experience, but I care about you, and that’s what matters.’”

Janet Ahern, the DCFS Guardian Administrator who works closely with Melissa and Jessica to ensure the highest standards of care for transgender youth, and each youth in care, shared, “OHU has been one of the leaders in Residential care over the last several years in meeting the needs of our transgender youth. Staff has worked to understand these young people and create a welcoming community. With the help of allies in the community they meet youth where they are at and accompany them on their journeys.”

“Residential kids are just kids,” Melissa concluded. “When we began this undertaking of making sure we were providing the best care possible for transgender youth, our OHU leadership team never set a limit on the progress we could make. We have finite resources, but we’ve never hit a ceiling.”

Sometimes, youth in Residential care struggle when they step down to a traditional foster placement or reunify with their biological family. Owen, the young man who benefitted from a supportive therapist, Stephanie, is thriving as his authentic self, three months after stepping down. Our One Hope United community will continue to provide compassionate care to young people of any race, gender, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation, so they can discover who they are, and live authentically.

*Names of youth in care have been changed to protect privacy.

If you would like to support One Hope United’s efforts to help children and youth build happy, healthy lives, you can make a gift here.

One Hope United Facilitates Adoption One Day Before Youth’s 18th Birthday

One Hope United Facilitates Adoption One Day Before Youth’s 18th Birthday

Steven Ivy, foster and adoptive parent, describes the moment when his 17-year-old foster child, Michael, asked to be adopted, as one of the happiest in his life. Michael and Steven wanted to make sure Michael was legally adopted before he entered adulthood, because they felt adoption secured their lifelong family connection. After countless phone calls, meetings, and prolonged efforts by Michael’s DCFS guardian and One Hope United team, Michael’s adoption was finalized the day before his 18th birthday.

“People take for granted things like having a home to return to for the holidays, or a place to go when you’re having a hard time,” said Devin Dittrich, Director of Foster Care for Community-Based Family Services (CBFS) Programs at One Hope United. “Being adopted is different. It gives a child or teenager that legal bond. They can say this is my family regardless of where I am or what happens in life, and Steven and Michael made that commitment to each other.”

Michael and Steven understood each other right away. “We are very similar,” Steven shared. “We bonded quickly in the first year Michael was in my home. The challenges he faced drew me to him. I wanted to make sure he had all the help he needed.”

When Michael suffered an epileptic episode, Steven realized just how much Michael meant to him. Steven said, “I remember sitting on the kitchen floor with Michael’s head in my lap, thinking, my life is not complete without this child in it.”

Michael’s adoption presented significant challenges for several reasons, but because of the efforts of his care team and his adoptive father Steven, who Devin described as “the glue” in this effort, the team overcame every hurdle in finalizing the adoption. Michael and Steven’s story is historic, since theirs is the first case in Cook County that originated in the juvenile justice system and resulted in adoption.

When it seemed like the bureaucratic and legal hurdles may be too great to move Michael’s adoption forward,   reached out to the DCFS special attorney on Michael’s case, and asked this simple question: Why would we deny this child the opportunity to be adopted?

“The special circumstances of Michael’s situation forced DCFS and OHU to think  outside the box,” Devin shared. “We don’t usually have conference calls every Friday talking about a case, but all of our departments needed to come together to make this adoption happen. It showed a huge commitment from both of our agencies.”

Permanency is a significant term in the social services sector, because it encompasses so many aspects of what it takes for young people like Michael to build happy and healthy lives as adults. According to the Juvenile Law Center, permanency means young people have built positive, healthy, nurturing relationships with adults who provide emotional, financial, moral, educational, and other kinds of support as they mature into adulthood. Ideally, permanency takes the form of a relationship that has a legal component and provides a parent-child relationship.

Achieving permanency can be incredibly difficult for older youth and teenagers in foster care. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, nearly a quarter of the approximately 442,995 children in foster care are age 14 or older, and more than 15,000 young people age out of foster care at age 18 each year. The era of COVID-19 has only increased the disparity of resources available to young people aging out of foster care. According to Today, of the 18-23 year old’s who are currently in or recently aged out of foster care, 43% either were forced to leave their current housing situation or experienced homelessness or housing instability during the pandemic. On top of that, 55% of these young people reported they were food insecure during the COVID-19 crisis.

“There are teenagers out there who are lost, who no one is willing to work with,” Steven said. “Even at 18, there’s a lot I can do to prepare Michael for the outside world and instill family values in him before he goes out into that world.”

Steven chose to become a foster and adoptive parent, because when he was a kid, he needed a guardian who could provide a stable, loving home. He knows he can be that guardian for young people in similar situations.

Steven was removed from his biological parents’ care at the age of 9, and he aged out of the foster care system at 21. He shared that he felt blessed to be in foster homes with caring people, but because of his younger brother’s behavioral health issues, he and his brother were moved frequently. DCFS tried to keep them together, but eventually he and his brother ended up in different group homes.

As an adult, Steven thinks about the things he saw and experienced in foster homes, and how he could use his lived experience to help kids going through the same things he went through. Steven has fostered 11 children as a single father, and has adopted four young men, the oldest of whom is 21 and the youngest of whom is 14.

While Steven and Michael remain close, Michael struggles with aspects of adulthood. “Ever since he was 5 years old, Michael had basically no boundaries,” Steven said. “It’s tough for him to break that cycle. I’ll continue to work with him to get on a better path, and I’ll always be there for him.”

Steven concluded, “I’ve always wanted a big family – grandkids to come over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s all about family.”

Celebrating Foster and Adoptive Mothers

“Jacob is a very kind young man whose greatest gifts are his quiet self-confidence, strength of character, and perseverance. We believe that we adopted each other. Having him as our son has enriched our lives.”

Cindy and Nancy Miller-Lusignan adopted their son Jacob in August of 2020, one month before Jacob turned 18. This Mother’s Day, One Hope United celebrates the selfless love our foster and adoptive mothers share, and the lasting impact they make in the lives of their children every day.

Nancy and Cindy received their first calling to become foster parents in 1989, when their nephew, Scottie, needed an immediate safe place to live. The situation was so urgent that after racing to New Hampshire, Nancy and Cindy finalized their guardianship of Scottie in the living room of the Justice of the Peace that night. “We had a lot to learn about the world of fostering, but we jumped in with both of our hearts,” Cindy shared.

Cindy and Nancy have always loved working with teenagers, providing unconditional love and support to their son Scottie as he healed from past trauma and became an adult. They said, “Honestly, the key principles for loving and raising teenagers are no different than for toddlers and young children. All they need is love, consistency, and help building a strong foundation.”

While it was impossible for two women to legally adopt at the time, Scottie found his forever family in Cindy and Nancy. Scottie shared, “I know who my parents are. I chose them because they were always there with love and structure in place. They say it takes a village to raise a child – I believe it takes a strong woman, and I have two.”

The couple got involved with One Hope United after attending an event at the Lake Villa residential home in 2009. One afternoon, they shared with an OHU staff member that their dog, Penne, is a certified therapy dog. Soon after, Nancy and Cindy began volunteering with the Lake Villa program regularly, often bringing Penne along to provide therapeutic services and comfort to young people on the campus. Cindy and Nancy are still actively involved with the Lake Villa program, and Cindy currently serves as Treasurer on One Hope United’s Board of Directors.

When Jacob was first placed at Lake Villa, staff members called Nancy, and asked if she could bring Penne over for a visit with Jacob. Cindy and Jacob began spending time together almost every week. Cindy said, “The very second I met Jacob I fell in love with him and knew I wanted to spend more time with him. After all of two minutes, I just knew we were meant to be together forever. Jacob radiates personal strength, and the depth of his character is apparent to anyone who meets him.”

Nancy and Cindy continued to spend time with Jacob as he settled into life at OHU’s Lake Villa campus. They have enjoyed attending Jacob’s basketball games ever since he was in seventh grade, when Cindy was the only person he allowed to come because he knew she wouldn’t embarrass him. “That was an immense honor and privilege!” Cindy shared.

While they felt disappointed when Jacob was placed with another foster parent after completing treatment at Lake Villa, Cindy and Nancy knew they wanted to remain in his life. Cindy began visiting Jacob in Rockford a few times each week to attend basketball games, school events, tutoring, meetings – anything that was needed or wanted. They also welcomed Jacob into their home for weekend visits and vacations.

After slightly more than a year, new demands, including caring for an ill family member and juggling education and work, led Jacob’s foster father to ask Nancy and Cindy if they would become Jacob’s foster parents. Jacob moved in with them the next day.

Nancy and Cindy shared that their OHU licensing worker was very skilled, and kept them informed at every step of their foster care and adoption journey. “She coached us on technical issues and calmed our nerves,” they said. “Most of all, in the early morning when I got the call from Jacob’s foster dad asking if we could take him, she made it happen in 24 hours. She made a huge difference.”

Because Jacob was an older youth in care, he had the right to determine his permanency status – whether or not he wanted to be adopted. As an older teen with a long history of trauma and failed placements, Jacob was most interested in developing independent living skills, not adoption. But one morning a few days before an upcoming permanency hearing, Jacob told Cindy, “I’m ready now.”

Jacob will be graduating from high school in a couple of days, and is looking forward to attending college in the fall, where he earned a scholarship to study art and has signed to play college basketball.

When asked what advice they would share with other foster or adoptive parents, Cindy and Nancy shared, “Strength in and commitment to your decision are critical to success. You will have friends and family members who will not understand, but you will find support in unexpected places. The end goal of fostering is to help a young person find their own way and develop their own voice.”

Cindy concluded, “Our family is undeniable proof that One Hope United makes dreams come true for kids and parents.”

Providing Hope and Healing for Survivors of Child Abuse

Providing Hope and Healing for Survivors of Child Abuse

Written by Dennis Delgado, Executive Director of One Hope United’s Community Based Family Services

Why does child abuse occur in the first place? Truthfully, there is never any excuse for it. But while it can be difficult to view perpetrators of child abuse as human beings facing many challenges in their own lives, they are in fact struggling with things like lack of parental capacity or parental education. Even in the face of such adversity, there is hope. With systems in place to address factors including stress, substance abuse, mental health treatment, and parental support, our communities can come together to help keep our children safe.

Abuse causes severe trauma for children and youth – trauma that can often be prevented through additional resources and education for families. The case managers and therapists at OHU’s Community Based Family Services provide evidence-based programs for youth who have experienced trauma, including child abuse. These programs, including Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) and Intensive Family Services (IFS), are designed to address the needs of youth who may still be experiencing emotional or behavioral problems as they process trauma. We offer resources, education, and redirection that increases their capacity to lead happier and healthier lives as they grow and move toward healing.

Additionally, OHU helps caregivers, as well as the overall family unit, to overcome concerns that have led to unsafe living conditions or decreased parenting capacity. These programs include, but are not limited to, Intact Family Services, Foster Care, Extensive Community Home Outreach (ECHO), Wrap, and traditional outpatient counseling services. Our case managers and therapists in these programs target the specific reasons for case referral, as well as the factors that contributed to caregivers choosing to abuse or neglect their children. Ultimately, these services allow caregivers to gain the knowledge, understanding, and treatment needed to fully care for their children in a manner that encourages growth, development, and healing.

Healing is an interesting concept that every person understands differently. At One Hope United, healing is the process through which children and families can become healthy again. We all heal, and become whole again, in ways that are unique to our own minds. Real healing is an individual journey where we restore what is damaged to work toward a healthy future. It looks different for every person, because to heal, each person needs to make a conscious decision to allow the process to begin. Just as healthcare professionals helps patients heal after a physical injury or illness, One Hope United’s child welfare professionals, social workers and therapists guide children, youth and families toward a path and lifestyle of healing that is sustainable and life-affirming.

You can support One Hope United’s child abuse prevention programs by donating here.

One Hope United Adds COO to Leadership Team

One Hope United has announced that on March 2nd, Antwan Turpeau will join the organization as Chief Operating Officer.

Antwan Turpeau has served as an Associate Deputy Director within the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, since February 2017, creating the Office of Delinquency Prevention. In that role, he oversaw the Shelter System, Human Trafficking Unit, and Dually Involved Youth Unit. Prior to his service at DCFS, Turpeau founded the nonprofit organization, Struggling Youth Equals Successful Adults, that focused on keeping older foster youth connected to support and resources through the age of 25.

“Antwan brings a personal passion, academic achievement, and many years of program delivery experience to One Hope United,” said Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer, President and CEO of One Hope United. “We are very fortunate to have him join our leadership team and lend his expertise to our agency’s strategic direction.”

At OHU, Turpeau will lead its Residential/Day Treatment Services, Early Learning and Child Development programs, Counseling, Community Based Family Services and One Hope United’s Florida operations, serving nearly 10,000 children and youth in Florida, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.

“I am very excited about being a member of the One Hope United team and family,” Antwan Turpeau said. “Charles’s vision for One Hope United inspired me to join the effort to use the organization’s 125-year-old foundation to build up and advance the children, families and staff we serve at OHU. It is my passion to work relentlessly to improve the quality of life of others who are in need of equal opportunities, excellent educational experiences, and high performing community-based services.”

Turpeau earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Elmhurst College and a Master of Social Work from Loyola University. In 2014, he was honored with Loyola’s Damen Award as social worker of the year.

Florida Case Manager Named Reunification Hero!

Victor Sims, Case Manager Lead in Florida, was recognized as a Reunification Hero by the American Bar Association Children and Law.

Sims was nominated by one of his clients who gave him credit with her reunification with her children. She recalled how “he brought my kids home when no one knew a way to make it happen” and said that “he has continually been a champion for change.”

His experience in the child welfare system began while spending the first 11 years of his life in foster care. Fortunately, Sims was adopted into a loving family and his experience in foster care is what motivated him to pursue a career as a case manager at One Hope United in Florida. While reunification was not possible for him and his parents, today Sims makes reunification his priority with every family that he serves.

He prioritizes strengthening  families’ so children can return home safely as soon as possible. Sims strives to understand the root causes of the parents’ problems so that they overcome their barriers to success. He does an excellent job of using innovative techniques that will help families continually succeed after their case has ended.

Read Full Article Here on America Bar Association

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Leslie Johnson Named Executive Director for Early Childhood Programs

Leslie Johnson, a leader with over 20 years in early childhood, human service, and social service experience, joined One Hope United as Executive Director of Early Learning and Child Development on March 11, 2019.

In this executive leadership role, Johnson will oversee One Hope United’s 12 child care and early education centers, which provide high quality early care and education to over 2,200 children each year, as well as our home visiting programs, which help young and first-time parents navigate their new responsibilities and support their children’s development. All of these programs serve children and families living in northern Illinois and Chicago.

“Working with families and communities in the ELCD arena has always taught me more about myself and fostered my passion for serving others. I do believe that quality services in Early Learning and Child Development create a solid foundation for children and families to grow exponentially,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s experience includes work in Head Start, Early Head Start, and Healthy Families programming, directing regional management and support staff to work with families to achieve their goals.

Johnson worked as a Management Consultant to Head Start and Early Head Start programs in both Illinois and Indiana.  She also worked for the Indiana Institute of Disability and Community as a Research Associate and Child Care Health Consultant, where she was a member of the initial team that implemented the Quality Rating and Improvement System used for child care providers across Indiana.

As Johnson continued her career, she has been fortunate enough to lead regional programs such as Success by Six and has most recently led Statewide Supports for Child Care Resource and Referral programs in Indiana. She holds a BS in Public Affairs from Indiana University and an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University, where she received Outstanding Professional Honors in her cohort.

Chicago Welcomes Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer

Over 125 Influencers Attend Reception for One Hope United President & CEO

Representatives from Chicago’s political, nonprofit, and social justice communities came out Friday, February 22nd, to welcome Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer as the President and CEO of One Hope United.

Over 125 people attended the reception in the Mid-America Club, hosted by One Hope United’s Board of Directors.

Director of Development at

See all the photos in our Facebook photo album.

The One Hope United family also came out in full force, with members of the Board of Directors, Ambassador and Auxiliary Boards, and staff as well as donors in attendance. Theresa Dear, Board Chair of One Hope United, introduced Montorio-Archer and officially welcomed him to the organization.

In his remarks, Montorio-Archer thanked the Board and his husband, Paolo Montorio-Archer, for supporting his decision to join One Hope United and relocate to Chicago from New York, where he was born and founded The THRIVE Network, a nonprofit that assisted people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live lives with dignity, respect and independence.

Throughout February, One Hope United has been celebrating Black History Month, featuring inspirational quotes by staff members and African American pioneers, and Dr. Montorio-Archer invoked one such figure from the podium: “Martin Luther King once said that we should never forget to ignite the hope within ourselves, and I hope that you do that all the time,” he said.

Montorio-Archer also invited attendees to take part in two upcoming events:

Throughout April, One Hope United will repeat its Go Blue 4 OHU campaign, in which Chicagoans can dine out at over 30 participating restaurants to raise awareness and funding for child abuse prevention programs.

On May 3rd, One Hope United’s fifth annual gala returns to the Hilton Chicago. Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope, will feature a keynote and performance by the Glee Project’s Mario Bonds as well as a cocktail hour, dinner, silent and live auctions, and other special performances.

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit www.onehopeunited.org.

Michelle Damico
Michelle Damico Communications

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