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

One Hope United Names
Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer
President and CEO

Entrepreneur, author and attorney co-founded, led and merged nonprofit The THRIVE Network in New York City

One Hope United’s board of directors is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer as the organization’s President and CEO. Dr. Montorio-Archer, a successful New York nonprofit entrepreneur, child and family advocate, attorney and author assumed the leadership position last month following a national search.

Founded in Chicago in 1895 and based there to this day, One Hope United is one of the oldest and most respected human service nonprofits in the country. Today, the organization provides education, foster care, adoption, counseling, residential and other support services to over 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida.

Dr. Montorio-Archer co-founded The THRIVE Network in 1996 and served as its CEO for another 11 years before successfully merging the organization with The New York Foundling. THRIVE, which continues to operate under its own name, is a $36 million nonprofit organization that assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout New York City.

“Charles is a transformational leader who has demonstrated a passion for empowering all people to live with dignity and respect,” says Theresa A. Dear, Board Chair of One Hope United. “With his proven leadership, and his commitment to helping others reach their full potential, he is the ideal person to lead One Hope United to our next level of greatness as we work to help every child and family live life without limits.”

“I am thrilled to become part of the One Hope United family and community,” says Dr. Montorio-Archer. “When I began as a direct support professional in this industry over 25 years ago, I quickly recognized that, while our life circumstances may vary, we all want and deserve the same access to opportunity. That starts with the supports and services that One Hope United is so committed to providing – education, family support, a place to live and thrive, and connection to loved ones, as well as being recognized within our society. These are the building blocks to a life without limits, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to help bring these to every child and family.”

Dr. Montorio-Archer has written three books, most recently Everybody Paddles: A Leader’s Blueprint for Creating A Unified Team, which provides a management model for reaching strategic alignment and accelerating organizational change through respect, collaboration and leadership. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Lincoln University, a Master’s degree in Public Administration from CUNY Baruch College, a JD from Brooklyn Law School and a PhD in public policy from Walden University. From 2001 to 2004, he served as Assistant District Attorney in Kings County, Brooklyn, NY. Then from 2004 to 2007, he served as the Associate Executive Director for the InterAgency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, where he advocated at the city, state, and federal levels for program development, business sustainability, and policy and regulatory reform.

In addition, Dr. Montorio-Archer has served on numerous boards, presented two TEDx Talks (“The Friendship Clause” and “IDENTITYphobia”), contributes to Forbes and Huffington Post, and has been featured on television, radio, print, and other media outlets.

Dr. Montorio-Archer succeeds Todd Schultz, who has been acting CEO for the last year. Schultz will remain a part of the Executive Leadership Team as the Chief Transition Officer.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Staff Spotlight: Katie Adams

Meet Katie Adams (3rd from the left), Director of our Joliet Early Learning Center!

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

Center Director. I started at Joliet Early Learning Center in September 2016 as Assistant Director/Parent Educator for the program. In March of 2017, I was promoted to Center Director.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

For me, I knew working in early learning would be a field that I would be happy in and enjoy doing every day. I love hearing the voices of the children and seeing their faces light up each time they learn something new and it undoubtedly brings boundless joy. Having such an impact on the learning process of kids is a rare privilege.

Why is early childhood education so important?

The first years of children’s lives are crucial for setting the foundation of their learning experience. If children have a strong, quality experience with early learning, they grow up into adults that are lifelong learners.

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

I am most proud of the progress we have made in enrollment at the center and building the quality of our program. Less than two years ago, our enrollment was about 80 children and we had 8 of the 13 classrooms operating. Currently, all of our classrooms are open and our enrollment is up to 182 children. We also just finished our ExceleRate Illinois monitoring review in hopes to achieve the Gold Circle of Quality (child care state rating system) and reaching for better child development outcomes. As a team, we strengthen our relationships with the children and families that we serve everyday and have created partnerships with community organizations in our area.

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

I am eager to begin the NAEYC accreditation process for the center. Accreditation ensures that programs are safe, well prepared, and intentional about ensuring children’s success. I am excited to continue working toward our center goal which is to be a high-quality early learning center and create positive long-term outcomes in life, including increased educational attainment and healthier lifestyles for the children and families we serve in our program.

Staff Spotlight: Devin Dittrich

Meet Devin Dittrich (right), Director of Programs for Foster Care in our Cook and Joliet offices.

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

I am currently the Director of Programs for Foster Care for our Cook and Joliet offices. I have been with One Hope United for almost 15 years (March 2018) and started off as a Foster Care Case Manager, moving my way up to Foster Care Supervisor and now Director.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

Prior to coming to One Hope United, I worked as a Medical Case Manager at a skilled pediatric nursing facility. Most of the children that lived at the facility were involved with DCFS as they had been victims of severe abuse and neglect and could not live without intense nursing and medical intervention. This was my first glimpse into DCFS. It wasn’t until a couple years later, during my graduate program, that I met someone that worked for OHU (then Central Baptist Family Services) and heard of an opening at the Joliet office. I felt complacent at my current job and knew that there was no room for growth as a case manager and I wanted to be challenged more. The rest is history!

Why are your programs so important?

Under the umbrella of my program we have 3 Foster Care teams, a Licensing team and an Adoption team. The Foster Care teams are charged with working with families that have allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency in which the children were removed from their home. They help change people’s lives and make difficult decisions to improve home environments for children and reunite families.  The Licensing team works just as hard to education, recruit and license relative foster homes and non-relative foster homes for the children to reside either temporarily until return home or long-term, through adoption or guardianship. If a child cannot be returned home, the Adoption team has specialized knowledge and skills when it comes to writing in order to ensure that a child’s history and current needs are reflected in the documents required for Adoption or Guardianship. Each position is equally as important and every worker works just as hard as the next for the purpose of ensuring that every child we work with has a safe, stable and forever home, via return home or adoption/guardianship.

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

Over the years there have been so many success stories with the families we serve and all for different reasons. These successes can be measured by way of return homes, adoptions or even just stabilizing a child in a placement or helping a parent achieve sobriety. The one common theme for these success stories is that they all had dedicated, passionate workers that cared just as much about a positive outcome for the family as the family themselves. The workers are what I am most proud of, and the way that they handle situations that most people would run from is what makes me truly proud of what I do and who I work with.

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

There have been some changes over the past year with me stepping into the Director role and although it’s not always easy– our team has become very strong and supportive to one another.  I am looking forward to using that supportive teamwork component to expand our involvement in the community and build more partners outside of OHU.

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