Catholic Charities Child & Family Services

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Catholic Charities Child & Family Services

Committing to Trauma Informed Care

Becoming a trauma-informed agency is about more than providing trauma treatment in therapy sessions.  It is about an organizational commitment to understanding the nature and impact of trauma across settings and making changes that support all members of the organization – clients as well as employees – in recovery.  SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach suggests that organizations consider “The Four Rs” listed below.  As you read, consider how your program is doing with each R and what steps you can take to help us improve.
The Four Rs:
Realization: All members at all levels of the organization realize that trauma exists and impacts families, groups, organizations, and communities as well as individuals.  The experiences and behaviors of others – including other staff members – are viewed through a trauma-informed lens that is considerate of the ways people cope with trauma.
Recognize: People throughout the organization recognize the signs of trauma and are trained to assess for trauma through screenings as well as other services, such as employee assistance programs.
Respond: The program responds by utilizing a trauma-informed approach throughout the organization.  SAMSHA notes, “Staff in every part of the organization, from the person who greets clients at the door to the executives and the governance board, have changed their language, behaviors and policies to take into consideration the experiences of trauma among children and adult users of the services and among staff providing the services.”  The program provides a physically and psychologically safe environment which includes not only addressing trauma in clinical settings but developing a culture of resilience, recovery, and healing in all areas – from waiting rooms to employee handbooks.
Resist re-traumatization: The organization works to identify practices that may be re-traumatizing and eliminate or modify them to minimize the risk of re-traumatization to clients or employees.
Johanna Miller, LCSW-C
Program Supervisor
Catholic Charities - OMHC Fallstaff


Presentation on Preventing Burnout

A presentation on Preventing Burnout will be provided by Catholic Charities’ Employee Assistance Program Provider – Business Health Services – on Wednesday, January 27 from 12:30 – 2:00 PM, at Miller’s Court in Baltimore.  Please click on the attached announcement for details.  Seating is limited, so please register early.  



With cold weather upon us, please review the following information on the use of office space heaters:

Portable space heaters are allowed to be used in office spaces in the Family Services Division as long as they adhere to the agreed upon standards.  The following guidelines should be followed for the use of a space heater in a Family Services Division program. 

The space heater must:

1.            Be UL Listed and Labeled.
2.            Be a Ceramic Element type only.
3.            Have tip over protection feature/safety switch.
4.            Have a guard around the heating element.
5.            Must be plugged directly into an outlet.  No extension cords or plug strips may be used.
6.            Must have a high temperature safety cut off with a Maximum temperature of 212°F.
7.            Not be operated within 3 feet of combustible materials.
8.            Not be left unattended while plugged into an outlet.
9.            Be unplugged from an outlet before leaving for the day.
10.         Have a three prong plug or two prong polarized plug (one blade wider than the other).
11.         Be plugged into an outlet that is not being used with other heavy use devices (i.e. microwave)
12.         Never have its cord be covered by a carpet or rug.
13.         Never be plugged into an attached power strip.
14.         Maintained in a safe operating condition, free of defects (e.g. frayed cords, broken housings, missing parts, etc.).

Steve Branson, LCSW-C
Risk Manager







Holiday Pictures from St. Vincent's Villa!


Group Holiday  Human Trees  Gym







The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jewish people had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt.

Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in December and is called the Festival of Lights. Today, Beth Benson and Jennie Cohen prepared a traditional Hanukkah luncheon, which included the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. They spoke with their co-workers and answered questions about the events that inspired the Hanukkah holiday.alt


Judah Maccabee and the others who took part in the rededication of the Second Temple witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued burning for eight nights, leaving them time to find a fresh supply.


Hanukkah celebrations revolve around the lighting of a nine-branched menorah, known in Hebrew as the hanukiah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings and rituals are recited and the menorah is prominently displayed in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday.

Beth Benson LCSW-C
Program Supervisor
Catholic Charities Center for Family Services
Mental Health Assessment Team

Jennie Cohen, LGSW
Social Worker
Catholic Charities Center for Family Services
Treatment Foster Carealt


Retirement News

It is with no small degree of sadness that we announce that after more than 23 years of dedicated service, Dr. Hamid Tabatabai has decided to retire. His last day with us will be February 5, 2016. 
Dr. Tabatabai has provided expert services to many parts of our division, including residential, school, and community-based programs. He has frequently volunteered to cover psychiatry shortages both across programs, and across considerable geographic distances. We will miss him greatly and extend our gratitude and our best wishes for a happy retirement.

Joe O’Leary
Medical Director


Villa Maria School at Dulaney Valley

Showing Generosity


Once again, the students at the Villa Maria School, Dulaney Valley campus spent the month of November learning about and practicing acts of generosity.  During this season of giving, the students participated in their annual canned food drive to donate non-perishable food to those in need. 

Each classroom was given a box to fill and every class contributed some items, making this a school wide success! The PBIS team at the school sponsors and promotes this annual event, and it has been a wonderful experience for all involved.  The students are encouraged to think of others and discover ways that they can help make a difference in the lives of others and the staff enjoys the spirit of the competition.

On November 30th the donations were counted and the results were announced- Class H had the most items donated, followed by a two way tie between classes D and I.  As a whole, the school was able to donate over 550 items to a local organization that helps people in need in Baltimore County. 

Thanks to all who donated and helped to make this a success!

Melissa Hamberg, LCPC
Clinical Supervisor
Villa Maria School at Dulaney Valley






GIVING TUESDAY is a day for giving thanks and giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

This year, 188 families were able to enjoy Thanksgiving Baskets with donations from the Assistance Center of Towson Churches; the School of the Cathedral; Raven’s Roost #50 and Advance Printing. The original 120 pledged Thanksgiving Baskets were reserved in less than 24 hours, and a wait list began to grow.  Our donors came through and the entire wait list was served, sending food to the neediest of families for Thanksgiving Day!

One clinician remarked: “Those with whom we work have the burdens and worries of the world on their shoulders. [When] I delivered all the food, the three families were so very touched by the generosity. Two of the moms started crying and all said that without the help their Thanksgiving would not have happened; they would have had to go to a shelter or Bea Gaddy’s to have dinner with their children. They all were so deeply thankful.”

If you can sponsor a family through this year’s Season of Wonder campaign, please register here.  More than 100 families have been sponsored since last year, providing relief and encouragement to families experiencing financial, as well as behavioral health difficulty.

Maria Busko
Volunteer Services Manager
Catholic Charities of Baltimore
Family Services Divisionalt



 Flu Vaccine Update

Mandatory Vaccines Beginning Next Year for Additional Division Staff

In recent years we have done better in the area of flu vaccination rates for our staff, but the fact is that we need to take steps to improve even more in the future.  In the past, we have made it mandatory for our doctors, nurses, and those working with our medically fragile foster children (Hope) program to receive flu vaccines each year.  Other parts of Catholic Charities have also made it mandatory to receive the vaccine, such as St. Elizabeth’s nursing home.  In addition, it is the standard of practice in any medical, nursing or residential facility these days.  While we have made great efforts to educate, encourage and actively cajole our staff to get vaccinated, we are still struggling to reach 60%, and this does not present the needed numbers to establish what is known as “herd immunity”, which requires an 80%-90% rate.  With these facts in mind, I am making the decision that come next year, on November 1, 2016, all staff whose primary worksite is in the St. Vincent’s Villa residential building (including the Annex) and the Villa Maria School buildings will be required to receive a flu vaccination.  
You will be able to get that vaccine from us, or from your own medical provider.  Volunteers who spend regular time on the units with children will be expected to receive the vaccine as well.  Medical contraindications will require documentation from your healthcare provider. If, for religious reasons you are not able to comply, a form will be available for you to request a religious accommodation. No other exceptions will be allowed.    
While no firm decisions have been made with regard to the remaining programs in our division, everyone should be prepared for an expansion of this expectation in the coming years.  
For this year, I continue to implore everyone to consider getting the flu shot, it protects not only you, but all of those around you.
Thanks everyone for your understanding.

Kevin Keegan
Director, Family Services Division
Catholic Charities of Baltimore


Promoting a Culture of Safety Takes a Village

The Behavioral Interventions and Support (BIS) Committee meets on a monthly basis to review and discuss our Behavior Management System, in general, and restraints, in particular.  What cannot be overemphasized or taken for granted is the tremendous progress we have made in strengthening our culture of safety and trauma-informed care approaches, which results in fewer restraints (3 for the month of October), child and staff injuries, allegations of abuse, etc.  We have come a long way in our transformational journey to become a restraint-free environment.  We are at a point in our evolution where each one is considered an exception and not the norm.
Every day, there are multiple examples of how staff (from all departments) use their compassion, professional judgment and competence in their interactions with children in emotional crisis. 
I want to thank each of you for your continued commitment to providing a safe and therapeutic environment for the children.
Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Ezra Buchdahl



I wanted to give everyone an update on our Electronic Medical Record, known as Avenues.  As in most areas of life, technology is moving from being a convenience to a necessity, and we need to complete the implementation of Avenues to make sure that we stay competitive.

For those who have been around for more than a few years, you have been hearing about Avenues for some time.  Those in our residential, school, TFC, and other programs have been waiting while the implementation of Avenues was completed throughout VMCR.  Over the past year, we have finished the roll-out to all of our clinics, and as I write this we are in the process of going live with Avenues in our BCARS and In-Home programs.  Much of this recent progress has been due to the heroic efforts of a group of “super-users”, who have given countless hours of their time to test, train and mentor; which has clearly paid off now that we are just about done this phase.  There is no way to adequately thank this group for their efforts.  In addition, the partnership from IT, as well as leadership from Rob Canosa and others has been the difference maker in making it to the finish line for VMCR. 

We are also excited to announce that in recent weeks, we have now brought together the leadership from our IT Department with our TFC and Residential programs to plan the next phase of the roll-out.  Jan Carson, who has been invaluable to the first phase of implementation of Avenues, will be continuing her leadership on the next phase.  Everyone in these areas will soon be hearing more about the detailed plans, but I thought that it would we be good for me to give everyone a quick “heads up” to what we are discussing.

We anticipate that within the next 6 months, our TFC and residential programs will ready to “go live” with Avenues.    The specific timing is still being worked out, and many of you will be asked to play some role in the planning and implementation.  Following this phase, we will then begin rolling out the school.  If being a part of this implementation is something that interests you, please make sure to let us know.

Avenues will not be a program that is used for our Gallagher programs, as we are working on a separate roll-out of the Carematic system.

Thanks again to everyone who has played a role in getting us to where we are now.  I am very excited as we are beginning to see the finish line.

Kevin Keegan
Director, Family Services Division
Catholic Charities of Baltimore





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Villa Maria Community Resources Latest News

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Child & Family Services

Our Vision:
Catholic Charities Child and Family Services will be a National model of a fully-integrated system of innovative, effective, state-of-the-art programs that assists children, adults and families to achieve their full potential.

Our Mission:
Catholic Charities Child and Family Services provides an integrated, state-of-the-art, comprehensive system of care that includes: child welfare; delinquency diversion; behavioral health; special education; and early-childhood and family-development services that assist children, adults and families to achieve their full potential.

Our Values:
Respect Partnership Knowledge Excellence Diversity Data-driven
Cherishing the Divine Within