How It All Began
The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey was founded in 1894 and our mission was to find loving families for children, to protect children from harm, and to help parents find better ways to be parents so they can keep their children. It is our vision that all children have secure, caring families, good health, and function well cognitively, emotionally and behaviorally. To this end, our programs include; behavioral health/ mental health, permanency planning, community/ neighborhood based services, school based services, and early childhood and parent education services. We provide services for children and parents at risk, including prevention, support, childcare, referral, and treatment. Our programs address the developmental continuum from pre-natal to adult. In conjunction with the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, we have contracts that serve many children in the state foster care and adoption system, providing a range of services before adoption, during the state placement process, and after adoption (post-adoption services). Our mission remains core to us today and always. We believe we are saving children’s lives and building healthy families.
In the late 1800’s a kindhearted man witnessed a scene that would change the lives of countless children over the next 100 years. He watched quietly as a group of people dressed in rags walked out of a local poorhouse. He noticed a mother and her young five-year-old daughter. Why, he thought, did this child need to grow up with no hope for the future? His heart was instantly touched, and a national movement called The Children’s Home Society was born. That man was the Reverend Martin Van Arsdale. He started the first CHSofNJ in Chicago and found junior reverends (children’s advocates) to take his progressive ideas to 26 states. In 1894, the Reverend Martin T. Lamb was sent to New Jersey, and thus was born The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, who in its inception served all of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
From its beginning, CHSofNJ has adhered to the philosophy that each child should be cared for in a family home and loved the same as a child born to a family. Our founders did not agree with the prevailing practice of warehousing children along with adults in almshouses. Nor did they believe in loading New Jersey’s local children onto orphan trains and sending them to the mid-west for placement with farm families.
Reverend Lamb and his staff worked tirelessly to organize concerned people across New Jersey. Slowly, they convinced local poorhouses that children would be better served if they were placed in family homes. As children were released from New Jersey poorhouses or found to be abused or neglected, they were placed first with Reverend Lamb and his wife, Ermina, and then as soon as they could, with private homes in New Jersey, later called foster homes. Reverend Lamb and his wife were themselves the first foster parents for CHSofNJ. The understanding was that any family who took CHSofNJ’s children must treat them as they did their own.
CHSofNJ continues to offer its traditional services, while other services expand, and new ones are added. Despite the changes over the years, the mission has remained the same; Saving Children’s Lives and Building Healthy Families.
Donna Pressma has been President and Chief Executive Officer of The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey (CHSofNJ), Trenton, NJ since 1986. In 2018, CHSofNJ has a budget of $20,000,000 and a diverse staff made up of 300 multi-disciplinary professionals including clinical social workers, school-based youth workers, early childhood specialists, nurses, WIC nutritionists, and Head Start teachers. CHSofNJ is a statewide not-for-profit agency with a board of 23 trustees. The agency founded in 1894 and now serves every NJ County with community-based services. In 2020 CHSofNJ served 100,000 infants, children, youth, parents, and grandparents with services in child welfare, behavioral health, school-based, early child care, maternal-child health, head start, and kinship. 80% of the lives we impact are black and Latinx.
Ms. Pressma was previously CEO of the Jewish Family and Children Agency of Philadelphia, CEO of the Jewish Children’s Bureau of Chicago, and she oversaw the child welfare services for the State of Connecticut under Governor Ella Grasso. Ms. Pressma has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Antioch College and a Masters of Social Work from Smith College. She completed her Master’s Thesis (published) research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is a New Jersey Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Ms. Pressma represents CHSofNJ, a member agency of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Washington, DC. She chaired their National task Force on Child Care and in 1988 initiated and chaired their National Task Force on Children and HIV Infection. She testified to United States Congress and helped secure funding of the Ryan White Act along with Senator Metzenbaum, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and Dr. Norman Orleski. She was a member of the New Jersey Child Welfare Transition Policy Group for Governor Jon Corzine. In 2013 she was then awarded the National David Roth Leadership Award by the Child Welfare League of America.
She, her managers, and her board have always created meaningful pioneering services for the Spanish-speaking communities especially since the 1990’s as their needs have greatly evolved. CHS of NJ has been serving the black community since its founding in 1894. All of our services work to establish the knowledge, skills, and access needed for all our children and parents to equally become successful in life.
Christine Benitez, CFO
Christine Benitez, MBA, CPA, is an experienced finance professional and our Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Christine brings a wealth of knowledge from more than two decades serving Catholic Charities of the Diocese in Metuchen, NJ, where she began as a Billing Manager before being promoted to Accounting Manager, Controller, and finally serving as their CFO for 17 years. Her experience includes management of over 100 contracted programs funded by State and Federal grants, and Christine has extensive experience in accounting systems for general ledger and budgeting; oversight of system implementations and processes involving IT and HR – including integrated client database and Medicaid/3rd party billing systems – for 450+ employees; and oversight of Facilities Management including property purchase, construction, and maintenance. Christine holds an MBA from Rutgers Graduate School of Management. Contact Christine at .
Karen Courtney, COO, Director of Grants and Program Development
Karen joined The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey in 2012. Her career has been focused on bringing resources and high quality services to at-risk communities. As Director of Planning for BronxWorks for 14 years, she developed grant proposals to launch day care centers, child and youth services, homeless shelters, senior centers and career counseling programs for that agency.
Under her leadership, BronxWorks became an employment services provider helping more than 1,000 New York City residents secure employment each year. Karen’s prior experience was with the Community Development Research Center and the U.S. Department of Energy. She helped the Community Development Institute of Southern New Jersey secure seed funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Wesleyan University and a Master’s Degree in Urban Policy Analysis from the New School. Contact Karen at .
Dolores Ijames Bryant, Vice President of Trauma Informed Child Welfare, Kinship & Clinical Services
Dolores has over 20 years experience working with children and families and has worked at Children’s Home Society of NJ for almost 15 years. During her tenure at CHS she has successfully developed and implemented several start-up projects including the federally funded Kinship Connections Program and the Mercer County GrandFamily Success Center.
Dolores is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Douglass College, a Masters in Social Work degree from Rutgers University and is a graduate of Leadership Trenton, John S. Watson Policy Institute.
She’s a member of the Trenton School Based Advisory Board and Trenton Early Childhood Advisory Board. She enjoys reading and working as a community volunteer. She is the mother of one daughter and has been kinship caregiver for several nieces and nephews. Contact Dolores at .
Maritza I. Raimundi-Petroski, Vice-President of Strategic Initiatives, Prevention Programs and Community Engagement
Maritza I. Raimundi-Petroski is CHS of NJ’s Vice-President of Strategic Initiatives, Prevention Programs and Community Engagement. She has worked in the field of non-profit management for over 20 years and have expertise in organizational development, program design, program implementation and contract management. Most recently, she served as the Chief Program Officer for a county-wide Community Action Agency in Middlesex, NJ and she worked for 13 years as CHS’s Division Director for Maternal Child Health, Family and Community Support Services in Mercer County. In the capacity of VP, she’s responsible for contract management and administration of programs in Mercer, Ocean and Monmouth Counties. She received a Master in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit management from the Graduate School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers-Newark and a Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the same institution. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State College’s Leadership Trenton Fellowship Program at the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy. Maritza is proud to be a graduate of the New Jersey Latino Leadership Institute at the Center for Urban Development at Rutgers University and the Governor’s Hispanic Fellowship Program at the NJ Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development.
Isaac Dorsey, Director of Head Start/Early Head Start
It is with great pleasure and excitement that we welcome Isaac Dorsey as our new Head Start Executive Director. Isaac brings over 20 years of successful experience being the Director of Head Start programs that were both Center Based and Home Based in New Jersey, Arizona, and South Los Angeles, California. After serving 3 years in the Army Signal Corp., he graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Urban Planning & Political Science and with a Master’s in Public Administration. He is further credentialed in Advanced Management from the Head Start Johnson & Johnson Management Fellows program at UCLA. Most remarkably, Isaac Dorsey is himself, a Head Start child who will be a role model for our children and parents. Isaac is a nationally recognized Head Start teacher and consultant, and he has had many years of collaborative experiences with local community partners, schools, and agencies. Contact Isaac at .
Pamela Cipriano, Director of Corporate Development & Volunteerism
Pamela Cipriano, Director of Corporate Development and Volunteerism, has over 16 years of experience working for Merrill Lynch in the Human Resources and Training Departments recruiting and training financial advisors and mentors. In 2009, she made the switch from the private to the non-profit sector as the Manager of Community Connection at Princeton HealthCare System where she organized and worked with over 200 volunteers who helped advance their mission through advocacy and fundraising. Pam played a key role in the rebranding and reorganization of the department into Community Connection.
Throughout her career, Pam has been involved with Parkway Elementary school in Ewing, the Auxiliary at University Medical Center at Princeton, B.I.G. (Believe, Inspire, Grow), has served the Social Chair and Swim Team Representative at Cranbury Swim Club. She is an active member of Networking & More and the Mid Jersey Chamber of Commerce. Pam enjoys meeting new people and wants to continue making a positive difference in people’s lives. Contact Pam at .
Angela Garcia, Director of Information Technology
Angela has been an IT Professional for more than 17 years working in many diverse roles including as a Software Program Developer and Systems Engineer. Angela served as an Information Management Analyst at Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. prior to joining The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey in 2004. At CHSofNJ, she leads the team responsible for all technology equipment, extranet connections and World Wide Web connections as well as intranet administration and IT security.
Angela is bilingual in English and Spanish has a Bachelor’s Degree in Systems Engineering and an Associate Degree in Applied Science-Computer Systems and Network Administration. Contact Angela at .
Mary Graycar, Director of Human Resources
Mary has been with CHS for twelve years overseeing staffing, employee relations, compensation and benefits and ensures CHS is compliant with state and federal employment laws. Previously, Mary was the Director of Human Resources at the Hun School of Princeton and an HR Generalist for 10 years at AC Compacting in New Brunswick, NJ. Mary holds a degree in Business Administration and is currently studying for SPHR certification. Contact Mary at .
Maureen Lawrence, Director of Ocean County Child Care Resource & Referral
Maureen has a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from William Paterson University and has worked for CHS of NJ since 1996. Maureen is the agency representative for NJACCRRA (New Jersey Association of Child Care Resource and Referrals Agencies) and recently served as the Treasurer for four years. She sits on several committees for this professional organization. Maureen often serves on state committees for her expertise in CCR&R programs and administration. She was honored in 2012 for her many years of steadfast leadership in the field of Child Care Resource and Referral. Maureen is an avid reader and a sports enthusiast. Contact Maureen at .
Joan Martin, CHSofNJ WIC of Mercer County Program Administrator
Joan O. Martin is CHSofNJ WIC of Mercer County Program Administrator, managing all program operations including supervision of staff, main office and satellite sites; client intake and certification and distribution of checks; and nutrition and breastfeeding education and support. Ms. Martin holds a Masters of Public Health and has 27 years experience as a WIC Nutritionist/Supervisor, Head Start Nutrition Manager, Health Education Collaborative Coordinator and Public Health Consultant. Her WIC experience prior to leading the Mercer County program was at the Health and Hospitals Corporation in Brooklyn, New York. Her 23 years of Head Start experience was with Newark Preschool Council, the largest Head Start provider in Newark serving 2,400 children. Ms. Martin implemented, managed, assessed and evaluated a collaborative partnership between WIC and Head Start in Newark. Contact Joan at .
Louise McCants, Director of School-Based Programs
Louise McCants is CHSofNJ’s Director of School-Based Programs and has worked with children and families served by CHSofNJ since 2005. She oversees the CHSofNJ 21st Century Community Learning Centers STEAM Program which offers daily after-school Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) programming, homework help and other engaging and positive activities for over 200 middle school students in Trenton schools; KIKS, an in-school youth development program focused on character building; resisting negative peer pressure and responding to bullying is currently offered in The Cranbury School in Cranbury, New Jersey. Ms. Shabazz also oversees operation of the Trenton Education Dance Institute (TEDI), an arts education youth development program serving 200 Trenton students in Grades 5 through 10 with in-school and after-school dance instruction and performance opportunities. Ms. Shabazz has previous extensive experience in business and management – she holds a BS in Business Administration from Delaware State University – and served as Vice President of Capitol City Contracting in Trenton, New Jersey. Contact Louise at .
BOARD of TRUSTEES
James T. Shea
Immediate Past Chair
P. Alan Zulick, Esq.,
Donna C. Pressma
President & CEO, The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey
Members of the Board
James A. Graham, Ph.D.
Pastor Brian Joyce
Deborah B. Musick
Jennifer Landis Pizi
Pastor Jose Rodriguez
Burton J. Sutker
Hunter W. Allen
M. David Atkin, M.D.
Rosalind Hunt Doctor, Ph.D.
Jeffery M. Hall, Esq.
Kevin J. McKenna
Dorothea Coccoli Palsho
Charles S. Papier, M.D.
Vivian B. Shapiro, Ph.D.