As Executive Director of Hope House, Thomas oversees all of the organization’s operations and works to ensure that everything runs smoothly and functions well. He is responsible for developing and sustaining strong working relationships with Hope House’s collaborative partners, including the District Attorney, Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, DCFS and others. As a director, Thomas’s goal is that every child who walks through the doors of Hope House will receive the absolute best professional support during their CAC experience. “In all that we do, we want them to feel safe. When they walk through our doors, they are beginning their journey towards justice and recovery, and feeling safe is a vital prerequisite for that journey,” Thomas says. “My job also entails community outreach and fund development. I really want our community to know that Hope House makes the Northshore safer and stronger.”
When asked about his favorite part of working at Hope House, Thomas responded:
“I think, just seeing the transformation. Seeing kids come in for their interview. They are often inhibited, resistant, scared and anxious. When they see the buttons for bravery bowl, they immediately realize they are not alone. After the interview, you can just kind of feel this peace, this hard to describe tranquility – like a 40-pound weight has just been lifted off their back. The child then picks out a teddy bear that is unique and comforting to him/her. When they walk out holding their bear and looking relieved, I just feel so privileged to be a part of this. We also immediately enroll them in advocacy and therapy, and then we see them return each week for their therapy session. It’s so common to see our kids bouncing up and down the halls, getting a snack and juice, and laughing with their therapists. The child is experiencing being a kid again. They are experiencing safety again. That is, without a doubt, the best part of my job. It’s our job to ensure that the child is placed on the right trajectory, to experience joy, happiness, peace, and most importantly, childhood.”
Thomas received his Master of Arts in Psychological Counseling and his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Nicholls State University. He is certified as a Trust-Based Relational Interventions® Educator and Practitioner from the TCU Institute of Child Development. He is also a Board Certified Clinician in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Allegheny Health Network), a National Children’s Advocacy Center Certified Forensic Interviewer, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LA and TN), and a National Board Certified Counselor.
Thomas began his CAC career as a clinical therapist at the Carl Perkins Centers’ network of Children’s Advocacy Centers in 2013. After two years of employment, he was named Director of Clinical Services, overseeing 13 trauma counselors across West Tennessee. In 2017, he departed to become the Executive Director of CAC - Hope House. Prior to his work within West Tennessee CACs, Thomas worked as an Adoption Therapist at Agape Child and Family Services in Memphis. In this role, he provided direct support for foster families adopting through the Department of Children & Family Services.
Outside of work, Thomas loves spending time with his family. He lives in Covington with his beautiful wife and three amazing children. Thomas is an avid runner, and also enjoys sailing on Lake Pontchartrain. A music enthusiast, Thomas’s favorite composer is Max Richter, who composes pieces of music which make one think during the composition. Thomas’s favorite psychologist is Stanley Milgram, whose work in the field of social psychology yielded a profound influence on his interest in the field.
As Clinical Director of Hope House, Stacy maintains an active caseload while providing supervision and direction to the staff therapists and clinical interns. She works in partnership with the Clinical Staff, Victim Advocates and other CAC staff, Law Enforcement, Child Protective Services, District Attorney’s offices, medical personnel and other key members to mobilize and strengthen the multidisciplinary approach to the prevention, intervention, investigation, treatment and prosecution of child abuse. This includes providing trauma-focused therapy to children and their non-offending caregivers, creating operating protocols and procedures for counseling programs, creating training documents and tools needed to implement services and measure their effectiveness, and more.
When asked what she likes most about her job, Stacy said:
“While we hear some difficult stories at the CAC, I look forward to coming to work every day because I have the privilege of helping my clients feel better. The model we use, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is evidence-based and highly effective at helping clients reduce or eliminate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Teaching kids and teens how their thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected, and being a safe person for them to share with is such an honor. The clients inspire me every day with their courage and resilience!”
Stacy received her BAS in Psychology and MA in Counseling from Dallas Baptist University. She is a board-certified Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC #7044), a National Certified Counselor (NCC) by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – one of only nine certifications in the state of Louisiana.
Prior to Hope House, Stacy was a clinical intern at the Children’s Advocacy Center for Denton County (North Dallas) working with children and adults in group and individual therapy. While pursuing her education, she worked for the Xerox Corporation for 18 years as an Instructional Designer, Professional Instructor, and Project Manager.
Stacy is originally from Nashville, TN and has lived all across the southern U.S., from California to Florida. For as long as she can remember, she has been drawn to New Orleans. She loves the music, food, the live oak trees and night-blooming jasmine. She spends as much time as possible enjoying the city with her husband, John, and their basset hound, Otis. They are also huge Saints football fans. In her spare time, Stacy volunteers with Looziana Basset Rescue and fosters dogs.
As a forensic interviewer, Megan has been trained in the complex dynamics of child abuse, the developmental issues of children, and the appropriate way to ask questions in a neutral, non-leading manner. When allegations of child abuse arise, Megan conducts fact-finding conversations to determine if a child has been abused, and discover the child’s reality about their experience. The interview is audio/visual recorded in order to reduce the need for the child to relive the trauma by repeating the information to multiple agencies. These recorded interviews are one of the most effective and reliable ways to present the findings to the investigative team and to the court in order to provide justice for a child. In fact, there is a 96% conviction rate in court proceedings where a forensic interview or testimony is used.
When asked what she wished more people knew about child abuse, Megan responded: “I wish most that people knew that child abuse occurs everywhere – in every socio-economic group, in every race, in every religion and so on. I wish people knew the value of talking to children about body safety from a very early age and using preventative measures.”
Stacy received her Bachelor of Arts from SELU with a concentration in child development. Prior to joining the Hope House team, Megan worked with the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services in Child Protection Investigations/Foster Care. This experience fueled her interest in Hope House, as she would frequently use CAC services and understood the importance of the work they do.
Her prior professional experience also includes working with children and adolescents at New Beginnings Behavioral Health in Hammond, LA, and with United Cerebral Palsy in Kenner, LA.
Outside of work, Megan enjoys spending time with her family, especially her daughter. She likes to travel and explore different cultures, and learn different ways of life. She loves art, reading and music, and can often be found listening to eclectic music and dancing in her spare time. Her current career goal is to complete the Graduate studies program in foreign language at the University of New Orleans.
Every family referred to Hope House is assigned a Family Advocate who serves as their primary point of contact and support as they navigate the multiple systems and agencies involved in protecting children. Jessica is one of those individuals. Jessica meets with caregivers during the child's interview to address concerns, answer questions, and discuss any needed support moving forward. She assists with completing referrals for evidence-based mental health services, and for forensic medical exams at the Aubrey Hepburn CARE Center. She provides support and assists in obtaining orders of protection and giving families information about the Victim Compensation program.
In the months after the child’s interview, Jessica continues to follow up with caregivers to provide updates about the investigation, ensure engagement in services, and continually support families on the path to hope, healing, and justice. If the case proceeds to court, the CAC Family Advocate remains available to families at any point in time.
In her dual role as Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Jessica implements educational programs that teach children and families how they can prevent, recognize and respond to abusive behavior. Jessica teaches regular Stewards of Children sessions, which offer free training to parents, schools, and various individuals, businesses, and youth-serving organizations in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. She also provides the Play it Safe! scripted curricula, which is a prevention education program designed to reduce children's risk of becoming victims of physical and sexual abuse. The free sessions are age-appropriate, grade-specific presentations, including all grades Pre-K through 12th grade.
When asked what she wishes more people know about child abuse, Jessica responded:
“I wish more people understood how important abuse prevention sessions are in keeping our kids safe. Recent local media reports force us to realize that no community is immune from abuse and neglect. Abuse prevention is possible! I feel a heaviness when a parent's response to training sessions is ‘I watch my kids.’ Do they believe that our clients were victims because their parents didn't love and care enough about their children? Do they think they are immune from being manipulated by a skilled groomer? There are steps that abusers take to gain the trust of children and their caregivers, AND they are patient. So they will wait for the opportunity to abuse. Our thoughts and motives are very different than that of an abuser. Our minds do not think like offenders' minds, so we are at a disadvantage in the war against child sexual abuse. I wish every caregiver would sacrifice just two hours of time to take the Stewards of Children training and register the children in their lives to attend a one-hour Play it Safe! session.”
Jessica received her Child Development Associate Credentials through the Council for Professional Recognition. She has also received her TBRI Basic Certification, Victim Advocacy Certificate of Completion, and Forensic Interviewing of Children Certificate of Completion. She is currently pursuing an education in Criminal Justice.
Prior to working with Hope House, Jessica was the Preschool Director of Great Beginnings, a Texas Rising Star facility with a 5/5 star status. She was also a six-year volunteer and three-year board member for Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC), the first and only overnight camp for children in foster care. She also served as the Co-Director for the RFKC mentoring program; Director for Shine Sooner Conference, a conference for middle school-aged girls; Board Member for Great Beginnings; and Board Member for the Council of Ministries.
Jessica is a native of St. Tammany and grew up in Abita Springs. She loved being raised in a large family – four sisters and one brother. She treasures her own four children – Natalie, Nicholas, Heather, and Holly – and spends every minute she can get with them.
As a Clinical Therapist at Hope House, Jennifer helps kids heal from trauma through the implementation of Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trust-Based Relational Intervention, and Play Therapy. She loves helping kids be kids again, and gets so much joy from seeing breakthroughs and positive changes in their lives.
When asked about one of her most cherished memories from working at Hope House, Jennifer responded:
“I had one kiddo who was really struggling to talk about the most traumatic details she experienced. We had worked very hard for her to be able to tell her caregiver her story, and she was having a lot of anxiety. We found a way for her to share her story that was very unconventional, but it worked for her. When she graduated from counseling, we celebrated her bravery, and she left knowing that her caregiver would always stand by her side and support her.”
Jennifer received her Masters of Education from the University of New Orleans in 2014, and her Bachelor of Arts in English from LSU in 2005. She has her PLPC and LPC, and is a graduate of Saint Scholastica Academy in Covington.
Prior to working at Hope House, Jennifer worked as an academic counselor at Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of New Orleans. She also worked for the St. Tammany Parish School System in the Kids in Transition program, which provides resources to kids identified as homeless.
A life-long resident of the Northshore, Jennifer lives with her husband and daughter in Covington. She loves working on her garden and playing with her daughter.
When cases of child abuse arise, Heather provides the child and their non-offending caregivers with education on the process, referrals to services, and follow-up and support throughout their journey. Heather also conducts forensic interviews with children, assists with case management and data entry, helps to implement abuse prevention education programs, and works on specific advocacy related to children’s forensic medical exams (confirming appointments, arranging transportation, and attending appointments).
When asked how she became so passionate about Hope House and working with child abuse victims, Heather responded:
“I got connected to Hope House, and this field in general, by looking for ways to help victims of human trafficking. As I learned about CAC’s and the work they do, I saw how incredibly important it is, and I just wanted to be a part of it. I learned that child abuse can often be a precursor to child and youth trafficking, as well as a host of other long-term issues in adulthood. My desire to help trafficking victims led me to a place where victims of child abuse and their families are given support and care that are so crucial. I love being there for families and helping them navigate the investigation process – setting them on a path to recovery, and helping them avoid a path of devastating problems in the future.” Heather received her BS in Biology with a concentration in microbiology from Nicholls State University. She was trained in NCAC Forensic Interviewing protocols, and completed her NCAC Victim Advocate training. She is also an authorized facilitator of the child abuse prevention program Stewards of Children. Prior to her time at Hope House, she was a Member/President of Colonels Against Trafficking at Nicholls State University.
Heather lives on the Northshore with her husband and their cat, Gandalf the Grey, whose name came from her love of books.
As a clinical therapist at Hope House, Sarah counsels children and teens of all ages. She helps child abuse victims process traumatic or scary events using the TF-CBT model. She also meets with caregivers and provides them with valuable resources that will help the child through their recovery journey. The thing she loves most about her job is hearing how activities from therapy are helping her clients in their everyday lives.
When asked what ultimately led her to Hope House, Sarah responded:
“Counseling children has always been a passion of mine. Considering children’s environments, needs, socioeconomic status, etc. has allowed me to see how every child is unique. When I graduated school with my master’s degree in counseling, I was praying to find a job in the field that focused on children. Getting hired as a counselor at Hope House was an opportunity that fulfilled my passion for working with children and providing them with the help and guidance they need to overcome traumatic events in their lives. Hope House and their mission is unique and in high demand. It’s amazing to be a part of this team.”
Sarah received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Southeastern Louisiana University. She is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and a PLPC. She is also currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Counseling Education and Supervision from UNO.
Outside of her passion for counseling, Sarah loves spending time with her family and her fiancé, who is a baseball coach. Sarah is also an animal lover. She has a cat named Lucy that she rescued from a shelter, who she loves to “spoil like crazy!”
As Hope House’s Office Manager, Natalie oversees the day-to-day administrative operations and provides administrative support to the rest of the staff. In early 2021, Hope House will launch its anti-trafficking initiative, and Natalie will assume the role of Child Trafficking Specialist. In this role, she will provide awareness and training on the realities of child trafficking to the community through education and community empowerment initiatives.
When asked what drew her to Hope House, Natalie responded:
“I realized I wanted to work to help children from hard places while volunteering with Royal Family Kids Camp, a summer camp for children in the foster care system. Each summer right before camp began, we would have an intake session where the director would prep us on any behaviors to be aware of with our camper. Many times this looked like a child suffering with extreme post-trauma symptoms such as PTSD, anxiety, anger issues, sleep apnea, mood swings, etc. What I realized summer after summer is that when a staff member or counselor had an honest, genuine relationship with the camper and modeled to them what a real adult/child relationship without expectations or conditions looks like, the result was amazing. After just a few days these ‘hard to manage’ kids were running, laughing, joking around, making new friends, smiling, and acting like a typical kid. That was when I realized the impact of being intentional with your time and attention, and building a trust-based relationship, could have on a child who has been through abuse.”
Natalie is Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Certified and is currently working toward her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Prior to working at Hope House, she worked as a teacher’s assistant for Onalaska Elementary (OISD) in Texas for two years and volunteered with Royal Family Kids Camp for the past five years.
Born and raised in Covington, Natalie moved to Texas briefly for school. She is happy to be back in her hometown to serve children and families in the Greater New Orleans Area.