Maria H. – Hope Drove Her to Succeed

maria-h-alumni-profileMaria H. can describe her experience at Baltimore’s Board of Child Care with just one word.



To understand Maria’s journey, you first have to acknowledge her reality. After spending her first nine years with biological parents, she spent the next five years of her life in a large orphanage in Siberia. After her two sisters were adopted in 1998, a Maryland family from Baltimore County adopted Maria in 2001.

A survivor of a throwaway culture, however, her struggles would continue for some time. Maria spoke little English and, almost immediately, found difficulty adjusting to her new life with her adopted family. “I moved in with a foster care family temporarily. My adoptive parents wouldn’t take me back in, so I was transferred to foster care permanently and that’s how I arrived at BCC,” Maria said. “I was young, emotional, and not very happy,” Maria admits. “I was upset.”


Maria turned to art as an outlet to cope with her new reality. “I’m crafty; I like to make things,” said Maria, who continued to take classes at the nearby Staub art school in Catonsville, MD while living on the Baltimore campus.

“Art became a way to deal with my problems and emotions in a positive way,” she says. “It kept my mind busy. Instead of thinking about the sad things in my life, I turned my feelings to art and that made me feel good about myself.”


Realizing she had to finish high school if she wanted to succeed, earning her diploma became Maria’s main goal in her late teens. “An education meant that I would have a future, that it would lead me to be successful,” she says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, but I knew I needed to finish.”

While completing high school, Maria took a job at Crown Trophy in Owings Mills. After graduation, she went to school to become a dental assistant through a program offered at Howard Community College. The license took six months to acquire; she started working in the field shortly after.

“Maria always knew what she needed to do, and she set her sights on being independent and following through on her goals,” says Nicole Smith, BCC’s Vice-President of Residential Services, who worked with Maria during her
time at BCC. “Once she had her skill set in place, we could all see she was going to flourish.”


10 years have passed since Maria graduated from high school, moved away from BCC and launched her career
as a dental assistant. Now married, she is advancing her career through BCC’s alumni grant program, going back
to school to become a licensed dental hygienist. Perhaps most importantly, Maria looks forward to starting a family of her own one day.

“We don’t have kids yet, but we definitely want them,” Maria said. “We’re waiting for the right time to begin our family.”

The ability to circle a goal, chart a path to achieve it and execute the plan is something she credits Board of Child Care for teaching her, and she plans to fully utilize the skill.

“The program’s helped me to set goals when I needed them the most,” Maria said. “I wouldn’t have achieved this life without BCC.”

This article originally appeared in BCC’s 2015 Annual Report (click to view all annual reports).

Did You Know?
Thanks to its donors, Board of Child Care funded $21,702 in continuing education for its alumni in FY 2015!

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Kendra M. – A Childhood Restored

kendra-m-alumni-profileKendra M. never received the childhood every little girl deserves until she came to the Board of Child Care.

Abandoned by her mother at two years old, Kendra’s father struggled with substance abuse. Often transient and sometimes homeless, it was not until Kendra was 11 when someone notified Child Protective Services. Neglect was confirmed; Kendra was placed into foster care.

Kendra was welcomed to BCC by a small army of support staff and responded very well to the program. With an individualized treatment plan in place, Kendra was able to work through her past trauma, make academic progress, and blossom through the healing relationships she experienced at BCC.

Kendra’s transformation led her to BCC’s community-based group homes in Martinsburg, WV. She became an honor roll student, a regular at spiritual worship, and advocated for herself and others at “The Landing,” a local teen recovery ministry.

After almost four years of many laughs — and a few tears, too — Kendra bid BCC farewell. Bittersweet because it meant saying goodbye to a recovery filled with good memories, but celebrated as she continues her march towards happiness and independence.

“A story like Kendra’s is the reason we do this work,” says Jacqueline Columbia, BCC’s Director of West Virginia Operations. “Helping change a child’s life positively not only impacts the child, but has a positive impact on an entire community.”

This story originally appeared in BCC’s 2015 Annual Report (see all past annual reports).

Editor’s note:
The name of the program participant has been changed and stock photography utilized to protect confidentiality.

Did you know?
Due to past success, the Martinsburg group home added a third cottage to the property in FY 2015 (read the newsletter article).

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Smith accepts CRCCP board position from MD Gov. Hogan

Nicole Smith, BCC’s Executive Director of MD and DC Programs, is now serving a four-year term on the Board for the Certification of Residential Child Care Program Professionals, or CRCCP. Appointed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Smith was confirmed in February at the Maryland State House by the Executive Nominations Committee.

“Having one of our executives appointed by Governor Hogan to serve is an honor,” BCC President and CEO, Laurie Anne Spagnola, said. “It speaks to Nicole’s dedication and excellent credentials, as well as the reputation of the Board of Child Care as a residential provider.”

The CRCCP Board formed in response to a change in state law that occurred in October of 2015. All childcare professionals are now required to attain a state certification as care providers.

The problem? There was not a licensing body to oversee the professional standards and expectations.

The Board has a mix of private practitioners and representatives from other state agencies, such as the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), the Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA).

“I’m a direct care practitioner at heart and I believe we need to professionalize the tough work we do day in and day out,” Smith says. “The care for our kids is too important not to be regulated and this allows us to train and educate those who are advocating for and working with our most vulnerable populations.”

Per the new law, BCC staff who had attained enough years of experience could apply for grandfather status for the Residential Child and Youth Care Professional certification.
Instead, BCC elected to set the bar higher.

BCC required its 63 residential childcare staff and supervisors who qualified with grandfather status to complete the coursework anyway. All staff who did not qualify for grandfather status completed the coursework and sat for the state licensing test. BCC’s first time pass rate, well north of 90 percent, compared favorably against the 30 percent pass rate statewide.

“I hope BCC and the protocol we set for the newly-implemented law becomes the standard for other organizations to consider,” said Monte Ephraim, Director of Professional Development and Training. “I am so proud of the trainers we have and of our staff for meeting the challenge and passing their exams at such a high rate. Ultimately, however, it’s all about serving the youth at BCC, and I’m really proud of the best practice standard we are setting here.”

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Board of Child Care internships a win-win proposition

Pat Wilson headshot

The end of April brings with it the conclusion of several social work internships offered by BCC each year.

“Getting the opportunity to work with some really strong professionals and working with kids confirmed my choice to go into treatment foster care as a life career,” says Ellen Spunt, who recently completed an internship on BCC’s Treatment Foster Care team.

Spunt spent the last two semesters with BCC after securing advanced standing in her master’s degree program at University of Maryland’s School of Social Work.

After the interns complete their undergraduate or post-graduate degree, having hands-on experience on their resume can be a huge asset in the job market.

“I was given tasks that required me to take initiative and learn something new, and BCC gave me all the tools I needed to succeed,” adds Spunt. “While the internship was unpaid, I really appreciate not only the experience and references I now have for my resume, but also all the advice and support I received as I get ready to sit for my licensing exam.”

Patricia Wilson, LCSW-C, Director of Treatment Foster Care, has served as supervisor for many interns over the years, including Spunt most recently.

“Successful interns are passionate about serving others, hungry to succeed, and extremely receptive to learning accepted professional and industry standards,” Wilson says. “In the case of Ellen, she was all of the above. As part of her degree, she needed to complete 10 core competencies in hands on fieldwork at some point before she graduates. I’m so proud she accomplished nine just with her time at BCC alone.”

Because of the proficiency Spunt showed and her ability to contribute to the team, she was offered a fulltime position after she graduates. Because of prior summer travel plans, Spunt was unable to accept immediately, but she described her interest in a full-time position at BCC as ‘strong.’

While most social work interns at BCC are in a graduate program, BCC had the pleasure of working with Micaela Itter in the Baltimore residential program this past semester. Itter is working towards an undergraduate degree in social work through University of Maryland – Baltimore County (UMBC).

Dr. Meg DePasquale, LCSW-C, one of the residential program directors and Itter’s supervisor at BCC, commented that dependability during an internship gives a future candidate for full-time employment an undeniable edge.

“Micaela quickly developed rapport with the staff and program participants, therefore becoming an integral part of the care team and care plan.” DePasquale said. “She presented herself very professionally, in a manner one might expect to see more from a grad student.”

Itter is still working on her undergraduate degree and therefore not eligible for a full time social work position (all BCC social workers are masters’ level). However, she was encouraged to apply for an hourly on-call position at BCC to help her keep gaining experience while she completes her degree.

Internships and fulltime positions are offered on BCC’s job board, found on the BCC website under the careers tab. Interested candidates are encouraged to keep periodic tabs on the page and apply when appropriate, as BCC offers at least a half-dozen internships a year.

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Child Bus Tour stops at BCC’s Martinsburg campus


BCC’s Martinsburg residential campus hosted a Child Watch tour April 20 as part of a larger, collaborative effort to heighten community awareness of the plight of abused and neglected children.

“Because April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, we try to give adults an exclusive look at what a child sees while they go through the system,” said tour organizer Kristen Gingery, project assistant at the Family Resource Network. “This tour has been building for over 10 years and we were thrilled to have the Board of Child Care as a participant.”

The eight-destination bus tour included a stop at a hospital, where abuse or neglect is usually spotted or confirmed by a medical team. From there the group visited locations such as the Department of Health and Human Services in Martinsburg, a children’s shelter, a Safe Haven shelter, the Berkeley County Judicial Center and then as their last stop: the Board of Child Care.

Jackie Columbia, BCC’s director of operations in West Virginia, hosted the 21 participants for a campus tour and short talk about BCC’s residential programing.
“This type of experience is so important as we can show community members what we do, and who we’re advocating for,” Columbia said. “Seeing our actual facility and understanding what treatment looks like helps drive home our mission and the importance of BCC’s role within the community.”

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UMC lantern vigil enlightens Baltimore campus

Lanterns like these will blessed and shipped to Africa following UMC’s general conference in Portland May 12.

Started in 1970, Earth Day has become a worldwide effort to give voice to emerging environmental issues.

Nationally, the Earth Day movement hopes to plant 7.8 billion trees and divest from fossil fuels and making large, urban cities more renewable.

At the Board of Child Care, program participants spent some time discussing the link between spirituality and social consciousness, and how that relates to events like Earth Day.United Methodist Church’s Baltimore-Washington Conference participated in, which ties in with the church’s.

Program participants in Baltimore and Martinsburg will construct and decorate lanterns lit by small LED lights. Each lantern will have a short message or prayer written on them.

The BCC Earth Day program ties into a larger effort being taken by the United Methodist Church nationwide. The UMC’s general conference – scheduled for May 12 in Oregon – includes a climate vigil. Lanterns made at BCC will be blessed alongside thousands of other lanterns made across the United States, and ultimately distributed overseas to those in need of light in their homes.

The lanterns – which will include a prayer card – are earmarked for communities in Africa, where in-home lighting is scarce and a lantern with even a small LED light can make a potentially huge impact.

“This is an important project because it teaches our kids about spirituality and social issues, and how both can be intertwined on a daily basis,” Rev. Dr. Stacey Nickerson said. “We can use events like this to make a difference in communities locally as well as abroad.”

For more information on how your church can participate, visit the news blog of the United Methodist Church’s Pacific Northwest region here.

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Tree of Life leaves lasting legacy

Tree Of Life
Volunteer Auxiliary Tree of Life

When a family member or loved one passes, planting a tree in the deceased’s memory is an oft-mentioned option.

The Board of Child Care’s Volunteer Auxiliary has taken this a step further, with a “Tree of Life” in the Baltimore Campus Chapel. Maintained and funded by BCC’s Volunteer Auxiliary, the tree offers a family or a congregation an opportunity to change a young person’s life and remember a loved one at the same time.

Family and friends of Mrs. Margaret F. Lewis have done just that. Having served many years as the key person for McKendree-Simms-Brookland UMC in the Washington Region, Lewis was recently remembered with an engraved leaf.

Lewis, 83, passed June 4, 2014. She was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC and enjoyed a successful 33-year career working for the federal government. She was known especially for her loving spirit that drew children close to her and her belief in promoting BCC’s mission in helping children.

For more information visit the Tree of Life page or learn more about the Volunteer Auxiliary.

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Career Fair at Board of Child Care April 12, 2016

(As the job fair has already occurred, positions we were interviewing for have been removed.  Please click “Careers” at the top menu of this website to see all open job postings!)


Career Fair Open House
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Welcome Center on the Baltimore Campus
Board of Child Care
3300 Gaither Road, Baltimore, MD 21244 (map & directions)

Are you looking for:

  • Full time work (either salaried or hourly)?
  • A job with benefits such a health insurance, paid time off and sick leave, and matched retirement contributions?
  • A meaningful career where you can see the tangible results of your work and how it helps others?
  • An employer who invests in YOU with paid continuing education, tuition reimbursement program, and staff appreciation days?
  • (Full list of employee benefits available here)

Then join us on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 10:00am to 2:00pm!

Make sure you bring:

  • Plenty of copies of your resume
  • Driver’s Licence or other government issued photo ID (required for entry to campus)

All Board of Child Care locations require visitors and vendors to present a driver’s license or government issued photo identification upon arrival. State employees (DHHR, DJS, DSS, DHR, etc.), court employees, and police officers may show their state government ID in place of a driver’s license if they wish.

What to Expect:

Representatives from Human Resources and various Directors and hiring managers from the Baltimore program will be on hand to answer questions and interview selected candidates.


(As the job fair has already occurred, positions we were interviewing for have been removed.  Please click “Careers” at the top menu of this website to see all open job postings!)


Can’t join us for April 12th?

Check out a full list of open positions at BCC and apply online anytime.

Read more from Career Fair at Board of Child Care April 12, 2016

New coaches, new approaches steering BCC residential programming

National partnerships are laying groundwork for continued program growth in 2016

Berger HS

BCC program director, Kelly Berger (pictured), is working with BCC’s residential team on ushering in new evidence-based therapy models for BCC’s residential programs.

The tapestry for all of this change is called Integrated Treatment Design (ITD). ITD weaves across all of BCC’s residential programs, from Maryland to West Virginia. At its core are several new toolboxes for BCC’s direct care teams who are with the residents 24/7.

BCC has engaged in two national partnerships to help onboard our staff. The first is with Chaddock, a residential provider with similar programs to BCC except based out of Quincy, Illinois. Chaddock is widely considered an industry leader in advancing residential treatment for children who have experienced severe abuse, neglect, or other trauma in their early years of development.

The second is through BCC’s participation in the Residential Transformation Cohort (RTC) project. Offered through the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, it is a gathering of like-minded human service organizations who are in the midst of a cultural and programmatic transformation.

The lead facilitator of the RTC is Tom Woll, a nationally renowned service delivery and organizational development expert known for his analysis of trends coupled with a thoughtful and entertaining presentation style. BCC was fortunate to host Mr. Woll at the end of March on both the West Virginia and Baltimore campuses. He spent time in the cottages coaching staff and supervisors, and also provided some high level discussion and debrief for the program leadership.

“One of the biggest shifts BCC is engaged in right now – something we had started before partnering with Chaddock or participating in the RTC – was a shift away from a punitive behavior-management system,” says Berger. “The work we’re doing with Chaddock and Tom Woll teaches staff to read and assess the residential culture and energy of the cottage. They learn to gauge the non-verbal behaviors and cues. Overall the practices we’re rolling out allow our staff to model, teach, and that is where we can make a real impact for someone.”

In addition to working on deployment of these new tools, Berger is simultaneously overseeing a program specifically serving teenage girls, sees massive potential for positive outcomes. The program for females specifically opened at the end of 2015 in Baltimore, with West Virginia set to open this spring.

“Organizational change is difficult at any level,” commented Laurie Anne Spagnola, President & CEO. “However, this is what we need to be doing – we need to focus on what practices are evidence-based and focus on what our successful peers have learned. It’s only through this kind of knowledge sharing that we as a sector can truly hope to make a difference in the lives of these kids.”

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Animals and birds echo through Strawbridge

Collaborative effort with CCBC offer a birds’ eye view of nature

Students at the Board of Child Care’s Strawbridge School spent some time with a few unique visitors early in March – animals from Echoes of Nature.

2016-03-08 04.08.58
Red-tail hawk shown at Strawbridge School

Based out of Bowie, MD, Echoes of Nature offers hands-on, educational programs featuring live animals to schools, day care centers, adult centers, and birthday and community events.

Echo Uzzo, the class instructor, started the lesson by showing students a small Eastern box turtle. Next was a chinchilla, a crepuscular rodent (most active around dawn and dusk) slightly larger than ground squirrels. Introduced next was a Ball Python snake, which curls when they feel threatened to make themselves a smaller target.

An opossum and a majestic red-tailed hawk capped the show. This was the only presentation students were not able to come close to or touch. Several times, this male bird – which weighs around two pounds but can stoop downward in pursuit of prey at over 100 mph – squawked and preened while Uzzo handled spoke to the class.

Uzzo spoke about how birds such as the bald eagle commonly nest from Washington to Baltimore to Annapolis, sharing waterways with fish, turtles and other animals, and how nature has moved into our backyards and cities as humans claim more land for development. Animals are under increased pressure to adapt to our presence or die.

“This was our second visit to Strawbridge, and I thought the kids were really awesome,” Uzzo said. “They’re engaged, interested and show a genuine appreciation and love for the animals.”

Uzzo says funding and building a wildlife discovery center is the ultimate goal for her company, but seeing the positive interaction between animals and humans is what motivates Uzzo.

“You protect what you like, and these kids are our future,” Uzzo said.

The Community College of Baltimore County collaborates with Strawbridge School to offer different classes to various 11th and 12th grade students. Last year, classes included childcare certification, retail, clerical and professional animal work (PAWS). Retail and PAWS carried forward to this year.

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