Catholic Charities Employee newsletter - Fall 2017


Welcome to our first edition of our revived employee newsletter - written by staff for staff and presented in this vibrant and engaging format for you. The newsletter was born out of your requests for more frequent information about programs and services. In response, directors and staff have contributed updates in their areas to share with all of you. As the most highly requested information, program updates are first including links to client impact stories. Each edition will showcase 3 programs and feature one site. The three programs highlighted in this edition are Behavioral Health, Legal Services for Immigrants and Migrant Refugee Services. The Sheboygan Area Office is our featured site. You will also find other program and agency news and upcoming event dates. We plan to produce our employee newsletter quarterly. Each time, you will be asked to help by providing content for program updates, client impact stories, photos, links to articles or videos, and event dates. Your participation and feedback will continue to guide its evolution.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to this newsletter.

Enjoy and happy scrolling…

- Ricardo

Program Updates

Behavioral Health


The Behavioral Health Program continues to operate at full capacity and we are excited to share our updates agency wide. We continue to provide counseling services throughout all locations; Milwaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Waukesha and Beaver Dam. Additionally, we have branch offices in Fond du Lac, Fontana and Kenosha. There are 15 staff located throughout the program which provide the much needed counseling services to the clients we serve. In 2016, we provided counseling services to 2850 individuals throughout Southeastern Wisconsin through individual, couples, family sessions as well as group educational series. We continue to see a need in each of the communities listed above and provide our compassionate services for those seeking help.

Therapy Garden

The Behavioral Health program is proud to share the innovative ways we are expanding our services. This summer the behavioral health program implemented a healing garden at our Milwaukee office for counseling clients to participate with the planning, tilling, planting, weeding and most importantly to enjoy.

Studies have found that when clients participate with a therapy garden, they have several positive outcomes - looking after plants provides a sense of responsibility; gardening allows clients to be nurturers and keeps clients connected to other living things, and it helps clients relax and let go of stressor’s/emotions that they have held onto for long periods of time; gardening reminds clients to live in the present moment and of the cycle of life including death and processing through grief associated with the loss of a loved one; gardening allows clients to vent anger and aggression, relax and for regain a sense of control.

Clients have planted flowers, herbs and vegetables and have enjoyed working individually, as a team and with their therapist. Clients have shown their positivity throughout the process and most importantly regaining a sense of control in their life, processing through the concerns that brought them to counseling and enjoying participating in something positive that they take pride in.

Behavioral Health clients and their families working in the therapy garden at MAO

Staff Updates

The behavioral health program welcomed two new staff this past Spring. Katie Gallagher, therapist at SAO started in April of 2017. Additionally, Laura Ramos, bilingual behavioral health professional at RAO started in April of 2017. It is with mixed emotions that Diane Oman has announced her retirement. Diane has been with Catholic Charities for 35 years as a dedicated therapist in our Waukesha office. We wish Diane all the best as she transitions onto her continued journey.

Legal Services for Immigrants


Immigration and immigration law are constantly in the news. This is due in large part to the last election cycle, political division, proposed legislation, and world events. Our office must closely watch and react to these constant changes so that we are prepared to help the diverse groups of immigrant communities that we serve. Our office is currently made up of five attorneys, a paralegal, an office manager, a Jesuit volunteer, and a retired volunteer attorney. We also have law and university student volunteers that assist us throughout the year.

Over that past few months we have witnessed an increase of certain cases that are directly tied to current events around the world. Our work often makes the world seem like a very small place. One day you could be reading about a war-torn country in a part of the world that is very different and distant from Milwaukee and the next morning you could have an intake appointment with someone seeking asylum from that same country.

We represent clients in many different immigration processes ranging from family reunification to political asylum. We represent our clients before United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and in immigration court. Over the past year we have witnessed an increase in the following types of cases.

Unaccompanied Children at the Boarder

This humanitarian issue was the focus of many news stories over the past year. Children from Central America, typically El Salvador and Honduras, fled their homes because of domestic violence and/or gang violence. After a long and dangerous journey, they found their way to our southern border. They are admitted into the United States as unaccompanied minors. These children then face a long and difficult legal battle in the United States, often without much financial or parental support. Our office represents these children in their asylum interviews, family court hearing, and immigration court.


The current administration’s policies towards refugees and refugee resettlement has had a direct impact on Catholic Charities. However, our office continues to provide legal services to refugees within our service area. We provide legal assistance to refugees through green card application, family reunification applications, and citizenship applications. While the number of newly admitted refugees has been drastically reduced, the number of refugees that need legal help continues to rise.

Turkish Asylum Seekers

Our office has witnessed a large increase in Turkish asylum claims due to the current political situation in Turkey. Our clients were forced to flee Turkey because they were being persecuted based on their religious beliefs, political opinions, and membership in a particular social group. Milwaukee has a small but very supportive Turkish community.

Venezuelan Asylum Seekers

Our office has also witnessed an increase in Venezuelan asylum claims because of the political situation in Venezuela. People in Venezuela who oppose the current regime are being persecuted for their political beliefs. The political situation continues to worsen by the day as the population deals with political strife, food shortages, lack of medicine, rolling blackouts, and escalating violent crime.

DACA (Dreamers)

Over the past few years our office has filed thousands of DACA applications and DACA renewals. DACA is a program that offers children who were brought into the United States by their parents some protection from removal. Furthermore, it gives these children access to a work permit and a driver’s license. The current administration is reportedly considering ending DACA.

Community Outreach

Catholic Charities Legal Service for Immigrants organizes community outreach events multiple times. These events help us reach our community and our service partners. The events cover a wide range of immigration related topics. Our next community outreach event is set for September 8th and we will discuss the often-misunderstood idea of sanctuary. Our office also posts informative videos about immigration and current events to YouTube and our Facebook page. We have posted five YouTube videos so far and they have over 3,000 views.

Migrant & Refugee Services


Our Refugee Resettlement program has the overall goal of helping refugee clients become economically self-sufficient as soon as possible, using their own skills and abilities to adjust to a new culture and environment. This is done through close case management for the first year, with intensive case management the first 90 days, including health screening, job development, ESL and cultural orientation classes, and enrolling children in school. Case management is available for five years should the clients seek additional support.

Our Refugee Resettlement Services staff includes the Director, seven Case Managers, three Job Developers, a Housing case manager, an ESL coordinator and a Community Health Worker– all but three of them came to the U.S. as refugees. This personal experience allows staff to form a bond with the client, giving refugees comfort and providing a level of trust that is essential to the success of the program. Collectively, the resettlement program staff is proficient in over 30 languages and dialects.


The executive orders signed in January lowered the refugee resettlement cap from 110,000 refugees to 50,000 in the year 2017 (Oct ’16-Sept ’17). The USCCB reached out immediately to inform us of the financial impact from federal funding. This unanticipated decrease at the beginning of our fiscal year forced us to reduce staffing and services for our refugees. Thankfully, we were able to maintain essential services to meet the needs of refugees who are newly arrived and those 1500+ who have resettled in the past five years.

Refugee Resettlement staff welcomed 686 new refugees in FY 2016. Thus far in FY17, we have resettled 360 refugees in the Milwaukee and Sheboygan areas. Currently, only those refugees with immediate family ties are permitted to resettle in the U.S. We are expecting more arrivals in September and are hopeful to receive more as our new fiscal year begins in October.

World Refugee Day 2017

On June 20th the Milwaukee Area Refugee Consortium (MARC) hosted Milwaukee World Refugee Day at Pere Marquette Park. World Refugee Day, celebrated by the United Nations and countless civic groups around the world, was created to honor the courage, strength, and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

This year’s celebration was a great success, uniting a diverse group of individuals connected by their shared pride in calling Milwaukee home. The event featured exciting cultural performances and activities, music, and guest speakers. Mayor Tom Barrett took a moment to share with the crowd the important contributions refugees continue to make to our communities every day.

ESL & Cultural Orientation Classes

For refugees, self-sufficiency means gaining the language, life and social skills needed to attain citizenship, participate in the Milwaukee community, access community resources, and support the healthy social and academic development of their children.

MRS offers ESL and Cultural Orientation classes Monday through Thursday, covering topics such as names and addresses, family, and hygiene. Classes have anywhere from 5 to 20 students at a time, with 17 volunteers teaching, assisting, and tutoring.

Computer Classes

Our clients are excited to learn new computer skills.

We offer a computer class for refugee clients to develop proficiency with technology. Lessons range from setting basic typing skills to setting up and managing an email account and crafting email correspondences with attachments. Their confidence continues to grow each time they learn something new!

Walking Group and Crochet Classes

Our clients enjoying fresh air and bonding time.

Every Friday a group of women get together to walk and enjoy each other’s company while getting some fresh air. Afterwards, we have a crochet class in which the clients use plastic bags to make many different items including baskets, picnic mats, and door mats. They are very creative and have learned this skill quickly, many of them utilizing the crocheting and weaving skills they had prior to resettling in the U.S. These Fridays enable the women to get out of the house to socialize and laugh with each other while honing their skills. Their self-esteem, happiness, and motivation have improved immensely since they began attending.

Job Development

Many of our clients get placed in jobs very soon after arrival. Our job developers do an excellent job working with employers and finding jobs that are the right fit for each individual. Our clients who arrive here are very willing to work and want to contribute back to society as much as they can. They are extremely grateful to be here and want to do their best to provide for their families and help their new city.

Pregnancy & Parenting Support

Client Growth

We served 130 clients in the 2016-2017 reporting year as compared to 113 last year and 108 the year before, so we are seeing growth in this program.

Infant Mortality

Despite concentrated efforts in recent years, Milwaukee continues to rank among one of the worst cities for infant mortality. According to the City of Milwaukee’s Fetal Infant Mortality Review Report, the non-Hispanic Black infant mortality rate is nearly three times the rate of non-Hispanic White infant mortality rate.

Providing In Home Therapy Through the Aurora Better Together Fund

We were seeing an increase in the number of clients we were serving whose mental health needs were going unmet, so we wrote a grant to add a mental health clinician to our team. Thanks to the Aurora Better Together fund we were able to add Colleen, our mental health clinician, to our team in January, 2017. In addition to providing direct mental health services to clients, Colleen provides consultation and education to our home visitors. This combination of in home services and mental health services is particularly helpful and effective for low-income populations who may need assistance in navigating the health care system and face multiple social and economic demands that prevent them from accessing and engaging in treatment. Our goal is that through the counseling sessions, clients and their families will be better able to cope in a healthy way with the stressors of life and the issues that brought them to counseling. Learning better ways to deal with life's challenges leads to increased self-sufficiency and more cohesiveness in families. Speaking on an even broader scale, our hope is that we can show the effectiveness of incorporating a mental health clinician within the home visiting team and become a model for other home visitors.

Annual Mother's Day Event

The annual Mother's Day event is an opportunity for our Pregnancy and Parenting Support clients to spend the day together connecting over lunch, crafts, and games, and receive generously donated baby items.

Adoption Services

Historically our domestic infant adoption program has done 5-7 infant placements a year, but in 2014, 2015, and 2016 we only did 3 each year. This year we have seen a huge increase, with 8 placements as of the end of July 2017. On July 11th we had two babies born that were placed for adoption- this was a first for me.

When most people think of our domestic infant program, they think about the adoption program at Catholic Charities, but we also do a handful of step parent and relative adoptions each year, so far in 2017 we have worked on 5 step-parent adoptions.

Annual Adoptive Family Picnic

The annual adoptive family picnic brought together 11 families (waiting and post placement) to bond over stories, lunch, games, and fun in the sun.

In-Home Support and Hoarding Intervention & Treatment

How the Hoarding Intervention & Treatment Program Works

If the person is in need of our Hoarding Intervention and Treatment program, a comprehensive psychological, physical and social assessment is important in quantifying the severity of the problem. At the initial assessment the case manager obtains information on living situation, symptoms, family history and the need for clutter removal. Due to the personal nature of treatment for hoarding disorder, developing trust and boundaries between the client and our representatives is vital to lasting success.

During the second visit the case manager introduces the client and the home coach. The home coach’s duties include hands-on decluttering, advocating for the client when needed, and providing overall encouragement. During this visit, a personalized care plan is created by the case manager, home coach and client. The care plan is used to establish, track, and update specific goals, monitor ongoing case management, and overall well-being. The home coach will visit with the client, at minimum, on a weekly basis. Activities during these visits vary depending on goals they are working on.

During the third visit the client is introduced to the behavioral health professional. Our therapist will develop a treatment plan and goals that deal exclusively with the clinical aspects of the mental health attributes linked to hoarding disorder. By focusing on the source of these attributes, the therapist works toward improving the client’s emotional wellness and overall functioning. The frequency, intensity, and therapeutic approach are based on individual characteristics and severity of the issues.

The Impact of Hoarding Disorder

According to the National Council on Aging in 2017, 41% of all seniors lack transportation support. This means seniors and disabled adults cannot: get to doctor appointments, get to the pharmacy for medication, get to the store for food, cannot go to family and friend events, get to church, cannot get their hair cut or go to buy new clothes.

According to the American Psychiatric Association in 2017, hoarding disorder affects up to 6% of the adult population nationwide, or 19.6 million individuals.

To put this into perspective there are 5.5 million people who have dementia/Alzheimer’s so you are 4 times more likely to know someone who suffers from hoarding than Alzheimer/dementia.

New Hoarding Disorder Support Group

We have the new support group for families/friends of those who suffer from Hoarding disorder that meets Every 4th Thursday of the month, 6-8PM at MAO Starting September 28th, 2017.

Supported Parenting

Program Expansion

The Supported Parenting Program expanded into Milwaukee in June. Kim Sue Lamster accepted a full-time position as a Family Support Specialist for the Supported Parenting Program in Milwaukee. She has been with the agency for 9 years and recently graduated with her MSW in May.

Staff Updates

Carrie Knight celebrated her 1st year as a Family Support Specialist with the Supported Parenting Program and Catholic Charities in May. She's been doing amazing work with her families and for the program.


We had a Ice Cream Social in August at a local park with great participation from the families. It was a fun time for all.

Adult Day Servies

Thank You to Our Donors

Through a generous donation, the adult day services program will be entertained by Donna Nowak through the Morning Noon & Night productions from Lake Forest Park in Illinois. The Show selection that Annette has chosen is the “Big Band Tour … A History of Soldiers in Grease Paint” It will include selections of Big Band Songs, 50’s and 60’s Rock n’ Roll, and Country/ Western music. The show is a combination of karaoke and storytelling its history. This music should have her clients up and tapping, if not singing along with the music. The performance will be on Friday, October 6th at 10:00 a.m. We are really excited to hear this performance! Thanks to a recent donation to be used to tune our piano, the entertainers can play on a finely tuned piano that will continue to bring joy to our members.

Volunteers Make a Difference

For over 25 years, high school volunteers through the Archdiocese Reach Out Reach In program volunteer at the ADC every summer. The volunteers have been assisting with activities, exercise groups, lunch set up and passing out meals, as well as one on one chats with our seniors. We are grateful for all that they do and look forward to working with them every year!

Reach Out Reach In volunteers have been helping the ADC for over 25 years.

Outreach & Case Management

Offering New Paths to Faithful Caregiving Classes

Outreach case managers, Sue Howland, Carlos Perez and Nancy Munoz completed training session’s provided this past year by Age Options in Illinois Paths to Faithful Caregiving. This faith based curriculum is designed to help caregivers who are assisting an elderly parent, relative or friend acknowledge the added stress in their lives and learn ways to take care of themselves.

Starting in September this 5 session class will be presented in Spanish to the Hispanic community. Carlos will be conducting the sessions at St. Helen’s Parish in Milwaukee and Nancy will conduct her sessions at our Waukesha office.

Featured Site - SAO

SAO staff from left to right: Lucy Agnulo De Araujo, LPC, Catherine Gallagher, LPC (joined in 2017), Anwar Khalif, Refugee/Migrant Case Manager (joined in 2017), Dave Agnew, MSW, LCSW, Dalila Contreras, Bilingual Office Assistant (joined in 2017), Angela Wessels, LPC-IT, Kap Khan Lain, Refugee/Migrant Case Manager, Leah Ebbin, Community Outreach Worker (joined in 2017)

Sheboygan Community Member Gives Back

At the SAO office we are fortunate to have a donor who, on two different occasions, had donated shoes for Refugee Services. We are talking about a lot of shoes for men, women and children! Her story is that she was adopted many many years ago and is just so thankful for the services that Catholic Charities had provided for the community throughout the years.

Years ago, her initial idea of giving back was in the thought of providing foot wear to the many individuals coming in from Vietnam to the Sheboygan area. Once again, a donation was made to the SAO office. The latest donation has also been such a blessing seeing that many new families are coming to the Sheboygan area with very little. The new shoes have brought so much joy, especially to the young children; which was so fortunate with the new school year just around the corner.

We at the SAO office would like to thank this individual and her husband (who would like to remain anonymous) for such a wonderful donation!

Sheboygan Area Events

There will be some events happening in September that can be found on the United Way website:

  • There is Hope
  • Campaign Kickoff and Day of Caring
  • Taste of Sheboygan

There will be a Diversity Celebration here in Sheboygan on September 9, 2017

Agency Updates

Board of Trustees

James Luther was a long time CC Board of Trustee Member and he received the Individual Lenten Soup Luncheon Award in March of 2017. He was a devoted Catholic and involved in both parish work and Director of the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry for 13 years. We offer his wife, Beverly and family, condolences and the support of our prayers as he was laid to rest on August 11th.

Mission Advancement

Communications Milestones

February 2017 launched the new website with an emphasis on clients, mission, programs and services on our homepage and featuring a modern, mobile-friendly design maintaining current brand color and logo.

March 2017 began agency branding project to better identify our brand (mission+message+perception) so that we can accurately communicate with audiences.

May 2017 Google Analytics begins tracking website traffic, generating statistics and reports. In the first three months, we’ve seen the following trends:

  • Majority of our audience is millennial female.
  • Our home page, contact us and careers are the top viewed pages.
  • Top three program pages viewed are Behavioral Health, Legal Services for Immigrants and Migrant Refugee Services.

Development/Fundraising Highlights

In February 2016, we renamed and restructured the annual appeal as the Works of Charity Fund for Catholic Charities with one theme used throughout the year and four direct mail appeals featuring client success stories, launches in March with the annual report and a supporting video.

We have achieved increases in both donors and dollars raised:

  • 8% increase in number of donors from 2015 to 2016
  • 17% increase in dollars raised from 2015 to 2016

In total, the trend of dollars raised from individuals, foundations and corporations has increased over the past three years:

Giving from individuals, foundations, and corporations continues to grow

Year-to-date for August 2017, the number of donors and dollars raised have surpassed August 2016 totals by 10% and 36% respectively.

We are well positioned to meet agency fundraising needs by December 31, 2017.

Parish Relations

Parish Relations has been meeting with St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) conferences throughout the ten counties of the Archdiocese. These wonderful parish volunteers make home visits to families from their neighboring community who are in need of emergency services like food, clothing, and household items. Since May, we have visited 44 parishes, to thank them for the wonderful work they are doing and to share Catholic Charities’ agency brochure, respond to questions about our programs, and encourage SVDP members to refer clients who need additional professional help to our program staff.

Upcoming Events

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the newsletter and for taking the time to read it! Please take this brief survey and share your feedback:

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