Susan Keays Headshot

Susan Keays

Chief Executive Officer

Susan assumed the role of CEO in October 2021 after serving as Chief Operating Officer. Susan joined the organization in 2016. She has 20 years of experience working with youth in residential, inpatient, outpatient, emergency rooms, and homes. Her strengths include program implementation and expansion, clinical assessment, strategic thinking, developing partnerships, grant-writing, and fiscal management.  Susan received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Latin American Studies from Boston College. She later returned to her alma mater to earn her Master of Social Work degree.

Susan’s expertise is in child and adolescent mental health, having trained at Children’s Hospital. She is passionate about permanency initiatives and trauma informed behavioral interventions. She held important child program management positions at South Shore Mental Health (now Aspire), Riverside Community Care, Tenet Healthcare, and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. She has also been on the faculty at Boston College School of Social Work where she taught a graduate level course “Clinical Practice with Children and Families” and has trained many interns from various graduate schools of social work.

Susan’s passion for Italian Home is only matched by her love of family, friends, ice cream, binge-worthy shows, and “glamping”. She can often be found around town cheering on her two daughters at swim, soccer, and dance.

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Joe Weeks

Senior Vice President of Programs

Joe is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Certified Counselor with over a dozen years of experience in behavioral health with a focus on children, youth, and families. Joe brings a strengths-based, community-focused approach to treatment. Joe has extensive experience with CBHI and outpatient services as well as former involvement as a Lead Agency Director for Bay State Community Services and DCF. Joe has practice experience with adults as well, having trained at Corrigan Mental Health Center. Joe was the Vice President of Northern New England for Northeast Family Services, overseeing the operations of services in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Joe received an Associates from Massasoit Community College, Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Bridgewater State University. For about nine years, Joe was an Adjunct Professor at Bridgewater State University, Oxford University Press, Quincy College, and Massasoit Community College. Joe earned the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching from Bridgewater State University in 2018 and a “40 Under 40” award in 2012 from Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.

In addition to his work in the field and higher education, Joe is also a current mental health lobbyist and bill writer, former President of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, and President and Director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association. Joe also sits on various state and national boards and committees including the AMHCA Ethics Committee and has assisted in the development of state and federal CBHI and mental/behavioral health policy. Joe is former Chairman of the Housing Authority, former Chairman of the Hanson Planning Board, member of the Capital Improvement Committee, and currently Selectman for Hanson, MA.

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Joe McLean

Vice President of Agency Advancement

Joe joins Italian Home for Children’s leadership team with over 9 years of nonprofit management experience within Greater Boston. His career in development began at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury where he served as Director of Annual and Reunion Giving. During his three years at Catholic Memorial School he oversaw all direct mail, email, social media, phonathon and volunteer driven solicitation strategies, which resulted in a 55% growth in Annual Giving. After Catholic Memorial School, Joe served within the Development Department at the YMCA of Greater Boston for three and a half years. In his role as Senior Regional Development Manager, he oversaw a team that provided support, leadership and direction to 16 YMCA Annual Campaigns with a combined goal of roughly $4M.

Joe’s experience in annual giving, event fundraising, major gift cultivation and strategic planning has prepared him well for his new role at Italian Home for Children. He prides himself on his innovative, collaborative and mission driven approach to fundraising. He’s extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead this talented Advancement Team and he can’t wait to start raising the charitable support required to transform the lives of all the children and families we serve.

Joe was born and raised just down the street in West Roxbury. He’s a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Political Science. His passions are golf, running and spending valuable time with his family and friends.

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Kristen Demopoulos

Vice President of Talent & Operations

In 2002, Kristen joined the Italian Home for Children team as a direct care staff member. Italian Home’s values and mission fit perfectly with her commitment to serving those in need of protection, support and resources to improve lives.  Kristen’s career in this field began while attending the University of Massachusetts, Boston, when she took a job at the Justice Resource Institute as a youth counselor working with Department of Youth Services involved teens. Her next opportunity came when she took a position with Northeastern Family Institute in Dorchester as a direct care staff and later held a position as a teacher. There she worked with young teens at risk placed in programs with the goal of returning to their communities and families. Working with youth who were in such a difficult place in life was hard but came naturally. By this time, she knew this was more than a job; it was her duty and personal mission to help her community by supporting children in need.

Kristen has held various positions at Italian Home for Children including direct care, teacher, and Assistant Director of the CBAT program.  As Assistant Director of the CBAT program she became a part of developing and improving systems to ensure the children and families received the highest quality of care. In each position, she was able to contribute in a way that demonstrated her true commitment to building better lives and communities. After experiencing Italian Home’s work in multiple capacities, she took on a role in Human Resources. This new perspective allowed her to continue to focus on serving her community but in a new way. The broad range of responsibility allowed for evaluation and improvement of practices and policies and allowed Kristen to use her firsthand experience in her roles at Italian Home for Children to help invite and select skilled and talented people to join the team. The transition from direct advocate of children and families to advocate for employees and the agency overall, was seamless.  Italian Home mirrors her own values making her work a genuine part of her life. 


Nicole Chester

Associate Vice President of Milieu Programs

Nicole Chester serves as our Associate Vice President  of Milieu Programs. In this role, Nicole oversees our residential and CBAT programming as well as our Out of School and Camp programming. Nicole holds a Bachelors degree from UMass-Boston in Human Services and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Springfield College. Nicole has been working for Italian Home for Children for 13 years and in the field for two decades. She started out as Assistant Director of the Residential program, and  in 2014 she transitioned to managing the After-School and Camp programs. During her tenure overseeing Out of School Time programs, Nicole doubled the number of children served in after-school and nearly tripled summer camp. She has developed strong relationships with the Department of Mental Health, Department of Children and Families, and other mental health agencies.

Outside of work, Nicole enjoys spending time with family and traveling. 

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Yota Gikas

Associate Vice President of Community Based Programs

Dr. Gikas is the Associate Vice President of Community Based Programs, overseeing the outpatient and community based services within the agency. She has over 15 years of clinical experience working with children, adults, and families in a variety of mental health settings. Dr. Gikas has worked for the Italian Home for Children for over a decade in a variety of managerial and clinical roles. Previously, Dr. Gikas was the Clinic Director of the outpatient program at Italian Home, Brighton Allston Mental Health Association, which included the school based outreach therapy partnerships with Boston Public Schools. Dr. Gikas holds a BA degree in Psychology from Northeastern University, MA degrees in Mental Health Counseling and Psychology from Boston College and Suffolk University respectively, as well a Ph.D degree in Clinical Psychology, with a Specialty in Children and Families from Suffolk University.  

Dr. Gikas’ areas of interest include: leadership and program development, clinical supervision, client advocacy, complex trauma and attachment, Dialectical and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, and adolescent and young adult mental health.

Dr. Gikas is proud to be a 2nd generation Greek-American, and is fluent in Greek. She is also an Adjunct Professor at her alma mater, Boston College, where she teaches at the Lynch Graduate School of Education in the Mental Health Counseling Program. In her spare time Dr. Gikas is an avid reader, and enjoys cooking and traveling.  

Shelly Hinds

Shelly Hinds

Head of School

Shelly Hinds joined Italian Home in 2021 as The Pallotta School’s Head of School. Previously, Shelly Hinds was the METCO Director at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School, where she oversaw the criteria for student evaluation and implementation and served as a liaison between students from Boston, their families, school staff, and administration. Prior to her time at Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School, Ms. Hinds served as the assistant principal and dean of students at Holyoke Public School District, and served as principal at the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in Marlborough.

Hinds holds a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and a master's degree in urban teaching from Wheelock College in Boston. She also completed doctoral level coursework in educational leadership at the University of Massachusetts and holds a Principal K-12 license and a MA Special Education Administrator License.

She has served on the boards of the Boston Family Engagement Network and Fitchburg Arts Academy, and currently serves as an Executive Committee member on the Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunities.

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David Mazza

Director of Compliance and Quality

David Mazza is the Director of Compliance and Quality Improvement. David has been with Italian Home since 2003, and spent over 16 years working in the Residential program.  Starting as a Residential Counselor, he later held numerous direct care supervisory positions before becoming the Director of Residential Operations in 2015.  During his time with the Residential program, David helped to implement impactful programming, fostered relationships with the Departments of Children and Families and Early Education and Care, helped the program achieve CARF accreditation and was recognized by his peers with an Outstanding Service Award.  In his current position, David oversees and supports Italian Home’s licensing and accreditation, quality improvement and risk management activities.  He is passionate about the work and mission of Italian Home and is dedicated to assuring all programs provide high quality services. David is also a certified trainer in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.

David is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Psychology.  An avid Boston sports fan, outside of work David enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.


Katherine Hala

Manager of Strategic Initiatives

Katherine Hala joined Italian Home in 2021 as Manager of Strategic Initiatives.  She uses processes of innovation, collaboration,  and analysis to support IHC’s mission and strategic growth.    

Katherine brings 15 years of professional experience to this role.  She taught English in elementary schools in France, managed a nonprofit arts organization in Boston, and oversaw curriculum and compliance for an international education company.  Most recently, she worked for Wheelock College, engaging with undergraduate students as a Resident Director and then progressing from Assistant Director to Director of Academic Support Programs.  Katherine has also worked in the community to volunteer for youth in foster care, chair a DEI committee, and hold a representative position for the Special Education Parent Advisory Council in her public school district. 

Katherine also brings a love for learning to her work and holds degrees from Boston University and Babson College.  Her desire to learn more about the success of mission-driven organizations led Katherine to focus on impact and social innovation in her MBA program at Babson.  While there, she served on several consulting teams, including a public-private partnership that practiced human-centered design thinking.  Katherine appreciates the opportunity to apply this lens to her work at Italian Home as she seeks to identify needs, operationalize plans, measure impact, and build community.