Chief Executive Officer
Dr. Jacobson has experience in child welfare, clinical psychology and human services. He previously worked as Senior Vice President of Programs at Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Site Director at South Shore Mental Health; Division Director at the Providence Center; and Associate Division Director of Behavioral Health at Riverside Community Care. He holds a BA in Child Study from Tufts University, a Psy.D. from the University of Hartford and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Dr. Jacobson has also practiced clinically since 2000, providing outpatient therapy to children, adolescents, and adults and consulting to several area hospitals and behavioral health programs. He has given a variety of community workshops and presentations on topics related to child development and wellbeing, as well as providing training for teachers and other professionals. His hope for Italian Home is to continually help more children in more significant ways through innovation, responsiveness, and ensuring that we are an employer of choice for our excellent staff.
Chief Operating Officer
Susan has over 15 years of experience working with youth in residential, inpatient, outpatient, emergency rooms, and homes. Her strengths include program development and expansion, clinical assessment, operations, quality improvement, and budgeting. Susan received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Latin American Studies from Boston College. She later returned to her alma mater to earn her Masters of Social Work degree.
Susan’s expertise is in child and adolescent mental health, having trained at Children’s Hospital. She held important child program management positions at South Shore Mental Health, Riverside Community Care, Tenet Healthcare, and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Most recently, as Child and Adolescent Division Director at JF&CS Susan expanded CBHI services as well as implemented innovative case management and respite programs for youth with autism. 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”.
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.
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.
Associate Vice President of Day Programs
Nicole Chester is Associate Vice President of Day Programs. In this role, Nicole oversees the Pallotta Educational Center and 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. Nicole is deeply passionate about the success of Italian Home and enthusiastic to serve in this new role.
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.
Associate Vice President of Residential Programming
Andy joined Italian Home for Children in March of 2019, as the AVP of Residential Programming. Andy has extensive experience managing residential group programs. Before joining Italian Home, he was the Senior Director Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health of MA & RI and a member of their senior leadership team. He held a number of positions at Devereux and is familiar with the fast pace and various challenges that come with residential work. He has extensive experience in program acquisition, design, start up, and evaluation/development. Andy is experienced with behavioral health, autism, trauma informed care, substance abuse, juvenile justice, and various clinical models.
Andy is a native of Ireland. He graduated from Dublin Business School with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology & Behavioral Science. He was awarded a Masters in Counseling Psychology with honors from Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA.