Written by Marsha Akoto, Program Development Specialist

From June 12 to June 15, the JFS Delaware RISE (Refugee Integration Support Efforts) Department hosted a 3-day summer camp for children and adolescents, focusing on mental health and cultural navigation. We were delighted to welcome 25 youths, ranging from 3 to 15 years old, representing diverse parts of the world, including Sudan, Jordan, Uganda, Kazakhstan, Haiti, Congo, El Salvador, Ukraine, and Cameroon. The camp featured linguistic diversity, with participants speaking Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Haitian-Creole, and English.

The camp sessions ran from 9 am to approximately 12:30 or 1 pm each day. Children enjoyed breakfast and lunch, engaging in games, exchanging contact information, playing sports, dining together, laughing, and dancing. Throughout the activities, they learned about identity development, culture shock, mental health, navigating life in America, making friends, American culture and norms, distress tolerance skills, self-care, community support, resiliency and coping strategies. The sessions encouraged children to ask questions and share their unique experiences, fostering a supportive group dynamic.

The children eagerly shared their experiences of life back home in their respective countries and their new experiences in the U.S., which have been surprising, exciting, and reminiscent of life back home. They discussed their thoughts on mental health and the challenges they have faced since moving to America—such as difficulty making friends, adapting to the climate, language barriers, and navigating cultural norms. Furthermore, they explored how these challenges have affected them, including difficulty sleeping, feelings of isolation, lack of concentration, and reminiscing about their previous life.

During the sessions, the children learned various coping strategies grounded in trauma-informed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), facilitated by a licensed professional counselor of mental health and two JFS mental health fellows. These strategies were designed to help them mitigate these challenges and enhance their overall well-being.​

The camp leaders, hailing from diverse backgrounds including the U.S., Europe, Liberia, Russia, Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Haiti, spoke multiple languages. They shared their personal journeys of coming to America and life in their respective countries, illustrating to the children the shared humanity and resilience across different backgrounds.

Overall, the camp was a vibrant blend of learning, cultural exchange, and community building, reinforcing the message that diversity enriches us all and that strength and resilience are universal traits!

Written by Larry Nagengast

(WILMINGTON, DE) — Youths struggling to express their gender identity, or to feel comfortable with that identity, face unique social challenges, and so do their parents and loved ones.

To assist youths and their parents navigate these complex matters, Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) recently launched a support program called the Affirmation Project.

“We’re covering a lot of stuff – LGBTQ history, the parents’ journey, how to support kids, holding family conversations, how to make connections with the child,” says James Buckley, one of the Affirmation Project group leaders.

“All the parents participating love and accept their children. It’s a fluid journey, trying to figure out what we’re doing more authentically,” says Rebecca McAdams, clinical supervisor of the group.

About six parents participated in the first round. McAdams says the kids signed up were not close in age to one another, so their experience was individualized. But McAdams hopes as more people sign up, they can offer group activities for youth of similar ages

Programs like the ones JFS offer may become more prevalent as increasing numbers of individuals self-identify as members of marginalized communities, McAdams says.

In 2021, according to the Statista data platform, 7.4 percent of Delaware’s adult population identified as members of the LGBTQ community.

Nationally, adults identifying as LGBTQ increased from 3.5 percent of the population in 2012 to 7.7 percent in 2023.

Participation in JFS’s Affirmation Project Parenting Group has helped Amie, whose child recently turned 14. She admits still stumbling occasionally over the use of preferred pronouns in talking about her child.

Over the past few years, she said, “they started expressing different views about gender and sexuality, about who they thought they were becoming. We’ve been listening, asking questions, trying to go slow.”

The support groups, Buckley says, have a three-part curriculum, focusing on emotional support, education and history, and communication skills.

Amie has found the sessions informative, with the most helpful segments being the time the parents spend sharing concerns and experiences with each other. “We can all talk the talk, but walking the walk is the challenge,” she says. “But with any group like this, you learn that you’re never alone. It’s a huge comfort to know there are others in a similar situation.”

The coming out process can start as early as age 6, but it could occur at 14, or even into one’s 30s, says Buckley, who adds, “I grew up in Delaware, in Kent County, and I’ve been out loudly for nine years, since I was a teenager.”

When coming out begins, Buckley says, depends on a variety of factors, including the individual’s social network, the culture they’re growing up in and the safety of the support network that surrounds them.

“Most queer individuals want a place of love and support,” Buckley says. “Unconditional love and support are key.

The Affirmation Project, like other JFS Delaware support group programs, is free of charge. JFS Delaware also offers fee-based individual therapy sessions, but financial assistance is often available for the uninsured or underinsured.

The next Affirmation Project support group is scheduled to begin in August and will take place every Wednesday for 12 weeks from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Click here to register for the Affirmation Project.

Delaware Public Media | By Rachel Sawicki
Published June 8, 2024 at 6:26 PM EDT

Jewish Family Services is offering another round of support programs for LGBTQ+ youth and their families this summer.

The support programs, one for youth and one for adults, is called the Affirmation Project and already completed one successful round of meetings.

Clinical Supervisor of Fellowship Becca McAdams says over the 10 to 12 week program, parents work on emotional expression, receive education about queer history and culture today, and learn skills to better engage with their queer kids.

“So we help them communicate in a way with their queer youth that decreases implicit rejection and increases the perceived acceptance and care,” McAdams says. “Which in and of itself increases attachment with their relationships.”

McAdams says it can be difficult for parents to let go of their expectations for their children, but this program helps them to understand why affirmation is so important.

“We know that queer youth are still more likely to attempt or have suicidal ideation,” McAdams says. “And most research shows that with acceptance and affirmation, that is a way that we repair and heal that sensation of not wanting to be here. We want them here.”

About six parents participated in the first round. McAdams says the kids signed up were not close in age to one another, so their experience was individualized. But McAdams hopes as more people sign up, they can offer group activities for youth of similar ages.

The program is online, once a week, with no charge for participation. McAdams notes participants do not need to be Jewish, a member of JFS or use JFS services to participate.


To listen to this report from Delaware Public Media, click here. To sign up for the next Affirmation Project group, click here.

Written by Larry Nagengast

Struggling in school, withdrawing from friends, worrying about family issues – these are all signs of a child trying to cope with anxiety.

These situations are not easy for a parent to handle. And, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) offers both group and individual programs designed to help children and the adults close to them learn how to manage anxiety issues.

Registration is now under way for a 10-session youth support group, for ages 9-14, that will meet weekly, starting June 6, at the JFS office in suburban Wilmington. The summer program is similar to support groups that JFS arranges throughout the school year at schools and community centers, according to Michael Angelo, the organization’s director of clinical services.

The group programs are now starting their third year, and Angelo says he is pleased by the improvements he has observed in the participants’ confidence and self-awareness.

“When we get the children together, they realize they are not alone, that they are not the only one, that others are telling similar stories,” he says. “Hearing from others normalizes the process and gets them out of their shells.”

Participants know that everything that is discussed in the support group setting is confidential, “what is said in the room stays in the room,” Angelo says.

In some situations, parents and counselors recognize that a child would benefit from one-on-one therapy beyond what the support group offers.

Andrew, a parent from Wilmington, described how his son Henry, who recently completed fifth grade, has been helped by group and individual therapy. Henry was in second grade when Andrew and his wife decided to end their marriage. The family’s issues confused and disturbed Henry, who would overwork himself, become ill, struggle in school and question his role in the family.

“His self-esteem is now so much better. As a parent I don’t worry as much. I think Henry can take a situation and handle it,” Andrew said.

Henry agrees. The group sessions he attended were “fun,” he said, and individual therapy has greatly improved his outlook. “I used to throw up a lot when things would go wrong. Now I rarely think about bad stuff, like family problems. I feel a lot better.”

He says his grades in school have improved and he now finds it easier to concentrate.

“Henry’s self-confidence is what I’m most happy about,” Andrew says. “He handled the divorce really well. He understands that Mom and Dad are happy not being married. He now has a better idea of who we are, and who he is.”

Andrew and Nina, his ex-wife, have also learned more about anxiety through a JFS program for parents and guardians called SPACE, for Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood. This program, Angelo says, allows parents to address issues without their children present and to learn from the experiences of other adults in similar situations.

Children manifest anxiety in different ways, Angelo says. In the elementary grades, signs include not liking to socialize, a fear of speaking aloud in class, difficulty making friends and tiredness from not sleeping. In middle and high school, children may engage in conflict with their peer groups and families, have difficulty with schoolwork, or not feel safe in their neighborhood or with their family.

As children grow older, Angelo says, anxiety does not typically morph into violence toward others, but it can lead to substance abuse – using alcohol and drugs as forms of self-medication, as well as difficulty in life transitions such as attending college and seeking employment.

JFS youth anxiety group programs will resume at about a dozen schools and community centers throughout the state at the start of the new school year. Programs are offered at all grade levels. Parents often learn about the programs on their own or through friends, and sometimes school counselors or therapists recommend that a child participate, Angelo says.

There is a fee for individual therapy, but financial assistance is often available for the uninsured or underinsured.

The 2024 graduation class of the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s Branches to Chances workforce reentry program.

Delaware Public Media recently did a feature on the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s ‘Branches to Chances’ program, which introduces the formerly incarcerated, homeless, or unemployed to horticulture while working towards job placement and building work-life skills. DPM’s Kyle McKinnon spoke with Branches to Chances Coordinators Robert Harris and Bonnie Swan to learn more about the Center’s reentry program and this year’s graduation class. Click here to listen to the interview.

Bonnie talks about the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s partnership with Jewish Family Services of Delaware (JFS) at the 3:40 mark of the interview. JFS partners with the Center to do two therapy groups a year with the members of Branches to Chances to help them with conflict resolution, discuss trauma and it’s impact, communication, and relationship styles. We then follow through with the cohort to do case management. In that role, we are working to help find housing, substance abuse treatment, eliminate risk factors, boost protective factors, and have an overarching goal of reducing recidivism and keeping the clients in the program.

Angela has been utilizing JFS counseling services for five years and feels that it is essential to her well-being.

Why did you begin counseling with JFS? 

“I was involved in a relationship with an addict. We were engaged. And because I’ve never done drugs and am not familiar with it, it went on for years with me not realizing it. Because both my parents are alcoholics, I know what an enabler is. It was very difficult to navigate. I had my daughter living with me, my son was angry with me that I stayed in the relationship. Just keeping that person alive was very traumatic to me, and to my kids as well.”  

What improvements have you seen since starting counseling? 

“I sleep better at night. I’ve been working with Mike and he’s such a great counselor, very professional. As a mother I second-guess myself all the time, and I’m always looking to improve. I need Mike’s help to guide me. He’s never forceful in suggestions; he has resources that are helpful. At this point, he’s like talking to my best friend. So, it’s imperative for me to continue to grow in a positive direction.”

Would you recommend that others seek out counseling?  

“Absolutely. Come into with an open mind. Everybody should check in with a professional once and a while. Most people second-guess themselves, and it’s nice to have a professional to help you navigate through trying times. When I was a teenager, something very traumatic happened to me, and I was required to go to counseling. My father saw it as a weakness and didn’t want to get involved. I was still at the age where I was challenging my parents on their beliefs. I wasn’t intending to hurt anyone; I just had to expand my growth and knew counseling was the only thing I could do to get help. So, I was raised that counseling was not good. I think a lot of people have the misconception about counseling that someone is going to tell you that you’re all wrong and this is how you have to do it better. I’ve never had that situation with counseling at JFS, which is validating and important. I’m a huge advocate for counseling.” 

Start your therapy journey today by submitting an online intake form or contact our Intake Department at 302-478-9411 ext. 306

In 1899, a visionary group of Jewish leaders from Wilmington embarked on a journey to improve people’s lives in the community.

Originally named the Hebrew Charity Association, the organization’s early mission was clear: to alleviate the suffering of less fortunate members of our Jewish community; to assist them to become self-supporting; to act as a peace committee to adjust the differences among members of the Jewish community; and to perform all such duties as may come before us in the name of charity.

By November 1930, the Hebrew Charity Association was incorporated, comprising 17 signatories who met regularly in an office at the corner of Eighth and Orange Streets in Wilmington. Under the 23-year leadership of Morris Levy, the organization achieved great stability, touching lives through financial, legal, and medical aid.

By the 1960s, services had expanded dramatically, and the agency’s name was changed to Jewish Family Service of Delaware; in 2005 the agency again changed its name to Jewish Family Services of Delaware, emphasizing the multitude and variety of “kaleidoscopic” services provided.

Now in 2024, JFS Delaware is celebrating 125 years of dedicated service to the community. JFS has grown and evolved over the past 125 years. A century ago, our focus was the Jewish community. In modern times JFS serves not only the Jewish community, but any Delawareans who need our help. Our positive impact has multiplied.

“The more I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector, the more I see that the term “social impact” is a more appropriate way to describe what we do,” said JFS Delaware CEO Renna Van Oot. “When the community comes together, the board is visionary, strong, and united with a dedicated staff – worlds can be changed. JFS has maintained this for 125 years, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this team and community.”

Today, JFS offers many diverse services and programs, providing comprehensive support to all, regardless of religion, race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or special need.

Our individual and family counseling services help children, teens, adults, and families develop strategies to cope with their unique challenges.

Our RISE (Refugee Integration Support Effort) program helps refugees and other immigrants from all over the world integrate and make a home in their new communities in Delaware.

The COMPASS program provides specialized medical care for older adults with dementia and—just as importantly—critical support for their caregivers including education, counseling, and improved access to services.

Through JFS’ Care Navigation services, older adults, adults with disabilities, and their loved ones can access compassionate, professional, and personalized care management services to enhance quality of life, encourage independence and healthy lifestyles, and ensure a safe and supportive living environment.

Cancer Care Connection, an affiliate of JFS Delaware, helps people affected by cancer navigate the full range of the issues they face, make informed decisions, and take action on their own behalf.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) strengthens and empowers families that are at-risk or in crisis by helping them to identify support systems and develop action plans to reach their goals with confidence.

JFS continues to evolve to this day. Yet, its core mission—inspired and guided by the Jewish values of our founders—has never changed: to provide counseling and support services which strengthen the well-being of the individual, family, and community.

To celebrate this special milestone of 125 years of service, JFS invites you to partner with us at our 125th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 6 at the Deerfield Golf Club, Newark, DE where we will enjoy a night of fun and history. There will be cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and silent and live auctions featuring the area’s finest restaurants and businesses, new vacation packages, unique entertainment offerings, original artwork, sporting events, and so much more.

We will also honor the late Gilbert J. Sloan, Ph. D. by renaming the JFS Care Navigation Program the Gilbert J. Sloan JFS Care Navigation Program. Dr. Sloan was a strong supporter of JFS for many years and a beneficiary of this program.

At the heart of the JFS 125th Anniversary Celebration, our purpose shines brightly: To celebrate a legacy of unwavering commitment to and compassion for our community. For generations, we have provided help to others when they needed it most. On April 6 we will celebrate what that history has shaped: a strong and vibrant JFS, providing essential support services and skilled counseling to all in need. We invite you to join us in celebrating JFS’ achievements and supporting its future!

Visit www.jfsdelaware.org/125th-anniversary/ to purchase tickets or become a sponsor of the JFS Delaware 125th Anniversary Celebration.

By Madison Warfel, JFS Delaware Marketing and Communications Specialist

CHILD, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization that offers prevention, treatment, emergency shelter and advocacy services that strengthen families. The organization serves dependent, neglected, and abused children and their parents. They provide programs for those involved in domestic violence situations, especially children.

Located in Wilmington, CHILD, Inc. has been helping the children and families of Delaware since 1963.

Anne Altemus, Program Director of the Domestic Violence Treatment Program, has been with CHILD Inc. for 35 years. “What I like about our Domestic Violence Treatment Program is that it treats the whole family,” said Altemus. “We have offender programs, we have victim or survivor programs, and of course we have programs for helping children heal. We are the only program in New Castle County that treats the whole family for intimate partner abuse or domestic violence.”

“Domestic violence is a very serious problem,” continued Anne. “With the contacts that we have with the other agencies that we work with; we’re hoping to prevent and end domestic violence in families.”

And that’s where Jewish Family Services of Delaware and their Mental Health Fellowship Program comes in. The federally funded Fellowship Program began in 2022 as a response to the rapidly increasing mental health demand throughout the Delaware community, as well as the shortage of Licensed Mental Health providers throughout the state. JFS provides Master Level Social Workers and Mental Health Counselors with support for two years while they participate in meaningful work and leadership development, and JFS helps prepare them to take and pass the LCSW or LPCMH test to be fully licensed.

The Fellowship Program has formed over a dozen partnerships with schools and nonprofits in the community. One of those partnerships is with CHILD, Inc.

Zach King, JFS Fellow

“I actually started my career at CHILD, Inc.,” said Rebecca McAdams, Clinical Supervisor of the JFS Fellowship Program. “I started as a Community Based Counselor in shelters in the Sparrow Run area. I was working with children who had survived or were surviving domestic violence. I felt so privileged to start my career at CHILD, Inc., and that’s why we brought the Fellowship here.”

One aspect of the Domestic Violence Treatment Program is the Offender Intervention Services (OIS), which provides structured counseling interventions for both men and women who have committed acts of intimate partner violence or abuse. Participation in the intervention services can be either voluntary or court mandated.

“This field is not for everyone,” said Anne. “You must be able to work with an offender and someone who has been victimized or is a survivor. And not everyone can do that… What we focus on in the offender program is to accept responsibility for behavior while also treating them with respect so that they can understand what that means and apply it so that they can have a healthy relationship with their children, with their partner, or ex-partner.”

As the clinical supervisor of the JFS Fellowship Program, Rebecca helps the fellows find their niche or specialty within mental health counseling. One such fellow was Zach King. Rebecca reached out to Zach

about him potentially working with identified perpetrators at CHILD, Inc. Much to her surprise, Zach was all in. “That’s such a rare niche to have, and it also takes a lot of patience to do that,” said Rebecca.

Zach has been with CHILD. Inc. for several months now and has fully embraced the work, despite the challenges it provides. He also just recently passed his LPCMH licensure exam.

“We really had a need for someone who was interested in doing the work, who could actually do the work, and who had the skills to be able to do the work,” said Ann. “And the personality to fit in here. Zach was such a great match.”

Both Rebecca and Ann agree that agency partnerships play a crucial role in tackling the mental health demand and community issues in the state. The partnership between CHILD, Inc. and JFS Delaware is certainly a step in the right direction.

For more information about CHILD, Inc., visit www.childinc.com. Their main office can be reached at 302.762.8989, and the phone number for their 24-hour domestic violence hotline is 302.762.6110.

Written by: Larry Nagengast

Four months into her pregnancy, Alexandria Hood learned she had entered into a high-risk situation, both for her and her baby. That wasn’t the news the 29-year-old Millsboro woman wanted to hear, but she recognized that “things don’t always happen the way you want them to.”

Fortunately, her mother had learned about a relatively new program that could provide the support she needed – the Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program at Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Delaware.

She made an appointment with Dr. Angelica Montalvo-Artis, the clinical psychologist who directs the program, and began a journey that carried her through a difficult delivery in August, followed by another hospitalization, then visits with multiple pediatric specialists for her newborn daughter and a change in jobs as well.

In their first meetings, she said, Dr. Montalvo-Artis “really got to know me. She asked questions you don’t normally hear. She made me feel like I was being heard.” When the baby was born, Hood was aware that she could experience postpartum depression, but Dr. Montalvo-Artis did not dismiss those concerns. “I was scared. I was nervous, with this little human being to take care of,” Hood says. “She helped me as a person, as a new mom, to build confidence in myself.”

Alexandria Hood’s experience exemplifies a key goal the Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program has for its clients. “We want to wrap them in support,” therapist Rebekah Mo says.

Since its launch in 2021, the program has steadily grown – serving nearly 100 women in 2023, ranging from pregnancy through two years after birth. The program was named in honor of Sonia Schorr Sloan, an iconic Delawarean who passed away in 2019. She was a civil rights activist, Democratic party strategist, and non-profit fundraiser; she was a fierce advocate for juvenile justice, women’s rights, and other causes.

Maternal mental health has become a hot topic in the last decade, and it’s no longer focused exclusively on postpartum depression, Dr. Montalvo-Artis says. The JFS staff, with a psychologist, a therapist and mental health counselors, plus a physician’s assistant on call, can provide support for diverse perinatal and postpartum issues, including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder through a combination of individual therapy and support groups.

The JFS program addresses a significant community need. Before it was launched, there were fewer than 10 licensed providers in the state who accepted most insurance plans and had specialty training through Postpartum Support International. With support from the Sonia Schorr Sloan Memorial Fund, the JFS program can serve moms with no insurance or limited coverage and there is no charge for participation in support groups.

According to JFS, one in five pregnant and new mothers experiences a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) and that figure rises to two in five among Black, Hispanic, and Asian American women. Three out of four women who experience PMADs do not get treatment, either because of a lack of awareness or a lack of insurance.

“A lot of women go through this completely alone, but you don’t have to,” Dr. Montalvo-Artis says. “And, no, you don’t have to wait for a certain level [of anxiety or depression] before seeking help. Women should know that anything that’s impairing their day-to-day functions is worth checking in on.”

Postpartum depression and its related conditions have many signals, but many women either do not recognize them – or ignore them – after they leave the embrace of doctors and pediatric nurses when they bring their babies home.

“It can be a sense of overwhelming, things piling on top of another, anxiety over the baby’s health, feelings of not being a good enough mother, a good enough wife,” Mo says. “You could have a racing heart rate, feel panicky, jittery, or unable to get out of bed, losing interest in the things you once cared about.”

“If you’ve never had issues before, if you’ve never had to navigate the healthcare system, all of this can be very scary,” Dr. Montalvo-Artis says.

Since it is operating a relatively new program, Jewish Family Services is putting an emphasis on outreach, a step that’s doubly important, Mo says, because some obstetrician-gynecologists don’t screen patients for postpartum depression, sometimes because they don’t know where to make referrals. The agency’s outreach is targeting many of the touchpoints encountered by new and expectant mothers: pediatricians, doulas, lactation consultants, childcare centers, preschools, even massage and physical therapists.

Healthcare providers are the primary connectors in linking new and expectant moms with the program, Dr. Montalvo-Artis says. She emphasizes the importance of those providers using a “warm handoff” to make that connection – making the call to set up the first appointment, for example, rather than just giving the mom a phone number or email address and hoping they follow through.

Besides in-office and online individual therapy and support groups, JFS will take its maternal mental health program off-site when there is a request. In 2023 it ran a community support program at the Gaudenzia Claymont Center for Pregnant and Parenting Women, a center for women recovering from substance abuse. JFS also has an ongoing relationship with DAPI- Delaware Adolescent Program, Inc., a program for new and expectant teen mothers.

Whether a mom’s needs are long or short-term, whether they’re covered completely or partially by insurance, or not at all, the program strives to “meet them where they’re at” and develop an appropriate treatment plan, Mo says.

“Moms feel heard, they feel understood, and that they matter,” Dr. Montalvo-Artis says.

More Moms’ Stories

Twenty weeks into her first pregnancy, Cristiane Bond received stunning and disturbing news. The child she was carrying would be born with a congenital heart disease. When her daughter Clara arrived in July, she not only had a condition known as heterotaxy syndrome – essentially, the location of key portions of her heart were the opposite of what they should be – but she was also born without a spleen, making her more susceptible to infections. Within days of her birth, Clara was undergoing heart surgery, then another for a gastrointestinal infection … and there is at least one more surgery on the horizon, next summer at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

“I had no hope whatsoever…. I had postpartum depression. I was very confused,” Cristiane recalled. Members of Baby Clara’s cardiac care team at Nemours Children’s Hospital connected her with Jewish Family Services.

Through weekly meetings with a JFS therapist and regular participation in a support group, the 34-year-old resident of Elkton, Maryland, has learned to cope with her own depression and anxiety and has developed a better understanding of Clara’s complex health issues.

“Small things would become big things for me. I put a lot of guilt and shame on myself,” she said. “I’m better now at managing relationships. I have more awareness, knowing what makes me feel the way I do, how to cope with it.”

After struggling for several years with depression and other mental health issues, Mary Stucky wasn’t sure what to expect when she learned in the spring of 2023 that she was pregnant. Thanks to positive prior experiences with Jewish Family Services’ outpatient mental health treatment program, the 23-year-old Newark woman knew where to turn.

She transitioned into JFS’s Maternal Mental Health Program, where she has received one-on-one counseling, assistance with managing her medications and the opportunity to participate in a support group with new and expectant mothers.

“It has helped me a lot,” she says, not only the individual therapy sessions but also the support group. “It helps to connect with other mothers who are struggling,” she said in December as she awaited the birth of her baby daughter. “I get to share my stories, hear other moms’ stories. They sympathize with depression. They help me.”

Although the cost of her treatment is covered by Medicaid, Stucky said it’s good to know that the program will serve women who don’t have insurance. That’s one reason she has recommended JFS to other new and expectant moms.

She’s also pleased that, with her boyfriend injured and out of work, the program helped her find a stroller for the baby.

“I have their phone number. I can call or text anytime,” she said. “JFS will be there for me for as long as I need them.”

For more information about the Sonia Schorr Sloan Maternal Mental Health Program, visit www.jfsdelaware.org/maternal-mental-health, or call JFS Delaware at 302-478-9411.

This article also appeared in The Cape Gazette in two parts, which can be found here and here.

Lindsey is a career mom of three with a high stress job in pharmaceuticals. She was a single mom when she began counseling, before she met her husband, and needed help managing the stress of working full-time while raising her kids on her own.

Why did you begin counseling?

“When we talk about micromanaging my life, and having all the stress in the world, I’ve kind of been there, done that. I have always had the worst problems sleeping. And I think a lot of it goes hand in hand with stress and dealing with as much as I deal with on a daily basis. So, with the stress and lack of sleep and my brain just having to be constantly on with the job that I am in, and then having three kids on top of that, it got to the point where I was sleeping maybe 1-2 hours a night. And I was just like, “I cannot sustain this.” So I sought out medication, and my primary care forwarded me on to Danielle at Christiana Care at first and then she shifted over to JFS. And I just adore her. She’s just an amazing person to work with. She listens, she’s engaged. When you talk about trusting someone with your life story and why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and needing the help that you need, she made me feel like I could trust her and tell her anything and wasn’t judging me; she was there to help me. So she was the reason why I shifted over to JFS because I just love her to death. Then it was just one of your policies that I had to start seeing a counselor when you’re on certain medications and undergoing medication management with JFS, so I started meeting with Jackie. And she too is also amazing. So I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with JFS.”

What improvements have you seen since starting counseling?

“Well, I’m sleeping better. But also, just knowing that I have somebody to talk to that is a non-biased person that is there to listen to me for me, that’s been the biggest change for me. It’s always just a very trusting and open conversation with my counselors. I’ve laughed with them, I’ve cried with them, I’ve never been angry with them, but I’ve been angry in my interactions with them, and they just listen and offer up excellent advice and opinions and thoughts, and it just makes you feel better when you have somebody you can talk to.”

Is it important to find the right therapist?  

“Yeah, I feel so strongly about that that I even sent my daughter to JFS. My oldest daughter sees Danielle, also. She has bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, and with all of that I felt so comfortable with Danielle that I thought my daughter would love to talk to her too.” 

Would you recommend therapy? 

“I always tell people, if you are feeling stressed or anxious or depressed, start therapy. I recommend therapy to all my friends and family. If you have the time and the desire to make yourself feel better and improve your mental health, go talk to somebody. Even if it’s a one-and-done, at least you experienced enough to know if it is or isn’t for you.”

Any final thoughts?

It’s been a very positive experience. Even outside of Danielle and Jackie, the other staff at JFS have been fantastic too. They are very responsive to emails and phone calls. If I’m scheduling something and I need to make a change, everybody is super friendly, they’re on top of it, and I rarely have more than an hour or two between me engaging them and them getting back to me with whatever I need. You all have a super buttoned up facility and I really appreciate that, because not all places are like that.”

This interview was also published in the January 2024 issue of Jewish Living Delaware Magazine. Click here to read it.