joe-h-siteJoseph J. Hess, Jr.  


Joe has spent over thirty years managing for-profit and not-for-profit provider organizations.  Prior to starting Mountain Eagle Group in 2004, Joe was CFO, COO and then President of Bancroft NeuroHealth, one of the country’s most prestigious organizations serving children and adults with a wide range of severe disabilities.   In the 80s Joe was CFO at Holy Redeemer Health System and oversaw all of their home care and related ancillary services.  Joe taught accounting in the MBA Program at LaSalle University and prior to that taught at Temple University and Holy Family College.

Joe has been instrumental in developing a number of innovative changes in programs and operations over his years in the field, ranging from helping to create a one of a kind neurobehavioral unit for children in severe behavioral crisis to using tax-favored financial instruments to fund the development of new facilities for provider organizations.  As a consultant, Joe’s clients have ranged from large public organizations like the Virginia Department of Rehabilitation to smaller, community-based non-profits providing vital services to folks with special needs.

In 2009 Joe acquired a school for children with complex medical, intellectual and behavioral conditions in Fanwood, N.J. and named it First Children.  In 2011 with his son, Matt, he founded First Children Learning Services to provide a wide range of services to children in their own homes and schools..  In 2013 Joe acquired Regional Enrichment and Learning Centers and made that a part of the First Children Family of Services.

Over his career Joe has been active in a number of provider and professional organizations, has published in professional journals and has made numerous presentations to professional groups.


Matt Headshot LinkedInMatthew J. Hess

Chief Executive Officer

Matt has worked for First Children Services since 2009.  His primary responsibilities are the general operations, financial management and business development for all service lines.  Matt led the effort to bring all business operations in house resulting in a 20% reduction in administrative costs for First Children services.  Under his business development leadership revenues have more than doubled in 3 years.  In 2009 Matt co-founded First Children Learning Services with his father to provide community based therapeutic services to children and youth throughout New Jersey.

Before joining First Children Services Matt had several entrepreneurial pursuits in the entertainment and manufacturing industries.  He has also be an advisor to a variety of start-ups throughout the tri-state area.

Matt attended Temple University with a concentration in Economics.  He is an active investor in residential and specialized commercial real estate in the Philadelphia area.  Matt holds a Pennsylvania Real Estate License, is a member of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Philly Startup Leaders.


Valery headshot

Valery Bailey, M.P.A.

Vice President, Behavioral Health Treatment Services

Valery Bailey, Vice President of Behavioral Health formerly led finance and administration for Covenant House in Philadelphia and was responsible for building New Jersey operations for the Mentor Network, an organization serving children in foster care and children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She had a distinguished career as an executive within the NJ Department of Human Services and Department of Children and Families.  Val received her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Rutgers University and her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Rowan University.  Among her many awards Valery was recognized by the National Association of Black Businesswomen in 2011 and the Stars Award for Excellence in 2014.



firste2Kathleen McCarthy Gorski

Principal, First Children School-Fanwood

Kathleen began her career in education teaching for 17 years with Bayonne Public Schools.  She then went on to become an administrator with Millburn-Short Hills Public Schools, serving as Vice Principal of the middle school in the district.  She later moved on to Cranford Public Schools where she served as a Principal for 8 years before joining First Children in 2010

Kathleen is a certified school superintendent, principal, supervisor, teacher of the handicapped and elementary school teacher.  She holds a Master’s degree in Teaching from Marygrove College and a Master’s in Educational Administration from Kean University.

Some of her accomplishments/awards are : state model of the Olweus Bully Prevention program, assistant director of the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development-northeast region, Principal of the Year-Cranford Public Schools 2003/2004 and NCASES board member and commissioner.

Kathy is a passionate educator and visionary of academic/educational excellence for all children.


firste6Ellen D’Amato, Ph.D.

School Psychologist and Clinical Administrator

Dr. D’Amato has devoted her entire career to the delivery of services to students with developmental disabilities.  As a Special Education Teacher, Learning Disabilities Teacher-Consultant and currently as a School Psychologist, she has developed and implemented intervention programs for students ranging in age from infancy through high school.  Her area of expertise is the education of students who have significant cognitive, communications, physical and medical challenges.  She is experienced in the identification and provision of individualized supports to students who have multiple disabilities.

Dr. D’Amato earned her PhD in Educational Psychology from Fordham University where her research focused on the needs of families of students with disabilities.  She is the co-author of Tips for Teaching Infants and Toddlers- a resource for parents and early intervention teachers/therapists.

As the School Psychologist at First Children, Dr. D’Amato coordinates a multi-disciplinary team of speech, physical, occupational and behavioral therapists, services as liaison to local child study teams and provides educational and therapeutic support to the students, staff and families of First Children.  She is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children (Division of Early Childhood) and the American Psychological Society- Division 33 (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) and Division 16 (School Psychology).


tom and melissa 4

Melissa Langford, M.Ed.

Director, Transitional Education Services

Melissa Langford has been in the education field for over 20 years.  She has served as a teacher, assistant principal, Director and Executive Director for students with behavior problems and learning disabilities in both public schools and private sector.  Mrs Langford has successfully created and implemented school programs for children with behavior problems, mental health issues and after school programs.

Mrs. Langford has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and is currently working on her MBA in Health Care Administration.




firste1Carla Johnson, M.S., BCBA

Director of Clinical Services

Carla is an established BCBA and has been with First Children Services since 2011.  Ms. Johnson was first introduced to the field of Applied Behavior Analysis during her undergraduate Clinical Psychology program at Keene State College.  She has since gained a wide range of experience consulting and managing programs within public and private schools, private residences and group homes.  Ms. Johnson has worked with children of all ages conducting functional behavioral assessments as well as creating, implementing and tracking the progress of individualized behavior plans and educational programs.  She has extensive experience conducting assessments including ABLLS-R, Vineland, CARS and VB-MAPP.  In addition Carla is a certified CPI trainer and is able to certify others in this non-violent crisis prevention intervention program.

Carla graduated with honors from Simmons College with an MS in Behavioral Education and received her behavior analyst certification from the BACB.




cherson-featured-120x120Eric S. Cherson, M.S.W.

Certified School Social Worker

Eric is a NJ certified school social worker.  He received his MSW from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in School Social Work.  He also received a Principal/Supervisor certificate from Rowan University and completed the three year clinical program at the Family Institute of Philadelphia.  Eric retired from the Burlington County Special Services School District after 38 years.  He  encouraged district use of nationally accredited crisis training (he became a trainer) and the use of excellent clinical and ethical social work practices.  He supervised scores of graduate students from various local and regional social work programs, including students from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia and Temple Universities.  Eric’s clinical practice was significantly influenced by the addition of mindfulness to his professional services after attending the 2011 Peace in Education Conference in Newark, featuring presentations by the Dalai Lama, among others.   He has received training experiences with mindfulness field luminaries and researchers such as Doctors Dan Siegal and Deepak Chropra.  Eric believes in empowering students and staff with knowledge about how their brains function so that students and staff can influence how they feel and act by learning and practicing mindfulness techniques, enabling better decision making.


Goldman-featured-140x169Susan Goldman, M.Ed.

Director, Community Educational Services

Susan received a Bachelor of Arts in Education and History at Monmouth University. Susan has served as a middle school teacher of mathematics.  In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Susan wore many hats as a mentor, staff developer, teacher leader, peer coach, student council and peer to peer advisor. She earned her Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Kean University and subsequently held positions in supervision and math coaching/consulting. Her experiences and qualifications allow her to effectively recruit and supervise highly qualified teachers and staff for the First Children’s many programs. Susan also oversees and conducts successful educational programs throughout the state of NJ.




radelPamela Radel

Director of Administration and Director of Child Care

Pam has been working with young children for over 40 years and for First Children since 2009.  As a graduate of Kean University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, she dedicated her life to her never ending passion for children.  Pam has worked with children ages newborn through 21 years in various capacities including senior nursing assistant, infant room teacher and child care manager at Children’s Specialized Hospital.  As a senior nursing assistant, Pam was responsible for the complete care of the child including all physical aspects, carrying out therapies and working closely with families in the rehab process for their child.  She has developed an expertise in recognizing developmental delays and she has worked not only with typically developing children but children with neurological problems, birth defects and children with autism.

In her current position of Director of Administration and Director of Child Care for First Children, Pam wears many hats including handling all vendor/Accounts Payable, payroll, community relations and HR all while overseeing the child care department.

Pam’s favorite part of the day is interacting with the children, whether it be feeding them, reading a story or just watching them grow.  Pam keeps in touch with many of her graduates and is proud to say that she was a stepping stone for the terrific young adults that they’ve become.


Kathleen Gorsky headshotKathleen Sheehy

Director of Human Resources

Kathleen Sheehy has been the Director of Human Resources at First Children since the fall of 2013.  Kathleen’s responsibilities include: recruitment and staffing, policy development and implementation, employee relations, payroll and compliance.  Kathleen has over 20 years of human resources experience as a generalist with a strong background in recruitment and employee relations.  Her HR expertise was developed at such organizations as: The National Audubon Society, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Kathleen graduated with her Bachelors in Business Management with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Binghamton University.


Kerianne Aub


Kerianne Aub  brings with her 20 years of experience in the healthcare and manufacturing environment which includes budgeting, forecasting, accounting, auditing, contract management and financial modeling.  She strives for excellence and welcomes a challenge to see the best results while ensuring fiscal soundness.

Keri received her Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  She is a member of IAABO#34, a blood drive coordinator and a volunteer at JDRF.


Sonia HeadshotSonia Cohen, M.S.

Marketing Director

Sonia Cohen has been the Marketing Director of First Children Services since 2014.  She has an extensive background in healthcare marketing specializing in the disability and mental health fields. She has been instrumental in the expansion of First Children Service’ market in the Southern New Jersey region.

Sonia received her Bachelor of the Arts in Psychology and Biology from Rutgers College in New Brunswick, NJ.  She then earned her Masters of Science in Biomedical Science from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Rutgers University Biomedical and Health Sciences in Piscataway, NJ.