Joseph Hess

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.


Matthew Hess
Chief Operating 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.


Kathleen 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.


Dr. Ellen D’Amato
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).


Barbara Donahue, M.A.
Senior Director, Education Services

Barbara Donahue has been with First Children Services and the REAL Center for over 10 years and has been in the education field for over 35 years.  She has served as a teacher and principal for students with behavior problems and learning disabilities, consultant for the New Jersey Department of Education and Director of Pupil Personnel Services for a large school district.

Mrs. Donahue has successfully created and implemented several school programs for children with behavior problems and conduct disorders.  She has also served on the adjunct faculty of Rowan University and Burlington County College and as a consultant to a major textbook publisher.


Pamela 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.


Carla Johnson, M.S., BCBA
Director of Behavioral 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.


Yvonne Weber, M.S., LPC
Director of Community Clinical Services

Yvonne joined First Children Services in 2012.  Ms. Weber received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degree in Psychology from University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.  Upon completion of her Master’s program, Ms. Weber worked as a Child Specialist for Steininger Behavioral Health, now know as Twin Oaks.  During this time Yvonne recognized her passion for very young children so she transitioned to a position in Philadelphia with an agency specializing in the treatment of emotionally and behaviorally challenged preschoolers.  Ms. Weber provided individual play therapy, family therapy and group therapy to the children.  During her six years with this program she passed the National Counselor Examination and became a Licensed Professional Counselor.  She was also promoted to the Director position of the pre-school partial hospitalization program where she grew the program from 30 to over 100 children in less than three years.

Ms. Weber has recently been tapped to grow First Children’s mental health programs throughout New Jersey.  She prides herself on helping parents, families and school districts navigate not only programs within First Children Services, but also health insurance plans and community services.


Eric S. Cherson, M.S.W.
Certified School Social Worker

Eric received his Masters in Social Work from The University of Pennsylvania.  He also has a New Jersey Principal/Supervisor Certificate from Rowen University and completed the three year clinical program at the Family Institute of Philadelphia.  Eric has also provided graduate Social Worker supervision for universities that include the University of Pennsylvania, Temple, Rutgers, Bryn Mawr and Columbia (NYC).  Eric was with the leading public school Special Education school district in New Jersey for nearly 38 years, encouraging the use professional crisis intervention training and high level clinical practice in whatever program he was in.  He also was a private practice clinician and worked for the emergency mental health service in Burlington County.  His professional practice has recently grown to include the use of mindfulness within the helping process.  Eric comes to the REAL Center hoping to help students understand how their brain functions and how each student can choose to make better decisions.  He also hopes to help students become more effective at social problem solving through greater self-awareness.


Susan Goldman
Assistant Director

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 REAL Center’s many programs. Susan also oversees and conducts successful educational programs throughout the state of NJ.


Dorie Tchourumoff
Supervisor of Home Instruction

Dorie has been an educator for over 30 years as an elementary teacher as well as a middle school literature teacher. She graduated from Rowan with a specialty in Elementary Education; and received her Masters of Elementary Education from Rutgers, New Brunswick, NJ. She received certification in Educational Leadership from The College of N.J. As a school principal a Guided Reading program was successfully implemented for early readers with the full support of the staff.

She is an an adjunct professor in Language Arts at Gloucester County College for the past 7 years. Dorie serves as the Supervisor of Home Instruction for the REAL Center.


Sonia Cohen, M.S.
Marketing Director

Sonia received Bachelor of the Arts degrees in Biology and Psychology from Rutgers College, New Brunswick as well as a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Science from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences in Piscataway. Sonia has spent many years in sales and marketing in the healthcare field specifically for  services for the elderly and disabled.  She serves as an excellent resource for services for adults and children with disabilities throughout New Jersey.  Sonia oversees  marketing for all First Children services lines throughout New Jersey.