Steven Elson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer
Steve was hired in March of 1994 while the Casa Pacifica campus was still under construction. Under his leadership programs have grown substantially and the number of children and families served annually has increased tenfold since opening in July of 1994. He has encouraged program innovation and excellence and Casa Pacifica has received state and national recognition, most recently as the 2009 “Exemplary Program of the Year” award at the annual conference of California Mental Health Advocates for Children & Youth. Steve is President of the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies (CCCMHA) and Treasurer of California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY).
Steve began his career in child and family services as a staff psychologist at Klingberg Family Centers in New Britian, Connecticut and held a number of managerial positions there before coming to California as the executive director of The Sycamores, a residential treatment center in Altadena. Steve is a graduate of Westmont College. He received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Michigan State University. He has published a number of papers/articles and has been active in public policy efforts benefiting children in foster care and other public service systems. Steve is the immediate past-president of the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers. He has served as President of the California Alliance of Child & Family Services, the California Coalition for Mental Health, and California Mental Health Advocates for Children & Youth. He is the current secretary of the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies. He also serves on a number of local Commissions and Task Forces concerned with child and family well being.
Vicki Murphy, Chief Operating Officer
Vicki began her work with Casa Pacifica as a volunteer teaching girls in the Residential Treatment Program how to cook. She was hired in 2000 to work in the development office and soon moved into the role of Director of Development. Under her leadership each year has seen an increase in donations over each preceeding year, keeping pace with growth of the agency and providing 10% of all revenue annually. She launched an “alumni association” in 2006 and now, in addition to her development responsibilities, oversees Casa Pacifica’s growing programs for transition age youth.
Prior to her employment at Casa Pacifica, she worked for Berkeley Hall School in Los Angeles, where she served for many years as the Second Grade teacher and Department Chair.
Vicki was recognized as a “2010 Woman of the Year” by the California Legislature. She is a past recipient of the Ventura County “Community Advocate of the Year” award, and of the “Bravo” award from the National Association of Business Women. She also received Ventura County’s 2001 “Dynamic Woman of the Year” award. Vicki volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and served on the Board in 2006. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Discovery Center for Science & Technology.
Carrie Hughes, Director of Development & Public Relations
Carrie graduated UCSB with a degree in Communications, and was hired in 1999, five years after Casa Pacifica opened its doors to foster and at-risk children. Over her 19 year career in fundraising she and the development team has collaboratively raised over $60 million dollars.
Recently, Carrie and the development team’s fundraising efforts resulted in a successful $16.6 million-dollar capital campaign for a new training institute and vocational education center and co-occurring treatment cottages serving youth with mental health and substance dependence issues. Carrie has also proven herself to be a skilled event planner as she has grown the Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival into the premiere wine and food event on the central coast raising millions during her tenure overseeing the Festival.
Carrie also served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Santa Barbara/Ventura Counties chapter for ten years and as President in 2015. During her presidency the board achieved its first Ten Star Gold Award and Friends of Diversity Designation. Most recently Carrie was awarded AFP’s distinguished Professional Fundraiser of the Year award for Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. She is also a member of the Camarillo Rotary, the Nonprofit Leadership Council, and a graduate of the Ventura County Leadership Academy. Carrie resides in Thousand Oaks with her family.
Jessica Zetley, Compliance Officer
Jessica is the Compliance Officer at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. Prior to joining Casa Pacifica, Jessica spent four years working as an Assistant District Attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While there, Jessica was assigned to the General Crimes Unit where she prosecuted a variety of offenses ranging from petty misdemeanors to violent felonies. After getting married, she left the District Attorney’s Office and moved to California. Shortly thereafter, Jessica joined Casa Pacifica.
Jessica has a B.S. in Accounting and a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She is a licensed attorney in California and Wisconsin and is a member of the Bar Association in both states.
Marika Collins, M.S.W., Special Projects & Public Policy Officer
Marika first joined Casa Pacifica in 2003 as the agency’s Special Projects Officer, overseeing various agency initiatives before taking several years off to raise her young twin daughters. She returned in 2011 in an expanded role that focuses, in large part, on identifying program opportunities to enhance the continuum of services available to the children and families Casa Pacifica serves in both the public and private sectors.
Marika is also actively engaged in local, state, and federal public policy efforts that seek to identify solutions to systems challenges and barriers for foster youth and children with histories of complex trauma. She is currently participating in state-wide efforts to develop a full continuum of crisis care services for children and youth in California. She is also responsible for articulating and advancing the agency’s public policy platform with local elected officials and members of the state Legislature.
Marika began her career over 20 years ago with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, working in a community mental health center serving adults with severe mental illness and subsequently in the Department of Mental Health’s Central Office, where she participated in the development of the department’s first annual report on the impact of legislation that reduced the length of involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations and related policy activities.
Marika received her Masters in Social Work degree with a concentration in Community Organizing, Policy, Planning and Administration from Boston College.
Tom Sodergren, Director of Community Programs, Santa Barbara County
Tom Sodergren has over 25 years experience working with children and families in the mental health field and has overseen community based programs for Casa Pacifica for the past ten years. Tom started as the first Therapeutic Behavioral Services (TBS) Program Manager for Casa Pacifica in Ventura County (2001) and later for Santa Barbara County (2003), where he was responsible for the development and growth of TBS. To this day, the programs are the sole contracted providers for both counties and serve an average of 100 to 130 children and families on any given day.
Casa Pacifica’s TBS Programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties have consistently met and surpassed the utilization rates set forth by the California Department of Mental Health and have been recognized as a model for fidelity and best practice by independent auditors. In April of 2008, Tom was invited to participate on the federal court’s Emily Q. vs Bonta Settlement Team as a TBS Practitioner representing the perspective of TBS providers. As part of the court settlement and under the guidance of the California Department of Mental Health, Casa Pacifica was contracted to provide TBS trainings throughout the state. Tom and his staff have conducted these trainings in five separate counties and have produced a two part webinar for small counties.
In 2008 Tom was promoted to Director of Community Services for Casa Pacifica in Santa Barbara County, overseeing three community based programs whose main objective is to provide help and hope to at risk children/youth to keep them with their families in their community where possible. On October 13, 2011 Tom was recognized for his outstanding work as a member of the statewide Emily Q Settlement Implementation Team, which is working to ensure that children in California receive necessary therapeutic behavior services.
Kim Bennett, Ph.D. Director Community Services, Ventura County
Dr. Kim Bennett has been in a leadership role at Casa Pacifica for more than seven years helping oversee community services in Ventura County. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology with an emphasis in health psychology. She has over 15 years’ experience working in a variety of community mental health settings with children, youth and families.
Among her other duties, Dr. Bennett handles the recruitment, supervision and practicum training program of doctoral and social work students from graduate schools throughout Southern California. She has been instrumental in developing our in-school mental health services program with Las Virgenes Unified School District. In addition, she has expertise and speaks internationally on the topic of coping with rare disease in children and sibling relationships in families dealing with rare disease.
Kim completed her undergraduate work at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and obtained both her Masters and Doctorate at California School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles.
James Freeman, Director of Training
James is the Director of Training at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families. He has a Master of Arts degree in organizational leadership from Biola University.
He has presented internationally and published dozens of articles in journals including Child and Youth Care Online, Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, and the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work. He serves on national and international boards including the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers and the International Child and Youth Care Network. He is a senior trainer for TransformAction International and master trainer for the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute. Curriculum specialty includes: Life Space Crisis Intervention, The Therapeutic Use of Daily Life Events
Monetta Williams, Director of Human Resources
Prior to joining Casa Pacifica, Monetta spent over 25 years of experience in startup and high growth environments. Throughout her career, she has been successful at partnering with executives and managers to produce programs that align talent with goals and drive people towards a sense of well-being and purpose in their work life.
Monetta previously held the position of VP of Human Resources with lynda.com, a global organization with 600 employees’ worldwide, a technology company producing online video training for professionals, lynda.com was acquired by LinkedIn in 2015. Prior to lynda.com, she held the position of VP of Human Resources for Helix Medical, Inc., a medical device company producing medical devices and consumer products.
Monetta has been an effective change agent with a history of helping organizations grow, change and become more efficient, proactively and fiscally. Her strategy is to help every employee connect and understand how they contribute to an organizations mission and become better leaders.
Monetta is a proud grandparent of two beautiful foster-adopted granddaughters, and has been a supporter of Project Linus (Ventura Chapter) by making handmade blankets, providing a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.