Ode to Mom’s Love for Baby: A Quest for a Healthy Start

“There is no better feeling than the movement of life inside you”
— Author: Every Pregnant Mom

Intercultural’s Healthy Start Program seeks to engage pregnant and/or parenting women (particularly women in their first trimester of their pregnancy) and provide an array of health and social services including case management/home visiting, depression screening, and optimal child health and development. The program is an effective, community-based approach to fighting infant mortality and low birth-weight babies through case management and outreach programs targeting pregnant and parenting women. The program has promoted positive parent-child relationships; supported growth and development of the children by building trust; taught parents to identify strengths and learn problem-solving skills; and improved the family’s support system through linkages and appropriate referrals to community resources.  In recent years, providing clothing, supplies, diapers and holiday assistance have also been made possible for those requiring assistance.

According to Cassandra Rogers, LCSW, Director of Family Empowerment and Education Initiatives at Intercultural, Healthy Start Program creates a lasting foundation for the well-being of both mother and child.  Cassandra leads Intercultural’s Healthy Start program and is also otherwise known as the resident champion.  She works diligently with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, Division of Maternal, Child and Family Health(DMCFH) to ensure that the impact of these services and awareness to these important support is known and available.  Cassandra explains that, “without the commitment and funding from DMCFH we cannot optimize the support to our pregnant and parenting moms”.

To further understand the impact of Healthy Start, we reached out to one of Intercultural’s Healthy Start employee and advocate.  Tamara Shirer, Healthy Start Case Manager for Intercultural has been working in the social services arena for over fifteen (15) years, specializing in children and families.  She explains that the work she does with pregnant or parenting women is exceptionally rewarding because each participant joins the program voluntarily.   “Every mother/mother –to –be that comes to Intercultural’s Healthy Start Program takes the initiative on her own.  The program works very well because the participant is self- motivated and committed to making this work. Ideally, a parenting women and her child stays in the program for two years.  Seventy-five (75%) percent of our participants continue in the program after initial contact, and over fifty (50%) percent of all participants stay the full two years.  More than these statistics, seeing the bond being the mother and her child,  as well as the strength and growth in the family unit, is incredibly uplifting.   I never tire of my partnership with the incredible moms I have been fortunate to support.  I am lucky to be part of this start.”

Tamara shared many stories of wonderful moms in the Healthy Start Program and it’s very evident that she is passionate about her work.   One story in particular, is the subject of this article’s “Ode to Mom”.

Her name is Kiersten Adams.  She is 26 years old, a first time mom. She lives in West Philadelphia with her grandmother.  She’s live in West Philly all her life.   Her sweet,  sweet child’s name is Cleo Marie Adams Ford, and she turns two years July 2018. Kiersten came to Intercultural almost two years ago, when she was 8 months pregnant. Kiersten is a burst of energy and determination.  On a scale of 1 to 10, she is 11.   She changes the scale!   Kiersten has stayed in the Intercultural Healthy Start Program focusing on providing Cleo the best positive care, involves herself in other events and activities to promote healthy start and partners with her case manager and other Intercultural resources to leverage the most positive outcomes.   Kiersten continues to breastfeed Cleo even now.  Working with her case manager and additional resources at Intercultural, she learned to breastfeed properly, and she embraced the full benefits of breastfeeding her child. As her experience, confidence and commitment to Healthy Start grew, it took a passion on its own.   Kiersten studied with the Maternal Care Coalition to become a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.  “My ultimate goal is to become a doula.  I love the idea of helping and supporting women through all the stages of preparing and being a new mom”.  She is easily accessible and loves to support and coach other moms.  She is an active consultant for Philadelphia Birthing Programs, as she is a true advocate for natural childbirth.

Kiersten graduated from University of North Carolina with a Bachelors in Musical Theater. In addition to working at a library, supporting other moms, she is a member of the Improv Troupe with White Pines Productions.  “I enjoy performing because it allows me the chance to step outside of myself or, sometime, to explore a deeper part of myself that I was not in touch with.”

Kiersten explains that she is a complex individual, highly motivated and able to do a lot of meaningful endeavors.  She believes that all these are an extension of the “fire in her belly” that awoken when she added “mom” to her identity.   Cleo is truly the most precious gift she is given.   Each and every day she is provided a freshness of heart and spirit just by being a part of Cleo’s wonderful world.  Kiersten feels that helping other moms is truly just a way of expressing her joy and gratitude.

Curious as to where she sees herself in five years, Kiersten shares, “I see myself spending all of my available time with my family, being a perfect model of staying true to yourself and attracting what I deserve in life through persistence and positivity. I will still be running my business and helping others and I will be continuing to expand my career in the arts.” 

When asks about Intercultural, Kiersten acknowledges that it’s been a real blessing.  “I love the people at Intercultural and they do not hesitate to show love right back. I am so grateful for them. My life would not be the same without them. The people at Intercultural are their most valuable resource. I have gotten Books, toys, clothes, and boundless access to information through their programs but the best thing I was given would have to be the relationships and the friendships that I would not have found otherwise.


Takahide Tanaka, MSW

Takahide is the Director of Quality Assurance & Improvement. Takahide is accountable for quality and socially responsible services and ethical practices for Intercultural. Besides the day to day performance of measurability and audit, Takahide and his team continue to embrace critical projects including Council on Accreditation (COA) re-accreditation process and the most recently, the implementation of Electronic Health Record System to comply with the Federal mandate and to facilitate Meaningful Use.

Prior to Takahide’s most recent leadership role, he has provided social services work to diverse population of children and families in Philadelphia through Intercultural. Takahide started with us as an Intern. We are grateful for his many meaningful contributions and very proud to watch his career growth.

Takahide earned a Master’s degree in Social Work and Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Temple University. He has also completed the Leading for Change Fellowship from Lebow School of Business, Drexel University.

Crystal Allen, MA

Crystal is the Director of Family Empowerment and Education Initiatives. In this role, Crystal is responsible for the oversight of our Family Empowerment Services (FES), Healthy Start and Enhancing Parenting Skills programs. 

Prior to joining Intercultural, Crystal was a Case Management Supervisor for a Family Empowerment Services program in Philadelphia. Throughout her career, she has worked in various non-profit positions serving youth and young adults. 

Crystal earned her BS in Rehabilitation Services with a minor in Sociology from The Pennsylvania State University. She holds a MA in Urban Studies with a concentration in Youth Development from Eastern University. In 2018, Crystal received a certificate in Ascending Leadership through the Non-profit Executive Leadership Institute at Bryn Mawr College. 

Abigail Alderfer, MSW, LCSW

Abigail Alderfer is the Director of Outpatient Services at Intercultural Family Services, Inc.  Abigail oversees the West Philadelphia and South Philadelphia Outpatient Clinics to ensure operations are running smoothly and we are meeting the individual’s needs.  Abigail assists her team (Clinicians and Administrative Staff) on a daily basis, whether it is answering phones, assisting with psychiatrist appointments, or providing brief therapy.

Abigail has been working in the Behavioral Health field since 2007 in various arenas.  Her strong desire of making sure individuals obtain appropriate mental health care has made a full circle when she became a Director at Intercultural.

Abigail graduated with honors from Widener University with a Master’s in Social Work.  Abigail became a Licensed Social Worker in 2011 and obtained her “C” as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in May 2018. 

Patricia K Frahme, CPA

Patricia Frahme is Chief Financial Officer at Intercultural Family Services, Inc. As a critical member of the leadership team, Pat is responsible for the oversight of all financial, accounting and reporting activities.  And that they are in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, Government Auditing Standards and the City of Philadelphia Subrecipient Audit Guide.  She also maintains oversite of internal controls and is the primary liaison between the organization and the independent auditors.

Patricia has been with Intercultural in her current capacity since 1999. Prior to that she worked for a public accounting firm where her primary emphasis was in the Nonprofit sector. There she consulted on the establishment of accounting policies and procedure for small to medium nonprofit organizations to ensure compliance with their funding sources. Set up books and records for nonprofit organizations. She also performed audits of nonprofit organizations.

Patricia Frahme earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. In addition, she is a CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

Elenita Marcha, MBA, PMP®, TOGAF®

Elenita Marcha is Deputy Executive Director at Intercultural Family Services, Inc. As a critical member of the leadership team, she focuses on continual operational and process improvements, oversees daily operations; support for all strategic initiatives and partners with all service leaders to ensure that resources, technology, process, compliance and communication are optimized. She is directly accountable for Truancy and Intervention Services, Human Resources; Information and Communication Technology; Business Services, Grant Management and Facilities Management. As part of her domain expertise, she provides program management to our clinical transformation initiatives. She is keen to leverage industry best practices to help our agency’s path forward.

Prior to joining Intercultural, Elenita served as Engagement Leader and Executive for several Healthcare Providers including (Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, AmeriHealth Caritas and Siemens Medical Solutions). She provides depth of expertise in solution mapping and enterprise architecting integrated pathways that helps improve the patient journey along the healthcare continuum. In addition, for twenty years Elenita served as pro bono Executive Director of Exodus to Excellence, a non-profit STEM organization that served rising high school students in the greater Philadelphia area.

Elenita Marcha earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Drexel University. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business and Finance from Eastern University. In addition, she is a certified PMP (Project Management Professional), certified TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) and certified Zenger-Miller Facilitator.