Our Staff

A multidisciplinary team dedicated to protecting children

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Elissa Malter Schwartz

Executive Director

Elissa Malter Schwartz has been a dedicated professional and lay leader focusing on advocacy, violence prevention and private/public collaboration in the Washington DC area for the past 25 years. She was a 2011 Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellow, a leadership development program for executive directors of agencies serving disadvantaged Maryland residents. Prior to joining Tree House, Elissa was the Executive Director of the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA), the Association Director of the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers (AACRC) and Director of Continuing Education Programs for Education Essentials. Elissa joined Tree House in 2020.

Elissa received her B.A. from American University’s School of Public Affairs. Originally from New York, she lives in Rockville, Md. with her husband Jason, their four biological children, and two foster sons.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “I have spent my career focused on improving lives and strengthening communities while working toward equal access for all who need support and as a foster mom who has seen the work the Tree House does first hand; I knew it would be a perfect fit.”

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A. Thomas Grazio, 
LCSW-C

Director of The Tree House

Tom Grazio has over forty years in child protection, including seven years as director of Child Welfare Services for the state of Maryland. During the emergence of child advocacy centers, multidisciplinary teams, and victim-focused services, Tom held key positions in the field, including program manager for the Navy/Marine Corps Family Advocacy Program at the Pentagon, clinician and trainer on child abuse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and founder of the Navy Family Service Center at the Philadelphia Naval Base. Tom joined The Tree House in February 2012.

Why do you work at the Tree House? “Because I couldn’t get a job pitching for the Phillies.”

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Loretta St. John

Director of Operations

Loretta St. John has more than eighteen years of experience providing bookkeeping and office management services in the nonprofit sector. Once a quality assurance auditor in the biotech industry, Loretta switched gears and began working for small private schools as database coordinator, business manager, and in a variety of other positions. She is a founding member of Friends Meeting School, a Quaker school in Frederick County, MD. Loretta holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and joined The Tree House’s staff in 2013.

Why do you work at the Tree House? “I was at a point in my life where I wanted a job that would make a difference for the greater good. It was a perfect match!”

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Sarah Abbott, LMSW

Transitional Trauma Therapist

Sarah Abbot grew up in Montgomery County, earned a Bachelor’s in Human Services, and a minor in Sociology, from Geneva College outside of Pittsburgh, PA and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore with a clinical focus in behavioral health. Sarah has worked with adults diagnosed with mental health disorders for the Housing Opportunities Commission and with children with severe behavioral disorders and mental health diagnoses in school settings. She joined the Transitional Trauma Therapy Program of the Tree House in 2019, providing therapy for children who face the trauma of being moved out of their home and into foster and kinship care.

Why do you work at the Tree House? “Having been assisted by the social services community as a child, I love giving back and helping new generations of children. But being a baker, when they told me that their main fundraising events was centered around cookies, I was sold!”

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Pamela Bravo, LMSW

Family Advocate/Mental Health Therapist

Pamela Bravo graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland with a clinical concentration in behavioral health. She has an extensive professional background within the criminal justice system working with various immigrant populations.  Pamela joined The Tree House in 2017, where she assists victims and their families in navigating the complex criminal justice system dealing with crisis situations such as domestic violence, substance abuse, loss of income, and homelessness. Pamela provides services in English and Spanish. 

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “I decided to work at the Tree House because I wanted to help support and empower victims of abuse and their families during times of crisis.”

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Laura Casanas

Interpreter

Laura Casanas joined the Tree House, CAC as an Administrative Assistant in 2018. Laura became a Certified Interpreter, which enables her to help children and parents that are non-English speakers get the help they need from being victims of maltreatment of domestic and sexual abuse, and neglect. As an Administrative Assistant for the Tree House, Laura  works to anticipate the needs of our Team andto ensure a productive and positive working environment to benefit our patients, clients, and partner organizations.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “It makes my heart happy knowing that somehow, I can contribute to getting smiles from the kids…and they keep me feeling young!”

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Andrea Coleman, 
BSN, RN

Nurse

Andrea Coleman earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Cincinnati in 1997. Since relocating to Maryland in 1999, she has devoted her career to caring for underserved populations.  The last 16 years of Andrea’s professional career have been spent working for the Montgomery County Government with 8 years at the Dept of Correction and Rehab, 6 years at Child Welfare Services, and 2 years a dual role of Child Welfare Nurse and Nurse for the Tree House. While the work is challenging, she finds the experience to be both rewarding and fulfilling as she focuses her energies toward helping improve the lives of children who have been victims of abuse, neglect or assault.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  What started as a mandated transfer, has turned out to be the most rewarding experience. One could not ask for a more cohesive and caring team of individuals with which to spend the work week. But the children are the gems that make every difficult day, every traumatic story, every hardship faced seem small in the light of their smiles.  Onward to the better and brighter days ahead! #Healing

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Molly Cupid, LCSW-C

Mental Health Director

Molly Cupid has been working in the child sexual abuse field since 2010. Most recently, she investigated allegations of child sexual abuse for Montgomery County Child Welfare Services. Earlier in her career, Molly worked in multiple residential facilities providing treatment for adolescent males who had sexually offended. Molly has experience conducting forensic interviews and is one of instructors for the Child First forensic interviewing training in the state of Maryland. She has collaborated with the Special Victims Investigation Division of Montgomery County Police to provide sex abuse related training to police officers, social workers, and other first responders. As a member of the Speakers’ Bureau with Montgomery County Child Welfare Services, Molly travelled around the county providing training on recognizing and reporting child maltreatment. Ms. Cupid joined the Treehouse CAC in the summer of 2020 and enjoys leading the clinical team.

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Rebecca Dessalines

Community Engagement and Fundraising Coordinator

Rebecca has a B.S. in Political Science and Communication Studies from Towson University, and is completing her M.S. in Public Administration with a focus in Nonprofit Management. In the future, she hopes to become an Executive Director of a public or nonprofit organization or create her own nonprofit. Rebecca coordinates the Tree House’s social media engagement and donor relations. She will be the new contact person for the Tree House CAC’s volunteer and donation opportunities. Rebecca enjoys connecting with the individuals and companies that help the Tree House CAC fulfill its mission.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “I want to help make a difference and become the voice for communities that are often forgotten.”

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Linda Kim, LMSW

Transitional Trauma Therapist

Linda is a Licensed Social Worker who earned her Master’s in Social Work from Fordham University with a clinical focus on children, youth and families. Linda’s experience serving diverse populations includes providing case management to families facing homelessness, engaging in support groups with women transitioning out of incarceration, and providing crisis response services. During her grad-school practicum at Community Crisis Services Inc., Linda provided suicide prevention, crisis intervention, and counseling services to individuals seeking assistance on 12 national and local lines, in addition to documenting Child Protective Services and Adult Protective Services reports for PG County.

Linda has worked and served with children in many environments:  volunteering and working in Early Childhood Education, leading weekly activities with children living in the Patrick Henry Homeless Shelter, engaging in crafts and packing backpacks for children in Nicaragua, and helping to raise funds for teen parents with Generation Hope.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “I have known that helping children who have experienced trauma is what I most want to do with my life. Children are amazing and bring so much life into any room. I want to do whatever I can to help keep them safe and let them know that they matter.” 

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Dara Kruman, LCSW-C

Mental Health Therapist

When Dara was a kid, she wanted to help other children around the world… and join a circus. The circus never materialized, but she did become a social worker. Dara completed her master’s in social work with a concentration in children, youth, and families at Boston College. She interned doing community work in a family center in Boston and a community health center for children. After moving to Montgomery County, she has worked with several agencies, including Linkages to Learning, Worksource Montgomery, CCI community Health and Wellness in Silver Spring. She loves working as a part of a team to help support families in their recovery and believes in the importance of addressing systemic needs surrounding the family.

Dara has done volunteer work in Ecuador, Greece, and Thailand, and helped to adapt a parent-child play curriculum into Spanish for families from Guatemala. Much of her work as a therapist has been with Spanish-speaking families from Latin America, as well as refugees from around the world. She believes that learning from people around the world has enriched her life and is grateful to have joined Tree House to work with children to help them heal.

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Sara Kulow-Malavé, LCSW-C

Forensic Interviewer

Sara Kulow-Malavé had 10 years of experience working for Montgomery County Child Welfare Services prior to joining the the Tree House as the dedicated forensic interviewer in 2013. Sara has testified in numerous court cases as an expert on risk assessment and children’s safety. Sara earned her undergraduate degree in Social Work from McDaniel College and her graduate degree in the same field from The University of Maryland, Baltimore. At the Tree House, she conducts compassionate forensic interviews of suspected child victims and their non-offending family members.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “Who wouldn’t want to work in a tree house! I always wanted one as a kid!  I decided to apply to work here because my favorite part of being a social worker is interviewing children. The child’s point of view can be overlooked, yet it is often the most honest. When the opportunity arose to apply for the Forensic Interview position, I jumped on it! I love being part of an organization created to offer our most vulnerable members of society who have been abused and neglected a safe and neutral space to talk about what has happened to them and begin to heal.”

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Allyssa Lanza

Psychologist

Allyssa Lanza graduated with her doctorate in clinical psychology from Antioch University New England. She previously worked at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers and is currently in private practice where she focuses on trauma, depression, and adjustment issues. She is certified in Cognitive Processing Therapy and EMDR.  She has practiced in Haiti and South Africa in which she focused on treatment and assessment of children. Allyssa has twice been awarded the Jonathan Daniel’s Award for her contribution for her commitment to issues of diversity and community outreach. She is excited to offer supervision to training students and future psychologists.

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Lego

Tree House Therapy Dog

On April 4, 2015, a black Labrador Retriever was born at The Guide Dog Foundation facility. Lego was sent off to start his official guide dog training, however, he decided on a career change, becoming a fully certified therapy dog. He provides love and attention to the children and helps alleviate the tension and anxiety our clients feel as they wait for and undergo services. Lego enjoys his time with the children and is a key part of the hope and healing we provide.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “Woof.”  

Check out his instagram page here.

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Christian Mallett

Psychology Practicum Student

Christian Mallett, M.S. is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Howard University in the Child/Adolescent track.  His research explores resilience factors that buffer the negative impact of adverse childhood experiences on psychological and physical health. As a psychology extern at the Tree House Advocacy Center, Christian cares deeply about working with children and caregivers to facilitate healing among clients.  

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Ana Reyes

Family Advocate
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Evelyn Shukat, MD, FAAP

Medical Director of The Tree House

Dr. Evelyn Shukat is a Board-Certified Pediatrician, with specialty Board Certification in Child Abuse Pediatrics, who has been providing medical services to abused and neglected children for the past  40 years. Before coming to the Tree House, she established and directed a hospital-based child advocacy center (CAC) at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in New York City and maintained that post for 10 years before moving to Maryland. Evelyn has been the Director of Pediatric Emergency Services at Metropolitan Hospital in NYC and Children’s Hospital of Newark NJ, as well as the Medical Director of The Children’s House Child Advocacy Center of Hackensack University Medical Center, Associate Director of Pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital, NYC, and held the academic rank of  Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and at Cornell College of Medicine. 

Evelyn has served as the Tree House’s Medical Director since 2008. She is passionate about the CAC model to help children who have been abused and neglected. She always establishes safe, trusting environments for our clients in her child friendly office. She approaches child health in a holistic manner, addressing all medical concerns, regardless of cause.

Why do you work at the Tree House?  “Children need an ombudsman in times of trauma and abuse. I try to help them in any way I can to help give them a voice.”

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Nancy Welsh

Mental Health Therapist