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1/26/2012 10:00:00 AM
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
St. Catherine's Center gets new director
BY JAMES BREIG
CORRESPONDENT

Catholic schools aren't the only way youth in the Albany Diocese are taken care of. St. Catherine's Center for Children in Albany, for instance, focuses on young people and their families who are coping with issues of abuse, neglect, mental illness, homelessness and trauma.

The 125-year-old institution has a new executive director: William T. Gettman Jr., only the second layperson to head St. Catherine's, which was founded by the Daughters of Charity. He succeeds Helen Hayes, who led the center for 20 years.

St. Catherine's scope of care is broad. It offers residential services for children ages five through 13, a homeless shelter for families, a therapeutic foster care program, an elementary school for children with special educational needs and community outreach services designed to strengthen vulnerable families. In 2011, St. Catherine's served around 2,000 children and families in the Albany Diocese.

Mr. Gettman, a native New Yorker who is married and has two children, holds a bachelor's degree in religion from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master's in public administration from Syracuse University.

A Methodist, he chose to major in religion in college, he said, because of "the program's focus on critical thinking, problem-solving and commitment to an understanding of human beings and their relationship with the greater universe. A liberal arts education with a focus on writing, critical thinking and service is very valuable."

He attends Delmar Methodist Church. Reflecting on his education, career and church work, Mr. Gettman said that "my commitment to human services was based on my family's commitment to service and an early sense of the importance of strong families and communities.

"My first professional position was with a community action program in a rural setting. The housing, employment and self-sufficiency needs were overwhelming. There was a face to every story."

When he moved to Albany, he explained, he did so "to make a difference with an initial position in New York's youth system. I later worked in social services and various management positions. At every stage, there was a critical need to invest in our children's protection, safety and future."

The new director praised St. Catherine's for its "deep history, tradition and commitment [to] serving the vulnerable, poor and needy. I strongly believe that St. Catherine's can continue to play a vital role in the Capital District for needy children and families.

"In the current economic climate, we must work to provide quality programs that are valued by local governments. At the same time, we must advocate for community needs, emerging issues, and broad support for children and families."

He said the staff at St. Catherine's "is highly qualified and committed to quality services. The diversity of the St. Catherine's menu of services - preventive service, family services and support, residential care, education, homeless services, trauma and grief support, and many more - is a rich resource."

In his new job, Mr. Gettman wants to "provide high quality services, maintain fiscal discipline and expand our financial support." Those goals, he added, are "attainable if we possess a sharp focus, share our success stories, increase our outreach, expand our financial support and bring endless passion and energy."

(For more information, visit www.st-cath.org.)

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