Our Team

Learn more about our staff, teachers and trainers

Barbara Wojtach, LCSW

Barbara Wojtach, LCSW

Program Manager, Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program

Barbara is a social worker by profession, working in Child Welfare and the Adoption field for over 25 years. Barbara began her roles as the program manager of FAKCE in December 2013. Prior to that time, in addition to her full time job as a social worker with the County of San Diego, she was a trainer for FAKCE, specializing in attachment and adoption issues for approximately 15 years. Barbara is passionate about improving the lives of foster children by helping caregivers obtain the education and training that they need, so that they can provide exemplary care to the children in their homes.

Twila Perucci

Twila Perucci

Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program Specialist/Instructional Specialist

Twila Perucci is Program Specialist at Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. She also is the mentoring coordinator for the foster care mentoring program, co- facilitator of Foster Care Services, treasurer of “Foster Lift”, support group leader, trainer and a foster, adoptive and kinship care provider for the past 37 years.

Deb Stolz

Deb Stolz

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Trainer

Deb is the mom of eight children, four through adoption. She has been a foster parent in San Diego for more than 30 years and has cared for hundreds of children. A Trainer for Grossmont College Foster Adoptive & Kinship Education Program for 15 years she is also the Founder/director of the Family Attachment Resource Center.

Aida Gutierrez

Aida Gutierrez

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructional Assistant

Aida has been a foster parent in San Diego County for over 14 years. Aida began working part time for the FAKCE program in 2010 and full time in 2014. Aida is the friendly voice you hear over the phone when you call our registration line. Aida is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Trainer

Maria Hinojosa has been a foster parent trainer for Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education since 1988. She has been a support group leader since 1985 and was a mentor in the mentoring program. Maria is very active in the Spanish community and loves helping families. Maria became a foster parent in 1977 and loves making a difference in the lives of children.

Jeanne Schwertfeger

Jeanne Schwertfeger

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Jeanne Schwertfeger is a foster mom of 17 years and an adoptive mom of four girls. She has had extensive experience recognizing signs and symptoms (behaviors) in foster children. She has extensive experience caring for children and youth who have experienced trauma. She enjoys sharing her experiences and ideas with other foster, adoptive and kinship parents. Jeanne has been an instructor teaching a variety of classes for the last 12 years with the Grossmont FAKCE program.

Cathy Appelquist

Cathy Appelquist

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Trainer

Cathy Appelquist is a mom of 8 Children; 1 biological and 7 adopted. She has been a foster mom in San Diego County for 28 years and has had over one hundred children come through her home. Cathy has been a foster parent trainer for Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Program for 3 years. She enjoys sharing her many experiences with Foster, Adoptive Parents.

Gisella Gomez, MSW

Gisella Gomez, MSW

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Gisella Gomez has a Masters in Social work from San Diego State University. She worked for Child Welfare Services for 5 years as an adoption social worker and is now a social worker and family developer for Casey Family Programs. She began educating foster parents for FAKCE in 2013 and truly enjoys providing education and expertise in areas around trauma, grief and loss, attachment and discipline. Gisella teaches classes in both English and Spanish.

Mercedes B. Contreras

Mercedes B. Contreras

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Mercedes Contreras is a mother of nine children, three of which she fostered and adopted 11 years ago. She has been with the Grossmont College, Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care education program since 2007 teaching attachment classes. Mercedes also serves families of kinship through the YMCA family services program. She provides assistance and support in the adoption process as well as helping families navigate challenges as they arise.

Pam Sokol

Pam Sokol

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Trainer

Pam Sokol has been a foster parent trainer with the Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Education Program since 1993. She and her husband have been foster parents for San Diego County for over 35 years caring primarily for children with severe behavioral issues and drug exposed infants. They are the adoptive parents of two of their foster children and also relative caregivers. Pam is the President of the San Diego County Foster Parent Association and the Grievance and Allegation Chair for the California State Foster Parent Association.

Denise Phipps, MFT

Denise Phipps, MFT

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Denise Phipps is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. She has been working in the field of Social Services for the past 15 years with the emphasis on helping both foster and adoptive families who are at risk, stay together, move toward healing and maintain healthy functioning lives. Denise has been extensively trained in Attachment Narrative Therapy, Theraplay, EMDR, Sandplay, Art Therapy, Grieve and Loss and TF-CBT. She is proficient in understanding the core issues of adoption, the impact of childhood maltreatment/trauma, adult and child attachment styles, and utilizing those attachment-based interventions and treatments that focus on emotional and psychological healing and empowering parents and children to build strong bonds. Denise is currently the Lead Therapist for San Diego Youth Services Adoption Support Program and provides individual, family, and couples therapy to pre- and post-adoptive families. She teaches several classes for Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program. Denise shares her practice with Sunshine, a golden retriever therapy dog who contributes by providing families with an environment of care, safety and comfort.

Maryann Paschal

Maryann Paschal

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

MaryAnn has been a foster parent for 25 years. In that time, MaryAnn has fostered over 400 children. Her home is currently a Way Station foster home which means that she on call, so to speak, to take children, mainly babies and toddlers, when called. In addition to being a foster parent, and being Mom to 9 children, MaryAnn is an incredible foster parent trainer. MaryAnn has been a foster parent trainer for about 8 years but over the last several years she has willingly, and enthusiastically expanded her role as a trainer to include teaching new foster and adoptive parents, teaching at support groups and specialty classes on trauma, and most recently, becoming a foster parent mentor. MaryAnn has a wealth of knowledge, experience and practical ideas that she shares freely with other foster parents as a trainer and she is a great asset to the FAKCE program.

Emma Tidmore

Emma Tidmore

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Emma has been a foster parent since 1998 and states that the many years fostering have been very rewarding. Emma is an Options for Recovery foster parent, a Spanish Support Group leader, a Mentor, and a Board Member of the San Diego County Foster Parent Association. In addition, Emma has been involved with the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) and has worked as an after school tutor for foster teens. Emma is one of the primary Spanish Foster Parent Trainers for FAKCE.

Emma states she has learned so much from the numerous placements she has had and from advocating for foster children as well as for foster parents. Caring for foster children has been her passion and she hopes to continue her role as a foster parent and foster parent trainer for many years.

Angie Puffelis, MA, IMFT

Angie Puffelis, MA, IMFT

Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor

Angie Puffelis has a Masters in Counseling Psychology. She has been working as a Child and Family Therapist for 10 years helping biological, foster, and adoptive families. She has been the facilitator for the Spanish support group for San Diego Youth Service- Adoptions Program for 12 years. Angie has been a Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Instructor since 2005, specializing in attachment and adoption issues, childhood trauma and attachment in early parent-child relationships. She teaches several classes for Grossmont College Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program in Spanish and English.