Learn more about our staff, teachers and trainers
Barbara Wojtach, LCSW
Barbara is a social worker by profession, working in Child Welfare and the Adoption field for over 25 years. Barbara began her role 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.
Daniela Solano Murphy
Daniela Solano Murphy joined the Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program in 2017. Daniela is dedicated to impact initiatives that contribute to bettering the health and well-being of people living in San Diego County. She previously worked advocating for hunger relief issues in San Diego County but today as FAKCE’s Program Coordinator, Daniela provides daily support to the program and is instrumental in establishing community partnerships to ensure that foster, adoptive and kinship parents can have access to community resources and trainings to support them in their fostering journey.
Juliana Vega graduated from the University of California San Diego where she studied sociology with an emphasis on social inequality. Her commitment to equity in all communities throughout San Diego County led her to work advocating for hunger relief issues. Presently Juliana is Program Specialist for the Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Care Education Program where she manages the social media and prepares class materials for our trainers. She is committed to ensuring that our social media platforms can reach foster, adoptive and kinship parents in the county to increase awareness about our invaluable workshops, classes and support groups.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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. 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.
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 and mentor. 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 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 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.
Debra "Debbie" Stolz
It was a true honor to have known Debbie Stolz. She made being a foster mom look effortless. She was patient, caring, and extremely knowledgeable when it came to the most troubled youth which is why she was the go-to person when you needed help.
She was a mom to eight children, fostered countless of children for over 35 years in San Diego County and trained and mentored for 20 years with Grossmont College’s Foster Adoptive & Kinship Care Education Program. She was also Director of the Family Attachment Resource Center and President of the Foster Parent Association, plus much more. We miss her tremendously but her memory and advocacy efforts will not be forgotten.