359 Ballston Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY   
Phone: 518-587-8008 - Fax: 518-587-8241

Saratoga Center for the Family News and Updates

Deb Tomaso Retiring in August as Executive Director of SCFF

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Monday, March 21, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Deb TomasoDeb Tomaso, who has been part of the Saratoga Center for the Family leadership for 20 years, is retiring as executive director at the end of August.

Tomaso joined the nonprofit organization as a board member in 1996 and became executive director in 2004. She gave eight months’ notice in announcing her retirement plans to the board of directors.

“I wanted to give them ample time to find the right person,” Tomaso said.

Board President Jim Lombardo praised Tomaso for her longtime commitment to the organization. “Deb has been an excellent manager over a time of significant growth for the Center,” Lombardo said. “She led the staff through major changes and the expansion of services for children and families.”

In 2002, Tomaso supervised a milestone move for the organization, the conversion of a private residence into the facility where Saratoga Center for the Family provides mental health counseling, abuse prevention programs, education programs and victim advocacy to hundreds of local children and families each year.

After a fire in 2013, she managed the Center through a move to temporary quarters and oversaw the building renovation. “Deb and her team made sure there was virtually no disruption to the Center’s ability to serve its clients,” Lombardo said.

Kelly Daugherty, the clinical director for the Center, has been with the agency about three years.

“She’s been an amazing mentor to me and amazing for the agency,” Daugherty said of Tomaso. “Last year we served a record number of clients through our mental health counseling services, our prevention and education programs and our Child Advocacy Center program.  And she was instrumental in helping us grow into the Shenendehowa school district and creation of the Heel to Heal program. I’m sad to see her go, but happy she’ll be able to enjoy retirement.”

Jennifer Wormley, the coordinator of the Harriet M. West Child Advocacy Center, a program of the Saratoga Center for the Family, and has worked with Tomaso for five years.

“We have come in to work to paint walls on the weekends and we cried together as we walked through the Child Advocacy Center the morning after the fire,” Wormley said. “Yet through it all are the moments when we can appreciate the fruits of our labor. I get to share with her the excitement that is expressed by the children who come to the CAC and get to put their handprints on the wall, or a quote by a child when they tell us how much better they feel now that they have ‘let it all out.’”

Wormley said Tomaso would respond to those moments saying, “That’s what it’s all about, that’s why we do what we do.’”

When Tomaso first joined the board, she was executive director of an independent, nonprofit health center in rural Corinth. That facility became a satellite of Glens Falls Hospital at about the same time the Saratoga Center for the Family’s executive director position became open.

“Deb’s move from board member to administrator made for a smooth transition for the Center,” Lombardo said.

Tomaso agreed.

“It’s a bonus to have sat on both sides of the table. I’m responsible for running the agency and I’m accountable to the board, but I also have an appreciation for how the board looks at things,” Tomaso said. “You can have a better exchange of information.”

Tomaso said her decision to retire this year was sparked in part by her husband’s decision to retire and a desire to spend more time with their two young grandchildren. Still, she said, she is so proud of the good work of the organization, and the decision was not easy.

“It’s been a wonderful time. I have been so blessed by the people I’ve met along the way, and inspired by the caring, supportive people in our community,” she said. “There are so many agencies vying for the same dollars, and from where I sit in the nonprofit sector, the people here are so generous.”

A search committee to fill the vacancy will begin its work shortly, Lombardo said.

2015 Year In Review

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 10:50 am

2015 Year in Review

Helpful Apps for Children

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Monday, December 14, 2015 at 10:05 am

Helpful Apps for Children
By: Kelly Daugherty, LCSW-R, GC-C

Since Christmas is only a few days away and I know that many of my clients are asking for electronics especially tablets, etc. I thought I would combine a list of some helpful apps that you may want to include on your child’s new electronic device.  Since they will probably be attached to their device, why not purchase some apps that are going to help them with their challenges. These apps are designed to help children with a variety of issues including children who have experienced trauma, children who are diagnosed with ADHD and children who may have a hard time developing social and emotional skills.

TF-CBT Triangle of Life
A new mobile game app helps children who have experienced trauma by letting them use their tablets or smartphones to practice life skills they have learned in the therapist’s office. During the game, TF-CBT Triangle of Life, created by mental health professionals at Allegheny Health Network and students at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, the player takes the role of a lion in the jungle guiding other animals toward positive experiences and relationships.

CBT*ABC way!
The CBT*ABC way apps from TikalBayTek are to help young kids, teens, and adults practice paying attention to their upsetting thoughts, and practice challenging them with new, reasonable, and truthful thoughts!

Designed by PBS helping kids learn emotion recognizing skills, gain vocabulary describing emotions and feeling, all through fun games. All characters in the app are from the popular PBS show The Electric Company.

A role play game app aiming at tween and teens, teaching the essential social emotional skills. Kids enter the virtual world of Greenberry, help rebuilt the community, interact with various characters, and learn social skills, such as sharing responsibilities, calming down after unhappy encounters. The whole curriculum is built in the game setting and fully individualized based on players choices of actions.

Be confident in who you are
A comic book for tween and teens addressing common concerns for this age group: self-consciousness, stress, bullying, fitting in, body image, and sticky issues in friendships. All these issues are presented in story setting in an age appropriate manner.

Real Friends vs. The Other Kind
Another comic book app addresses friendship among middle school age kids. What does real friend mean? What to do when friends are doing something you don’t like? The app also has short quizzes asking kids what to do in different scenarios, all are real life scenarios. Highly recommend middle school and high school kids do the exercise.

An app for teens to access help and consulting to sensitive and challenging questions they face in everyday life, like “I feel sad”. The app provide professional yet personal help, help teenage kids understand why they feel that way, if necessary when and where to get help.

Positive Penguin
Offers solutions on how to control emotions and feel more positive. The app offers step-to-step guide for kids to express how they feel and how to turn negative emotions into positive feelings.

ABA Flash Card Emotions
For younger kids, a critical step in emotional well-being is the ability to recognize the emotion and articulate the feeling when experiencing it. This app showing pictures of different emotions and associate the word with the faces. Kids learn intuitively what different emotions are.

iLearn With Poko
Emotions : help young children learn about emotions by showing them short videos and kids identify the emotions the characters were experiencing. When kids have good mastering of different emotions, they are asked to provide solutions to make those characters feel good.

Avokiddo Emotions
A fun app letting kids explore different emotions and facial expressions while interacting with 3 highly responsive animals. Each animal has a different personality. Kids learn to recognize feelings and emotions by interacting with the animals. A great tool for kids who cannot read or talk well.

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings
A great app from PBS Kids, it offers various activities to help kids put names to their feelings and begins a discussion about strategies to handle them. Those helpful songs will stick with kids for a long time.

How Would You Feel If…
Poses that question in 56 different life situations designed to lead to discussions of a child’s reaction and feelings. Each illustrated “card” asks a question, such as, “How would you feel if your favorite football team lost?” The appropriate and incorrect responses receive feedback, and a child’s results can be viewed on a graph.

Model Me Going Places
This app presents slideshows of children modeling appropriate behavior in everyday places, such as school, a store, or a restaurant. Each slide is accompanied by audio narration and descriptive text. Model Me Going Places helps reinforce expected behavior and lessens the fear of new places in a child with autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Sōsh is designed to help tweens, teens, and young adults improve social skills by focusing on five essential abilities: Relating, Relaxing, Reasoning, Regulating, and Recognizing. Developed by two psychologists, Sōsh’s “5R” strategy serves as a road map for individuals who want to be social, but may have faced obstacles in the past.

The Social Navigator
This revolutionary, albeit pricey, app was designed especially for children with ADHD and other social/behavioral difficulties. The Social Navigator can be used as a behavior-management device or as a teaching tool anytime your child is becoming agitated. The app promises to reduce oppositional behaviors, improve communication skills, and develop greater social awareness for kids ages 6 to 16.

Calm Counter
A social story & a visual & audio tool to help people calm down when they are angry or anxious.

Mindfulness For Children
This app provides the opportunity to guide your child through short exercises and to choose what your child wants and is in need of in his or her daily practice. Beautifully spoken meditation exercises aimed specifically at children! Exercises guide children to a calm/relaxed state using easy to understand imagery. Mindfulness for Children provides relaxing sounds of nature to help children calm down and improve focus/concentration. Calm, reassuring voice gives step by step audio instructions on how to meditate. With descriptions and terms aimed at children, users are taken through body scans, visualizations and breathing exercises.

Smiling Mind
Smiling Mind is modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App-based program, designed to help bring balance to young lives. It is a not-for-profit initiative based on a process that provides a sense of clarity, calm and contentment.


The Silver Lining by Jennifer Wormley

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at 9:03 am

Some people like to tease and compliment me by saying that I always find the silver lining in situations, but I never really thought about it before.  Since I’ve become aware of this, I’ve realized that I do naturally tend to find the positive aspects of situations, especially negative ones.  I don’t really know if I’ve always been this way or if it’s something that has developed in me as I’ve grown older and wiser, but what I do know is that it’s a good thing.  Finding the silver lining in situations can help you maintain a positive attitude, it can help you process and get through difficult times and it has a way of helping others too.  This morning when I was driving in my car, I found myself thinking about how much I really don’t like cold mornings.  Right now I can’t find my ice scraper so that didn’t help matters much.  Sometimes it seems like the car doesn’t get warm until I reach my final destination and I avoided a trip to the gas station because it is so uncomfortable going out into the windy cold air.  And then I happened to notice the trees and all of their boldly colored leaves against the back-drop of the bright pink-red sky.  When I was breathing in I could smell that distinct scent of a wood-burning fireplace nearby and I suddenly didn’t feel so cold anymore.  Through using my senses, I was able to find things to be grateful for.  I was thankful that I have a car that runs and gets me from point A to point B.  I was thankful that I could find my gloves that helped keep my fingers warm.  This is just a very simple example of my ‘silver lining’ technique, but it’s one that everyone is capable of practicing.  So give it a try today, when you catch yourself thinking or saying something negative – stop yourself, take a deep breath and switch that gear in your brain.  You’ll notice that your days become more enjoyable, stressful situations more tolerable and being thankful can only lead to better things ahead.

Welcome to the Family – Paula

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 10:00 am

PaulaWe are growing here at the Center and are thrilled to welcome Paula Zimmerman, LMHC, DCC to our clinical staff.

What inspired you to pursue a career in counseling?

My parents worked in human services as far back as I can remember. My father worked for OASAS for over 30 years and has been in this field for over 45 years. My mother worked with people with developmental disabilities for over 20 years. They raised my brother and me to be conscious of other people’s feelings and how others experience the world. My parents were really my first “professors” for learning to have empathy for what people struggle through. I remember when I was 12 years old, I said to my father that I want to do what he does. I am very thankful for what they taught me.

What do you love most about your occupation?

I love that no two people have exactly the same experience. Some people may have some similarities, but everyone has a unique story to tell. Even when I have worked with identical twins, each person still had his or her own experiences and ways of seeing the world. There is something unique and interesting about everyone’s story.

You are credentialed as a Distance Credentialed Counselor {DCC}- what does that mean?

I obtained that certification because at my last position many teens I worked with had families who lived far away. Often the only way to have their families involved in therapy sessions was to ask them to participate by phone. The DCC curriculum taught me to think of the ethical and practical aspects to facilitating a family therapy session where one or more participants are not able to see your nonverbal responses. I learned to be mindful that sometimes I had to use more words than usual to express a response or to let someone know that I was hearing him or her.

What do you like to do in your spare time for fun? 

Over the past couple of years, I have gotten back into some bike riding. No marathons for me though; I am a casual “ride around the neighborhood” rider. I love genealogy. I have done much research on ancestry.com on both sides of my family and it is so fascinating to find old newspaper articles on ancestors or to find old family secrets that wouldn’t be news worthy in today’s world, but scandalous back in the 1800’s. There’s still a mystery to a great grandfather that I haven’t been able to solve. In general I love spending time with family and friends as often as I can.

Are there any fun facts we should know about you?

I am 6th cousins with Josh Groban. They did a family history show on him recently and it turns out we both have Johann Jacob Zimmermann from the 1600’s as a direct ancestor. Something tells me this is much more interesting to me than it would ever be to Josh Groban. I once danced with the Atlanta City Georgia Ballet. I was about 8 years old and all I did was run across the stage, but I like to count that as having been in a professional ballet performance.


Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 12:13 pm




Saratoga Center for the Family Labyrinth                        

By: Kelly Daugherty, LCSW-R, GC-C

On Saturday, May 30th, members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Saratoga Springs and Brookside Nursery came together at Saratoga Center for the Family (SCFF) to help rebuild and restore the labyrinth at the Center.  We are so grateful for their donation, their time, their hard work and their enthusiasm of rebuilding our labyrinth.

So what is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is an intricate structure of interconnecting passages or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. The labyrinth that is at SCFF is considered a medieval labyrinth. Each person that walks through a labyrinth has a different experience every time.  Some utilize a labyrinth to help clear their mind and center themselves, others enter with a question, some utilize it as a walking meditation and some do it to help themselves relax or just for fun. Labyrinths can be very healing.  Labyrinths can be walked individually or as a group (single-file), and is often done slowly, in silence or to soft music.

I utilize labyrinths in many different ways with my clients. One way I utilize it is to help my clients with practicing mindfulness (being in the present moment).  I ask them to observe what they hear, see, feel, smell and taste as they walk through the labyrinth silently. I meet with my clients in the center of the labyrinth at the end of their walk and we share our experiences and what we observed.  My clients including children report that the experience helps them relax and they enjoy the experience.

How to Walk through a Labyrinth?

Begin with an intention; e.g. to feel peaceful, to gain clarity on a situation, etc.
Sing a songIMG_0916
Repeat a mantra
Recite a prayer
Repeat an affirmation
Walk with a specific intention or none at all
Practice mindfulness- be aware of the things you hear, see, feel, smell and taste

If you are interested in visiting the newly redone labyrinth please visit Saratoga Center for the Family at 359 Ballston Ave in Saratoga Springs.  For more information about SCFF please visit www.saratogacff.org or call 518-587-8008.

Reaping the Harvest…Thanks to Ballston Spa School District

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Reaping the Harvest…Thanks to Ballston Spa School District

By Pat Covell

On May 19th ,  I attended the Ballston Spa School Districts 2015 Penny Harvest Awards Ceremony to accept a check from the Ballston Spa Middle School. We are honored and grateful to have been chosen as one of the 10 local organizations to receive a grant.

The Penny Harvest is an annual community service project lead by students and their Harvest Leaders.  Each fall student leaders rally their entire school to collect pennies.  Throughout the winter month’s student leaders and roundtable members research community needs, interview and visit organizations and work together to make grant decisions.  In the spring, students plan an awards ceremony and present grants based on the amount they have harvested (raised).  Student representatives from each of the schools provide an overview of the chosen charities.  The Penny Harvest is an impressive service project that provides students leadership opportunities all while giving back to the local community.  The 2014-2105 Harvest raised $9,990 which is amazing considering its done one penny at a time!!

Thank you to the students at Ballston Spa  Middle School for recognizing the work we do at Saratoga Center for the Family and choosing us as one of
their grant recipients.



Just Put Down the Phone!!

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

Just Put Down The Phone. Really, I Mean It. Put It Down.

By: Tracy M. Gilbert, ATR, LMHC

You can’t be serious Tracy.

Oh yes, I am.

I love my iPhone. I love my iPad. They’re fun. They’re handy. I’m in touch with friends. I can take photos. I can do all sorts of things. Information at my fingertips and all that.

But I also hate my iPhone and my iPad. Really. I do.

Why is this? Because they’re easy. Waaaaaay too easy to stop what I’m doing and look something up, way too easy to stop and text a friend, way too easy to watch a video, etc.  Waaaaay too easy to hear the little ding and wonder who wants to tell me something crucially important (turns out it was a smiley face

Am I anti-technology? Nope. Do I want my kiddo to know how to use computers and other platforms? Yes. Do I want to turn back time to a pre-cell phone era? Nope.

What I do want is for parents and aunt and uncles and cousins and everyone on the planet to have more direct contact with each other. I do want parents to get up off their duff and play with their kids. I do want kids to be able to go to dinner and not need a device at the table. I do want kids who can tolerate a 10 minute car ride without a movie. I do want kids that can give good answers, make eye contact, and sit still for 5 minutes when an adult asks them a question. And I do want kids on less ADHD medication.

So, all you parents out there, please, I’m begging you: set some limits on the phone and other devices. A few of my favorites include:

  • When kids get home from school, set a routine that does not include screen time. Snack, homework, playing outside or on a board game, or doing a play, or building with blocks, or reading, or coloring, or dancing.
  • Join them. No phones allowed. No checking on that game you’re addicted to or Facebook, or texting your friend the video of the cute thing your kid just did. Get in there and be in the action instead of watching it.
  • After you’ve snacked, finished homework, and played and you feel it’s cruel and unusual punishment to not let your kids be on the iPad, etc., offer them 30 minutes tops of screen time (television, video games, phone, movies, etc.) while you make dinner.
  • Monitor what your child is watching or playing to make sure it’s age-appropriate and something you approve of them watching.
  • Eat dinner. Hopefully together as a family.
  • No phones, television etc. at the dinner table.
  • Everyone helps clean-up.
  • Kids have bath time, stories, tucked in to bed, etc.  NO screen time.
  • Then once they’re asleep you can enjoy a treat of playing your game, texting your friend about how cute your daughter looked in her tutu, or updating your status about how hilarious your kids are.

Congratulations. You cut down on your screen time. You played with your kiddos. You got some sunshine. And, as a result, both you and your kids have learned ways to manage without a device attached to their hand for long stretches of time. Try this for 2 weeks. What differences do you notice? What’s more fun? How much more patience do you have? What’s new?

A little bit of work goes a long way.

Good luck!

Mother’s Day

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  For many individuals Mother’s Day is a difficult day for them.  It may be because your Mom is no longer in your life or it may be that you are a Mother and you have experienced the death of a child. I can relate to those individuals. When I was 14 years old my Mother died from breast cancer. For many years I disliked Mother’s Day.  Walking past the cards in the store or going out to a restaurant on that day and seeing the Mom’s being celebrated with their children was always hard because it made me long for my Mom.  This holiday will always be a reminder to me of my Mom and all of the great memories I have of her.  Over the years I have struggled with my grief, but now I choose to focus on the good times and not focus on the painful, sad memories of her death. This change in thinking has really helped me move towards healing. I will always miss my Mom and wish that she was with me during important times in my life, but I know she is always with me in my heart and in my memories.  For all of you that struggle with Mother’s Day here are some tips to help you cope with this day

  1. Create your own memorial. Whether it involves planting, writing, building or painting, be creative and put your energy into doing something in memory of your Mother or child.
  2. Plant a flower or tree that will remind you of them.  Every year when that flower or tree blooms it will be a great reminder of your love.
  3. Do something positive in memory of your mother or child. Choose an activity that will connect you to them.
  4. Write a letter to your Mom or child and say the things that you wish you had said to them.
  5. Seek out others who are helpful and supportive. Do not feel that you need to do this alone.
  6. Take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to begin healing. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.

What Do We Need? Structure! When Do We Need it? Now!

Posted in General by SaratogaCFF on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 10:11 am

What Do We Need? Structure! When Do We Need It? Now!

Many parents come in to Saratoga Center for the Family wanting to know how they can help address their children’s challenging behavior. The simplest answer is: Structure. This is not the easiest answer but it’s the surest way to get results.

Think of it this way: Every time you go to the grocery store you grab a cart, walk around shopping for food, go to the check-out, pay the cashier, and walk out with your groceries. It’s familiar and you know what to expect. The store might be out of the bread you like or there might be a sale on apples, but overall it’s familiar and the same experience every time.

But what would happen if every time you went to the grocery store it was different? Like you walked in the door and the produce had moved? Or if you got a parking ticket or your car towed? Or some weeks you could pay with cash and other weeks you had to pay with tokens? You’d have no idea what to expect. And every grocery trip would be anxiety-provoking. You’d probably dread going and maybe stop going all-together.

So, how does this apply to home life? Simple. The more of a routine and structure a parent or caregiver can put into the home the more safe, comfortable, and happy the family members will be. No one will dread coming home, there will be less wild behavior (what I like to call “zooey-kablooie behavior”), and any change in the routine will seem like a treat.

What could this look like? Here’s an example:

Come home from school
Play outside or with toys/games or watch TV/play videogames for no more than 30 minutes
Parent makes dinner
Dinner together
Play or read together if time after dinner (NO screen time before bed*)
Bedtime – same time every night
Bedtime routine: Bath, jammies, brush teeth, bathroom, good night story, kiss/hug goodnight, lights out
*Many studies have shown that any screen time (computer, TV, video games, movies, time on the iPad/iPhone, etc…) can have significant negative effects on sleep. The best plan is NO screen time for the two hours before bedtime.

What is to be gained by following a routine? The kids AND adults know what is going to happen each afternoon/evening. Everyone feels more relaxed. Things are predictable. What will be hard? Sticking to it. If you can do this for two weeks straight it will be much easier to follow, everyone will be working on it together, and it will become the new normal.