By Todd Cohen
RALEIGH, N.C. — After 22 years working for nonprofit, government and for-profit agencies delivering mental-health services, Donna Marie Albertone formed a nonprofit to broker partnerships among the three sectors and “create a better system for those with severe and mental illness.”
Just two years later, however, she was called to another mission she says she could not refuse.
Facing hundreds of allegations of child abuse for incidents dating to the 1950s, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese hired Albertone “to ensure that sexual abuse of minors does not happen again.”
Over the past three-and-a-half years, using initiatives she helped develop, the diocese has trained over 110,000 volunteers who “now have the information to protect kids and know they have to communicate their concerns,” she says.
That effort also has led to her new job as CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.
Albertone, who will start working for the agency part-time in May and full-time in June, aims to build on its 16-year record on behalf of children throughout the state.
“My role is to ensure this organization grows and thrives,” she says.
Using research-based tools and strategies, Prevent Child Abuse works to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect, trains people to identify and prevent abuse and neglect, and provides research and advocacy on the issue.
In the year ended last June 30, 111,500 children were reported as abused or neglected in North Carolina.
To better address that problem, Prevent Child Abuse will be looking for ways to “identify and actualize new business opportunities,” Albertone says.
A key strategy will be to diversify funding sources for the organization, which depends on grants to cover two-thirds of its annual budget of nearly $1.15 million.
Albertone wants to build the agency into a “$10 million organization” through aggressive efforts to secure major gifts and planned gifts, and to market its prevention training throughout the U.S.
“The first step,” she says, “is working very closely with the board of directors to give them all the tools they need for successful governance and securing the resources to continue the mission of this organization.”
Albertone’s approach to her new job builds on her past jobs working on drug-and-alcohol-prevention education for adolescents, directing community-based outpatient mental-health services for the state of Ohio, overseeing operations at a for-profit behavioral-health system, and founding a nonprofit.
At the Cleveland diocese, she says, her work was rooted in the belief that “if we were going to prevent child sexual abuse from every occurring again, we had to make sure as a diocese that every person who has contact with a minor understands the warning signs of a perpetrator.”
Efforts to prevent child abuse cannot rely on the child or caregiver, Albertone says, but must depend on “third-party” individuals like volunteers and officials in schools and social-service agencies.
In addition to the urgent need to “deal with abuse when it happens,” she says, prevention efforts must focus on the causes of child abuse and neglect.
“When you understand and acknowledge those underlying systemic issues, and that becomes knowing the person’s story,” she says, “there are interventions and tools the person can benefit from and be given to prevent child abuse and maltreatment.”