Most employees come into a program that is already delivering services. Laura Tapia has a knack for starting new programs, which she has been doing since joining Catholic Charities in 2000. Her tenure makes Laura one of our longest serving employees.
Laura’s first role at Catholic Charities was coordinating a job training program for immigrants who wanted to work in early childhood education, a partnership with Contra Costa College and West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Adult Education program.
After the pilot ended in 2005, Laura joined a new program that sought to prevent unnecessary removal of children from homes, a novel idea in the early 2000s.
“Research was just coming out at the time that removing kids from the family could really traumatize children and that they would suffer PTSD because their brains were still developing,” recalls Laura.
The job was stressful and, at times, dangerous such as when Laura had to respond to a client who had been tracked down and sexually assaulted by her abuser in her new home on Thanksgiving. After the attack, the woman tried calling police, but could not communicate due to a language barrier. Her next call was to Laura, who helped the woman make a report, seek medical care and obtain an emergency protective order, all while dealing with personal threats from her client’s abuser. Laura also referred the client to Catholic Charities immigration legal services team, which helped her apply for a special visa for victims of crime who cooperate with police.
Today, the woman is a U.S. citizen.
Laura went back to school at Cal State East Bay, receiving a master’s degree in social work in 2016. Today Laura lends her experience across several services: in Family Support Services, where she handles intense domestic violence cases, and in Crisis Response Support Network, where she provides grief therapy to families who have lost loved ones to violence.
In her remaining time, Laura is preparing to launch (surprise!) another service, a support group for Latino parents.
“The class will explore the reasons that people leave home (countries), what they experience during their journey and when they arrive here can all be very traumatic,” she says. The groups will meet in person over ten sessions during which Laura will present on parenting, immigration trauma and domestic violence.
“I truly believe that Catholic Charities provides a platform that allows me to do the work that is my mission in life, which is to empower families and provide resources for them so that they can better themselves,” says Laura.