DA Early Honors Team of Professionals Who Respond and Help Victims of Child Abuse  

April 6, 2023

For Immediate Release

Contact: Scott J. Croteau (508) 368-7228 or (774) 418-5706



WORCESTER – Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. today recognized a team of professionals who are specifically trained to support, aid and care for victims of child abuse and their families in the 60 cities and towns within Worcester County.

The Multidisciplinary Team which includes members of the Worcester County District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit and nationally-accredited Children’s Advocacy Center, the Child Protection Program at UMass Memorial Medical Center, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, police from across Worcester County and Seven Hills Behavioral Health were presented with the District Attorney’s Team Excellence and Merit – TEAM Award – for their unwavering work in serving the children of Worcester County and their families.

The group is receiving this award in April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“These dedicated and passionate experts collectively work to be an advocate, a voice for our most precious and vulnerable population,” Mr. Early said. “Victims of child abuse and trauma, along with their families, reach out to be heard in the most difficult times. This group of professionals are here to help, offering a listening ear and a range of services to seek justice and start the healing journey.”

The Multidisciplinary Team works in tandem to make sure victims and their families are given the help and services they need while assessing the course of any investigation, ranging from mental and health evaluation and treatment to social service needs.

“Every person who is a member of the team is exceptional in their own discipline,” said Courtney Sans, Chief of the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit for the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office. “The members all came to the team through different paths, but we all share the same unified goal of helping kids.”

The creation of Children Advocacy Centers helped agencies step out of their silos to work cohesively to help victims and survivors of child abuse.

“When a child falls into a horrible part of life, the team is here to catch them,” said Tracy DeFusco, Director of the Worcester County Child Advocacy Center. “We’re supposed to be here to catch them and help children and their families through it.”

“We do the work because we genuinely care. You wouldn’t be in this field or do this work if you didn’t have compassion for others,” said Jennifer Altomare, a Forensic Interviewer and Case Coordinator for the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office. “Our job here is to help children and families through a traumatic process, a traumatic time and make it as easy as possible.”

The TEAM Award was created by Mr. Early in 2019 to recognize public safety employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Contact the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office at (508) 755-8601 to nominate someone for this award.

The award recipients are:

The Child Protection Program at UMass:             North Central Area Office:

Sasha Svendsen, MD                                                  Melissa Huggins, DCF

Peter Sell, DO                                                             Jillian Thatcher, DCF

Lorna Kogon, CPNP-PC                                            Fitchburg Police Det. Jeff Hurley

Kara Thompson, CPNP-PC

Mary Harris, LICSW, RPT-S

Molly Hanson, LCSW

Michelle Abdelnour, LSW

South Central Area Office:                                     Worcester West Area Office:

Emily Kline, DCF                                                       Suzanne Cardona, DCF

Frances Cochran, DCF                                               Charlene Tebo, DCF

Southbridge Police Det. Lt. Carlos Dingui                 Worcester Police Det. Sgt. Justin Bennes

Northbridge Police Det. Sgt. Richard Gorman

Worcester East Area Office:                                    Seven Hills Behavioral Health:

Lynne Norcross, DCF                                                 Elizabeth Cheyne
Abigayl Garcia, DCF
Shrewsbury Police Det. Brian Thibodeau
Grafton Police Det. Daniel Wenc

Worcester County District Attorney Child Abuse Unit:

Courtney Sans, Mark McShera, Nathan Morse, Matthew Corey, Katie Becker, Melissa Baima,
Tracy DeFusco, Jennifer Altomare, Gina Melendez, Chelsea Mahoney, Nakeida Bethel-Smith, Andrea Boutiette, Rachel Murphy, Nikole Crank, Kaleigh Lawton

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