Our Staff


Jim Horan

Chief Executive Officer

Jim has served as Executive Director (now CEO) of CAHS since 2001. Under Jim's leadership, CAHS refocused its advocacy, research, and programs under the umbrella of “family economic success,” while continuing its long-standing commitment to improving access to quality early care and education, health and nutrition, and other basic needs. CAHS has bolstered its advocacy efforts at the State Capitol and Washington, built strong coalitions among fellow advocates and community-based organizations, and fostered best practices that move low-income children and families toward economic self-sufficiency.
Before coming to CAHS, Jim was Chief Administrative Officer, Executive Assistant to the Mayor, and lobbyist for the City of New Haven. After receiving Juris Doctor and Master of Planning degrees from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, he worked as an attorney at Robinson & Cole in Hartford and as the Associate Director of the Connecticut Housing Coalition.

Robert Blakey

Chief Financial Officer

Rob came to CAHS in 2013 and became the Chief Financial Officer in 2015.  As the CFO, he has responsibility for upholding strong financial management and accountability, while providing timely, accurate, and reliable financial information and enhancing internal control.  Rob also oversees our fiscal sponsorships and human resources.  Prior to joining CAHS, he worked in the accounting department of the Friendship Service Center of New Britain and has experience with accounting for small businesses.  Rob earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Connecticut in 2006, as well as a Master of Arts in Economics from American University in 2007.  Additionally, he will complete a Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Connecticut in 2018.

Sheryl Horowitz

Chief Research and Evaluation Officer

Sheryl came to CAHS in 2010 with the goal of implementing Results Based Accountability evaluation within the family of programs administered and operated by CAHS. Sheryl has a background in anthropology and has worked in community based organizations and non-profits doing research and evaluation on programs to improve the health and quality of life of low income and marginalized populations. Most recently, Sheryl worked with the Institute for Medical Quality in California to assess an educational mandate to train physicians to communicate effectively with patients from diverse backgrounds. Sheryl received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and completed post-doctoral work at UC Berkeley in Demography and at Stanford University in Population Ecology.


Elizabeth Fraser

Policy Manager

Elizabeth W. Fraser is a Policy Manager at Connecticut Association for Human Services. Elizabeth works with a wide variety of social service agencies, task forces and legislative officials to advocate for legislative change, sources of funding and the building of self-sustaining and accountable social development programs. Elizabeth has been in this role for 3 years. Prior to CAHS, Elizabeth was the Director of the Middletown Even Start Program. Prior to Middletown Even Start, Elizabeth has spend 25 years in both the public and private sector in the field of Early Childhood. Elizabeth holds a Master’s in Education Degree from Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education and Human Growth and Development from Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.  She serves on the Connecticut Two Generation Interagency Council, both the Early Childhood Alliance Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and the Connecticut Parent Power Steering Committee.


Joel Rivera

Program Director

Joel Rivera is the new Program Director at CAHS and comes to us with the goal of addressing systemic poverty, focusing on systems change, organizational behavior, and the creation of new programs.  He started his career in workforce development in 1998 in New York City, (Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn), where he worked in Welfare to Work programs with economically disadvantaged communities helping them to achieve self-sufficiency.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Bradford College in 1998, as well as a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership from Mercy College in 2004.  Most recently, Joel worked for the State Department of Rehabilitation Services.  He graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2009 with a Master of Science in Professional Counseling.  He is a Licensed Professional Counselor with CT Department of Public Health and a Nationally Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.



Denise Smith

Connecticut Money School Program Manager

Denise Smith is a Program Manager and Financial Coach who came to CAHS because of her passion for empowering individuals and families  through education and CAHS’ focus on the  “Family Economic Success” (FES)  model.  Denise has over 20 years as a trainer/facilitator and  community advocate in the areas of financial services, health equity, family economic success, and education through a holistic approach to improving lives.  She has developed and facilitated an array of financial capability workshops statewide. She previously served as the coordinator of the CT Money School and has also worked in collaboration with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Social Services, CT Works, CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Bridges Out of Property and many other statewide agencies and organizations.   Denise previously worked as a licensed Financial Representative for Prudential and ING, with a focus on retirement planning, and still holds multiple  insurance  licenses.  She is a certified  trainer  through  AHIMA.   She has served as a Money Coach and workshop facilitator at the “YWCA Money Conference for Women”.


Emmanuel Adero

Policy Analyst

Emmanuel Adero joined CAHS in 2016, and brings with him a background in research on race, the family, gender, and social and economic inequality. He received Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his Doctoral Dissertation prospectus explored the meanings of fatherhood and manhood across race and class. His other areas of research included the intersections of public policy and reproductive justice, and he also worked with the University of Hartford’s Center for Social Research to examine the levels of involvement among fathers on the margins. Aside from his research, he also served as a lecturer throughout his time at UMass, teaching courses in race, gender, and urban sociology.

Barbara Steadman

Volunteer Services Coordinator

Barbara has been with CAHS since January, 2014.  She brings with her over 20 years experience from Cigma Corporation where she worked coordinating volunteer programs, including tutoring programs for elementary school children, walkathons for the March of Dimes and Juvenile Diabetes, and the United Way’s Day of Caring.  Currently she coordinates workshops for the Connecticut Money School, a program of CAHS.  She is responsible for recruiting and training volunteers from all areas of the state in facilitating financial education workshops for low to moderate income people, as well as working with local agencies, libraries, and community centers interested in scheduling workshops.  In addition to her role at CAHS, Barbara is a professional photographer who runs a small business with her husband in Plainville, CT.  She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism (Advertising/Public Relations) from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

L. Vanessa Gruden


Vanessa joined CAHS in August 2016. She began her career in the corporate world but for the past 25 years has worked with nonprofits. Her experience as a bookkeeper and office administrator spans organizations such as the Connecticut Housing Coalition, the Hartford Food System, Connecticut Nonprofits, and the Northeast Citizen Action Resource Center. Vanessa is also executive director of her own small non-profit animal shelter and was a featured writer for Fancy Publications for over 15 years. Vanessa holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Trinity Center for Neighborhoods.


Gloria Caesar

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program Coordinator

Gloria has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT. Gloria has 20-plus years’ experience in the corporate world in database marketing. Prior to coming to CAHS, Gloria had five years of experience working with non-profit organizations, including LifeBridge in Bridgeport. In this role, Gloria organized and delivered curriculum(s) and facilitated workshops on skills development. These workshops focused on “at risk youth”, the TANF population, and organizations seeking to advance their employees through specialized training. Gloria also served as LifeBridge’s VITA site coordinator, including its asset-building efforts with clients. Gloria looks forward to working with CAHS’s current and future partners to “engage, equip and empower all families in Connecticut to build a secure future”.


Hugh McCalla

Youth Money School VISTA

Hugh McCalla is a recent college graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA with a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science. McCalla has served on several student organizational boards such as the NAACP, Difficult Dialogues, and other associations. He has coordinated projects around financial literacy and has interned for the honorable Congressman John Lewis. Currently, he is serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with CT Association for Human Services as the new Youth Money School Coordinator.

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