Black Family and Child Services of Arizona

Key Staff
Mary Magalene Black

Mary Magalene Black

President and Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Black is the chief executive officer and founder of Black Family and Child Services of Arizona, one of the most respected nonprofit child welfare and behavioral health agencies in the state.

BFCS has served tens of thousands of children, families and adults of all ethnic groups in the greater Phoenix area since she first opened the community-based agency in 1984.

The agency has supervised placement of thousands of children into foster homes and placed hundreds of children into adoptive homes.

Today, BFCS operates from its 27,000 square-foot Family Service Center in South Phoenix. One of Mary's many noteworthy accomplishments was the acquisition of this location in 1994.

At the time, the neighborhood was looking at a deteriorating building in a former strip shopping center. But when Mary looked at it, she saw its potential. With the help of her board – and a few angels – she was able to rally support from local merchants, businesses and construction companies to donate all of the labor and supplies to convert an eyesore into a rejuvenated, vibrant community resource center.

In 1995, BFCS was granted a license to open one of the first 25 charter schools in Arizona – and the Teen Choice Leadership Academy Charter School ran successfully from her location for the next 10 years, serving up to 340 students per year in grades K through 12.

Currently, Mary oversees the work of more than 70 employees. During some years, the staff has been as large as 100 or more. And it all started with just her, a group of three employees and a vision for improving the lives of underserved children and families.

Her early work experience began in the late 1970s as a foster care worker with the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), where she started the state's first movement to find black foster and adoptive homes for black children. This effort helped to raise awareness about the need for these services in the black community, and further mobilized DES to focus and invest in all children of color.

Several years later, Mary followed her heart and founded Black Family and Child Service of Arizona with a goal of improving as many lives as possible.

And her vision continues. In 2018, the agency became one of the first non-profit behavioral health agencies in Arizona to provide telepsychiatry services for children.

In the coming years, watch for Black Family and Child Services to incorporate more primary medical services into its continuum of care, and Ms. Black will always continue to be on the leading edge of developing and delivering services tailored to the needs and the population of Phoenix and the entire Valley.

She has received a number of prestigious national, regional and local awards. Ms. Black has been featured on page one of the Wall Street Journal and she was recognized as one of Arizona's 48 Most Intriguing Women in conjunction with the state's centennial celebration. She has been featured as one of the most influential women in Arizona by PHOENIX magazine and was recognized for her leadership and service by the Phoenix Suns on Martin Luther King Day in 2014.

A native of Louisiana and graduate of Grambling State University, she serves on a variety of community boards and continues to be a tireless advocate and catalyst for helping children and families to have an opportunity to live better lives.

Lavarez Harris, EdD

Clinical Manager

Dr. Harris was named Clinical Director in 2016. She had managed the BFCS Therapeutic Foster Care and Foster Care programs since 2011.

Her professional experience includes 16 years in the child welfare system at the Department of Children and Family Services in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties in California, and in non-profit agencies Phoenix. Throughout her career, she has provided clinical and behavioral supervision for family reunification, adoption, recruitment, and parent aide, staff and foster parent training.

Dr. Harris continues to maintain Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) licensure and a Mediation Certification in the State of California. Dr. Harris attended California State University at Northridge where she earned a master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Education in Clinical Psychology in 2007.

Marguerite Dickey, PhD

Senior Clinical Consultant

A Board licensed psychologist with over 30 years experience in behavioral health and child welfare fields, Dr. Dickey provides professional direction and guidance to agency staff and management regarding a wide range of behavioral health services. She also works to strengthen and improve the community-based model of service delivery in order to meet the needs of multicultural consumers and community.

Dr. Dickey has been with Black Family and Child Services since its inception in 1984, and has had a significant role in planning and implementation of clinical programs and services, incorporating evidence based practices into existing service delivery procedures, and in strategic planning for meeting the needs of a multicultural consumer population and community. Dr. Dickey is an active participant in ensuring that all services provided incorporate standards and practices that ensure cultural competence at all levels of service provision.

For more than 15 years, Dr. Dickey provided psychological services and consultation to children and families involved with Child Protective Services (now the Department of Child Safety). She was selected by the Department of Economic Security to co-chair a committee to examine the issue of the over-representation of African American children in foster care and provide the Department with recommendations to correct and improve that situation.

Prior to joining Black Family and Child Services, Dr. Dickey provided psychological consultation to Head Start. She was Director of Child and Family Services at Phoenix South Community Mental Health Center and later was a consultant to that agency for more than 10 years.

Tezerash Bekele

Director of Quality and Performance Improvement

Tezerash is responsible for leading the Quality Management and Performance Improvement Department and ensuring that the quality of care and services provided to behavioral service recipients meet the highest standards.

She joined BFCS in 2007. Prior to that, she had worked for the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services implementing a system of continuous quality management and performance improvement initiatives and projects.

She also has extensive experience in implementing projects and programs that have made a difference in the lives of disadvantaged communities and also alleviated social and economic problems while working for major international organizations abroad, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Save the Children USA.

She has a master's degree in international development and social change from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts with emphasis on participatory approach and is passionate about improving the lives of children, adults and families in all aspects of life.

Oscar Soto, BBA

Chief Financial Officer

Oscar is Chief Financial Officer for the agency and is responsible for the financial reporting function of Black Family and Child Services.

In his 30-year career in government and non-profit accounting, he previously worked for several community social services agencies and went on to become the Budget Analyst for the largest school construction project in the nation in San Diego. Oscar began his career in accounting with the County of El Paso, Texas where he rose to the rank of Senior Investment Analyst after working there for 12 years.

A graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso, where he received a BBA in Business Administration, Oscar lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and two children.

Alyssa K. Foote

Case Management Manager

Alyssa is responsible for leading the Case Management department and ensuring that the families we serve are getting the best resources and services possible. She was named Case Management Manager in 2016, after working with the BFCS Therapeutic Foster Care and Foster Care programs since 2013. Her professional experience includes working for Southwest Human Development in its Early Head Start Program for five years. She has a Master's degree in Executive Leadership and Counseling from Liberty University and is passionate about helping to improve lives of children and their families.

Mary Jessica Herro, L.P.C.

Clinical Director

Mary oversees all clinical services provided by BFCS and is responsible for managing the clinical service providers at the agency. She joined BFCS in 2018 with more than 24 years' experience as a mental health professional, developing programs and working with human service agencies and clients at all levels. Her professional experience includes leadership and counseling roles in Phoenix at Terros Health, Jewish Family and Children's Services, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, the Youth Development Institute and the Arizona's Children Association. She earned a Master's of Education in Counseling degree from Northern Arizona University and is currently working on a doctoral degree with an emphasis on counseling, education and administration.

Ginger Harris

Right Track After School Program Coordinator

Ginger has nearly two decades of experience in elementary school program management, which enables her to lead programs where student success and well-being are the top priorities. She oversees program and curriculum development for the BFCS Right Track After School Program. Ginger has worked in several management and teaching roles for the Cartwright Elementary School District in Phoenix. She is a graduate of Arizona State University, having earned a Master of Arts degree in Reading.

Judith Johnson, MSN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC

Psychiatric Nurse

Judith is a consulting psychiatric nurse with more than 30 years' experience, providing crisis intervention, psychiatric evaluation and medical management services to children, teens and adults at BFCS. She has worked for the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic in Prescott, Arizona and in the Greater Phoenix area for FasPsych, Southwest Behavioral Health Services, the Marc Center, and Phoenix Indian Medical Center. She holds a variety of advanced degrees, including a PMHNP Post Master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Master's degrees from Drake University.