Venture Philanthropy Partners: Investing in Social Change.


Center for Multicultural Human Services


A familiar voice in an unfamiliar land.

Imagine the frustration of parents who do not speak English, trying to get help for a child who is having difficulties in her new American school. Or the isolation of a child dealing with the emotional and physical scars of torture they endured before escaping his war-torn country. Imagine their relief when they find help and reassurance from a counselor or social worker who speaks their language.

Urdu, Vietnamese, Dari, Japanese, Kurdish, Italian, German.. The Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS) is a familiar voice in an unfamiliar land because it is able to provide a range of mental health, social, and educational services to immigrants and refugees in more than 30 languages. The diversity and dedication of the staff is testament to this organization's passion for providing comprehensive, culturally sensitive services to ethnically rich populations, and to sharing its experiences with other service providers.

CMHS Website

Investment Fact Sheet

Center for Multicultural Human Services
701 West Broad Street, Suite 305
Falls Church, VA 22046

Founded in 1992

Since the completion of the VPP investment, CMHS has merged with Northern Virginia Family Services and now operates as a division of their services.
Please visit their website for more information:

Mission and History
The mission of the Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS) is to help people from ethnically diverse backgrounds succeed by providing comprehensive, culturally sensitive mental health services and by conducting research and training to make such services more widely available.

CMHS was founded in 1992 by Dr. Dennis Hunt to respond to the social and mental health needs of the growing immigrant and refugee population in the National Capital Region. This organization grew out of Hunt’s work in the 1980s finding foster placement for unaccompanied Vietnamese minors through Catholic Charities in Richmond, VA. Over the years, CMHS has evolved into a multi-dimensional service provider responding to the needs of the growing immigrant and refugee community in the region. The organization, whose professional staff and volunteers speak more than 30 languages, also trains local, national, and international human service professionals to provide culturally appropriate services to people in need.

CMHS is a nonprofit organization staffed by multi-ethnic, multilingual social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, education specialists, art therapists, and graduate interns from local universities.

CMHS offers a broad range of mental health, social, educational, health, and language services geared to the unique values and characteristics of individuals and families from diverse cultures. They help people understand and navigate American culture and organizations so they can become self-sufficient. The CMHS approach is holistic, community, and family-centered, with a special focus on children and at-risk youth.

The majority of CMHS's work is concentrated in preventive services, including programs for at-risk youth, parenting skills, anger management classes, and psychiatric services for children and adults. CMHS has developed extensive experience and expertise in treating people of all ages who are dealing with traumatic stress resulting from surviving war in their homelands. In addition, CMHS helps people navigate a new environment through literacy, English, and life and job skills training, as well as transportation, interpreting, and emergency shelter services.

For over 10 years, CMHS has offered clinical training programs for emerging professionals in psychology, social work, and counseling. Their training programs are model programs for building the cultural competence of the U.S. mental health workforce in order to increase access to quality mental health care for critically underserved, culturally, and linguistically diverse population.


Since the completion of the VPP investment, CMHS has merged with Northern Virginia Family Services and now operates as a division of their services. Please visit their website for more information:

Investment Summary

Please note: this Investment Summary represents VPP's perspective at the time of the investment agreement, September, 2002.

In September, 2002, Venture Philanthropy Partners entered a multi-year investment partnership with the Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS), a dynamic mental health and social service organization that is serving thousands of refugee and immigrant families in Northern Virginia by helping them become full participants in American life. VPP will provide up to $2,750,000 in total funding over a four-year period and provide significant non-financial support to augment this funding, bringing VPP’s total funding for CMHS to $3,005,000 (VPP provided $255,000 to CMHS for comprehensive planning in 2002). The non-financial support will include strategic management assistance; the leverage of VPP’s investors, board, advisors, and other contacts; and direct engagement in initiatives such as the development of information systems. This funding is contingent upon CMHS’s achievement of agreed-upon milestones (outcomes, outputs, and organizational accomplishments) and the continued validity of the key assumptions upon which this partnership has been based.

The VPP investment partnership will help CMHS achieve its vision to be recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as a leader in helping at-risk children and families from low-income and diverse cultural backgrounds overcome the obstacles that prevent them from achieving healthy functioning. CMHS hopes to expand its services to benefit significantly more children and families; refine its model for services to at-risk children from multicultural backgrounds to achieve greater effectiveness and impact; and provide consultation and training services to help to adapt and replicate its model regionally, nationally, and internationally. More specifically, the CMHS vision for 2007 includes:

  • Increasing the number of children receiving extended developmental services from a current 785 children annually in Northern Virginia to 2,500 children annually throughout the National Capital Region, including establishing new branch offices in Montgomery County, MD; Washington, DC; and Herndon VA. Without VPP's support, the expected growth would likely be approximately 1,300 children and only one branch office.

  • Deepening the level of services received by children to ensure that larger numbers transition from “at-risk” levels to “thriving” instead of movement only to “vulnerable” or “stable” status. This will involve developing outcome measures for all services provided and the ability to produce research data documenting intervention/treatment effectiveness.

  • Providing consultation and training to professionals in the US and abroad on the CMHS model of services for at-risk children from multicultural backgrounds, including development of well-defined, replicable therapeutic interventions to help children traumatized by displacement, war, or abuse achieve their full potential. This would serve not only as a revenue-generating activity, but also as a way to fill the gap regionally for children unable to receive direct services from CMHS.

In summary form, CMHS's milestones for the first 18-month period of its VPP partnership are:

  • Outcomes: Produce a significant, measurable improvement in the lives of 1,650 children.

  • Outputs: Serve a total of 10,350 individuals in the DC region and train 900 individuals to provide more effective services to culturally diverse children and families.

  • Organizational Accomplishments: Strengthen management, board, outcomes assessment, fund development, and information systems.


  1. Pressure point for change: The Washington metro area has become one of the top destinations for immigrants to the US. The diversity of the immigrants in the area is the greatest in the nation. The majority of this flow has been to the suburbs, with more than two-thirds of the population growth (750,000 people) in the last 20 years in Northern Virginia alone attributed to immigrants and their offspring. The emotional and environmental problems many of these children face and their resulting inability to succeed have created an environmental pressure point for change. Culturally appropriate services to low-income children and families that represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds and cultures are limited in the region. CMHS fills a critical gap by providing services to a large number of low-income, cultural minority populations and by specializing in mental health and developmental work with these children and families.

  2. Leadership, management, and staff: CMHS has the leadership and staff to take the organization to the next level. The executive director, Dennis Hunt, built the organization from six employees with a $200,000 budget to its current size. His leadership and vision have drawn an outstanding group of professionals, highly regarded in the community. The members of the first-class multicultural staff at CMHS speak 30 languages and over half have advanced graduate degrees, many in clinical and child psychology. Thoughtfulness, dedication, and adaptability characterize the leadership team and staff. They have demonstrated performance in their work and have the organizational foundation to build a stronger, more sustainable organization.

  3. Demonstrated performance and proven model: Administrators from the schools in which CMHS provides services describe CMHS staff’s unique ability to deal with the difficult issues faced by children who experience the trauma of displacement, war, or gang violence. In the words of one, having CMHS to help students work through these issues helps teachers to focus on instruction and children on learning. While children in the school-based program and in the Child and Adolescent Clinical Program receive pre- and post-tests tracking a child’s progress, CMHS has not had the resources to develop an evaluation system to rigorously demonstrate its model. An indirect measure of its performance is the reputation it has earned in the community for its services. In fiscal year 2000/2001 it was voted Outstanding Nonprofit of the Year by Leadership Fairfax, voted Outstanding Volunteer Program of the Year by Volunteer Fairfax, featured by Washingtonian magazine as one of 16 agencies that use donated funds well, and recognized for outstanding services to the community by AYUDA in Washington, DC.

  4. Receptivity: The CMHS leadership exhibits openness to and eagerness for the VPP high-engagement approach, recognizing a strong need for organizational capacity development and an interest in business management practices. The newly appointed board chair brings a business background to the organization. It appears CMHS would benefit from and leverage a partnership with VPP.

  5. Reputation and position in community: CMHS is recognized in the community as uniquely positioned to help at-risk multicultural children overcome obstacles that prevent them from developing their full potential. It is a trusted agent within the community it serves. In a recent series of testimonials, representatives from a range of agencies dealing with immigrants or mental health issues all consistently praised the outstanding services provided by CMHS for children from low-income, multicultural backgrounds.

VPP’s funding and non-financial support is aimed at helping CMHS strengthen its organizational capacity, allowing CMHS to increase its scale and improve outcomes for the clients it serves. Specific areas of focus include:


  • CMHS will put in place the organizational leadership to effectively execute its mission and vision.

  • CMHS will create a board that is recognized as highly effective by its peer organizations and by effectiveness-awards groups.

  • CMHS will put in place the information systems and outcomes measurement processes to ensure that its services are of high quality.

  • Through management and technology improvements, CMHS will become a model of nonprofit cost-effectiveness, allowing it to utilize a high percentage of its revenues for client services.

  • CMHS will put in place the funds-development capability and cash reserves to ensure its long-term sustainability.

  • The excellence and distinctiveness of the work done at CMHS will become widely recognized, allowing the agency to attract the funds needed to maintain and expand its service capacity.

Accomplishing these infrastructure-improvement goals will permit CMHS to:

  • Produce replicable, evidence-based interventions demonstrating a significant, measurable improvement in the lives of 6,800 children.

  • Provide access to critically needed, culturally appropriate mental health, educational, and social services to more than 28,000 children and adults in the metropolitan Washington area.

  • Train more than 4,500 individuals to apply evidence-based, culturally appropriate intervention strategies to more effectively serve vulnerable, ethnically diverse children and families.

  • Implement an outcomes measurement system to monitor and improve the effectiveness of the interventions.


  • CMHS strives to become one of the most prestigious and sought-after placements for graduate student interns and externs around the country.

  • CMHS strives to be recognized for playing a major role in solidifying the reputation of the Greater Washington region as a model multicultural community.

The initial planning phase began in March 2002, with the formal planning effort lasting from March 8, 2002 to June 18, 2002. McKinsey & Co. led the effort in conjunction with a planning team made up of CMHS board members, CMHS staff, and two VPP representatives. A staff working group helped provide information for the effort. In the planning phase, CMHS:

  • Reviewed its current internal and external situation;

  • Revisited its mission, set aspirations, and defined strategy;

  • Identified priority initiatives and resources required; and

  • Developed an implementation plan and communicated findings.

The planning effort included planning-team meetings, board reviews, interviews, site visits, and focus groups and entailed hundreds of hours of collective working time. The planning team enthusiastically embraced the planning effort, discussed and resolved very difficult issues, and now CMHS Executive Director Dennis Hunt and the entire CHMS team “own” the plan. The full board has participated in the planning effort and supports the plan wholeheartedly and understands the intensity of effort it will take to accomplish the ambitious goals it has set.


The Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) is a stronger and more effective organization than it was in 2001. CFNC continues to be a leader in addressing early childhood development and has become a catalyst for action in Northern Virginia. Its effectiveness and sustainability have increased as well. CFNC has expanded both the reach and depth of its programs, added key senior leadership positions, and established innovative partnerships with the city of Alexandria and Arlington County.

Key Accomplishments

CFNC's greater effectiveness led to a 73% increase in the number of children served, from 120 to 207, over four years and program expansion into two new neighborhoods. CFNC greatly increased the impact of its programs by transitioning all remaining half-day programs to full-day, and adding health services and financial literacy programs. CFNC maintained and/or attained accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children at all locations. It has been recognized as a model program by the Montgomery County Department of Human Services and the Maryland Department of Education. CFNC's students' average overall developmental growth far exceeded the national average, particularly for children whose first language was not English. Other noteworthy accomplishments that contributed to improved capacity and increased effectiveness include:

  • Planning and Focus: Completed business planning in early 2003, resulting in a detailed expansion plan to open new sites, strengthen existing programs, and add new programs. Rebuilt a stronger, more engaged board united around new growth plans.

  • Human Capital - Board and Management: Added a Chief Operating Officer and Development Director, transitioned to a management team structure, and clarified roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes.

  • Outcomes Assessment: Adopted The Rensselaerville Institute's model outcome approach to achieve and define key outcomes to be measured on an organization-wide basis.

  • Increased Visibility: Receipt of $500 thousand Families Count award from Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights achievement on a national scale.

Key Information

Date, years, and stage of VPP Investment:
December 2001; 5 years (complete)
Capital committed and disbursed by VPP:
$600,363 committed and funded
Revenue increase & % budget growth:
$1.1 to $2.6 million - 140% increase in 4 years
Leveraged funding:
$1.3 million
Expansion to new places and coverage:
7 classrooms, 4 sites, and 1 Alexandria neighborhood

Case Study

Writing the Book on Culturally Sensitive Care

Finding mental health services to cope with the pain of loss, the trouble with adjusting to a new place, or dealing with a family crisis is hard enough for native English speakers. For new Americans who don’t speak English well or not at all and have survived mental and physical torture in their home countries, getting the right help was extremely difficult—until the creation of the Center for Multicultural Human Services (CMHS).

Founded in 1992 by psychologist Dr. Dennis Hunt, CMHS’s original programmatic focus was foster care for orphaned refugee children. Since its founding, immigrant populations have grown dramatically in Northern Virginia with a corresponding increase in the demand for culturally sensitive mental health and social services. As a result, CHMS expanded its program to offer a wide range of services in more than 30 languages. These services included multicultural mental health treatment and evaluation services, programs for survivors of torture and trauma, and clinical training for building the cultural competence of the U.S. mental health workforce in order to increase access to quality healthcare for non-native English speakers. From its humble beginnings, CMHS grew to serve 6,000 children and families annually with a budget of $4 million and was widely recognized as “writing the book” on delivering mental health care for critically underserved, culturally, and linguistically diverse populations.

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