Newsmakers for September 2007

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President Bush has nominated Diane Rath to take over for the departed Wade Horn as assistant secretary for family support at HHS. If confirmed by the Senate, Rath, head of the Texas Workforce Commission, would oversee HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Contact: (202) 690-6343,

Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson, the head of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is calling it quits.

After deftly dealing with drastic Bush administration budget cuts that gutted FYSB programs and dodging bullets aimed at abstinence-only programs funded by his agency, Wilson leaves a legacy of fair-mindedness that transcends the often unsettling (and seemingly cruel) fiscal arbitrariness dictated by policymakers that punished urban children and youth in need of support services. Among other things, Wilson is known for his National Youth Summit in 2002, his support of youth mapping and his withholding of $75,000 in grants (following an ACLU lawsuit) to a faith-based abstinence program that appeared to use tax money for religious activities.

Wilson came to government from the Montcalm School, a residential program for 13- to 18-year-old boys in Albion, Mich., where he was the dean. The school is operated by the Starr Commonwealth, set up to provide a learning environment for troubled and disabled teens.

Wilson will now join one of the firms most involved in consulting on FYSB programs: ICF International, the company that recently acquired Caliber Associates.

As a former federal staffer, Wilson said in an e-mail that he will be restricted from dealing directly with his former agency. But “it’s a pretty large place,” he says of ICFI. “I think there will be plenty of work.”

He plans to move back to Michigan.

Channell Wilkins, director of the Office of Head Start, is leaving that position to chair ACF’s new Task Force on Native Youth. He came to the Head Start job from the New Jersey Community Action Association, where he was executive director. Before that, Wilkins helped to develop juvenile justice initiatives for the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The task force is just getting started, so few details have been finalized. Part of its final product will be a formal review of how human services programs can be improved and better coordinated. Contact: (202) 690-6343,


The D.C.-based Community Action Partnership has hired Don Mathis as its CEO. The partnership is a network of 1,000 community-based organizations that fight poverty on a local level.

Mathis comes to the national organization from Maryland, where he spent 10 years as executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County. He has also served on the staffs of three major national youth work organizations: the National Network for Youth, National Youth Employment Coalition and the National Association of Service and Conservation Corps (recently renamed The Corps Network). Contact: (202) 265-7546,

Michelle Nunn

Two of the nation’s largest volunteer management nonprofits – the Atlanta-based Hands On Network and the D.C.-based Points of Light Foundation – announced in July that they would merge, pooling about 370 affiliate organizations between them. The new organization will be run by Hands On founder and CEO Michelle Nunn. A number of important details have yet to be hammered out – like a name and a location for the headquarters – but the organization will try to add 3 million new volunteers to its rolls over the next two years.

Points of Light Foundation CEO Bob Goodwin recently retired. Contact: Hands On (404) 979-2900,; Points of Light (202) 729-8177,

The Pittsburgh, Pa.-based National Center for Juvenile Justice, the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), will have its first new director since the Nixon administration. Hunter Hurst III announced that he will retire next year.

At a time when expanding staffs and budgets are often the hallmarks of success, the native Mississipian has needed neither. Over 34 years he built the national center into an internationally recognized research organization, using a small corner of the University of Pittsburgh Law School and a handful of assistants.

NCJFCJ has begun the search for Hurst’s replacement. Contact: (412) 227-6950,

Joe Theissen

Voices for America’s Children, six months into the tenure of new president Bill Bentley, has lured away one of Bentley’s former co-workers at the D.C.-based Points of Light Foundation. Joe Theissen was named vice president of policy and government affairs in July. He spent four years as special assistant to Points of Light CEO Bob Goodwin. Bentley was Goodwin’s chief operating officer. Contact: (202) 289-0777,

Nancy Martin is in as director of capacity building initiatives at the D.C.-based National Youth Employment Coalition, headed by Executive Director Mala Thakur. Martin most recently worked with the American Youth Policy Forum, where she spearheaded the forum’s look at effective state and local models for reaching vulnerable youth. The report is called, “Whatever It Takes: How Twelve Communities Are Reconnecting Out-of-School Youth.” Contact: (202) 659-1064,

Joyce Corlett is retiring from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) after a 20-year career with the Philadelphia-based mentoring giant. Corlett has served as BBBSA’s director of program development since 1998, and before that she headed the organization’s training and education department. Contact: (215) 567-7000,

Susan Dreyfus, the chief operating officer at the Milwaukee-based Alliance for Children and Families for four years, left in July to become executive vice president for strategy at Rogers Behavioral Health Systems, a major service provider in Wisconsin.

Alliance spokeswoman Nancy Kunkler says the interim COO – Bob Duea, a retired COO from one of the alliance’s member agencies – will lead the national search for a permanent replacement. Contact: (800) 221-3726,

Chief Operating Officer Peter Howe has left the Charlestown, Mass.-based National AfterSchool Association (NAA) after four years to resume a career in human resources and communication. Howe went to NAA in 2003 as a contractor to plan a national conference, then was hired to oversee the organization’s return to its hallmark service, providing accreditation to after-school programs. Howe has served as COO under President Judy Nee for the past two years.

Replacing Howe is NAA’s most recent chief financial officer, Mike English, a veteran on the business side of life for Boston nonprofits since 1994. Contact: (800) 617-8242,

Paul Sully is no longer the point person on the Education Development Center’s EQUIP3/Youth Trust project, which is a USAID-funded mechanism for providing technical assistance to organizations that help out-of-school children find educational opportunities. Sully was promoted to serve as senior youth adviser for the center’s Global Learning group. Contact: (202) 572-3700,

Andraéa LaVant

Youth Service America (YSA) hired Andraéa LaVant to oversee its trademark Global Youth Service Day project. LaVant, who will be responsible for recruiting and training the myriad partners YSA uses to carry out local service projects during the April event, was previously an AmeriCorps VISTA at Volunteer Tennessee, the state’s commission for AmeriCorps volunteers. Contact: (202) 296-2992,

Innovations in Civic Participation, the D.C.-based promoter of national service models, has become the permanent secretariat for the International Association for National Youth Service (IANYS). While the two organizations will remain separate financial entities, Executive Director Susan Stroud and her staff will now be responsible for the operation of IANYS, which promotes national service around the world. Contact: (202) 775-0290,

Youth workers are frequently hailed as heroes for the work they do, but usually in a fuzzy, long-term kind of way. Last month, several youth workers made news as heroes in a crisis.

On Aug. 1, a school bus filled with youths from a Minneapolis community center called Waite House were traveling back from a water park when they got stuck in traffic – on the I-35 bridge.

When the bridge collapsed, the bus was nearly dumped into the Mississippi River. The youth workers prevented serious injuries and perhaps even deaths in a tragedy that claimed at least 13 lives. Only 14 of the 61 bus passengers went to the hospital, and none died.

Monica Segura, 19, a summer coordinator, grabbed the two children closest to her, preventing them from being thrown from their seats.

After the bus came to a stop on the collapsed pavement, Jeremy Hernandez, 20, a gym coordinator, kicked open the rear door. He and several other youth workers formed an assembly line of sorts and passed the kids out to safety.

Waite House is in a neighborhood with a high percentage of Native American and immigrant youth.


The New York-based Ford Foundation announced that Luis Ubiñas will succeed Susan Berresford as president in January. Ubiñas comes to Ford after 18 years with McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm where he serves as a director in charge of the company’s efforts to advise telecommunications and technology companies about major overhauls.

On the youth front, Ubinas served on the boards of Boston’s The Steppingstone Foundation, which helps urban youth prepare for college, and Boston’s After School for All Partnership, a planning project that set the course for a drastic expansion of the city’s out-of-school activities for youth.

Berresford has been at Ford since 1970 and at the helm since 1996, when she became the foundation’s eighth president. Contact: (212) 573-5128,

Big doings are under way for the satellite offices of Seattle-based Casey Family Programs. The foundation hired Children’s Defense Fund attorney Jooyeun Chang to be director of public policy, operating out of Casey’s Washington office.

In New York, Casey tapped Zeinab Chahine to serve as its managing director of strategic consulting. She will lead the grant maker’s new office in New York, which will focus on helping youth-serving agencies and organizations make systemic changes. Chahine was executive deputy commissioner of child welfare programs for New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services.

Casey’s senior director of research services, Peter Pecora, has been appointed to the Committee on the Prevention of Mental Health Disorders and Substance Abuse for the Board on Children, Youth, and Families. The board is a 14-year-old wing of the D.C.-based National Academies, dedicated to convening health and behavior experts to weigh in on youth policy issues. Contact: Casey (206) 282-7300,; Board (202) 334-1935,

Public/Private Ventures was awarded $2.8 million over two years from Atlantic Philanthropies to serve as the national program office for Atlantic’s Integrated Services in School Initiative, which supports a model that includes extended-day learning, health services and connections to other out-of-school supports. Heading up the effort for P/PV is Senior Vice President Geri Summerville. Contact: (215) 557-4400,


If the allegations against her are true, there is a special place in hell for Judith Leekin. The 62-year-old was arrested in July for child abuse in a case that implicates her in adopting 11 of New York City’s foster children for profit. She allegedly received at least $1.26 million in adoption subsidies from New York’s Administration for Children and Families.

Leekin was arrested in Port St. Lucie, Fla., after police there found nine of the foster children (ages 15 to 27) living in her home. All were allegedly malnourished and had no education past fourth grade.

Leekin, a former New York City resident, faces charges that include five counts of aggravated child abuse and four counts of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult. She intends to plead not guilty, according to media reports.

How could something like this happen? One factor, child welfare experts told The New York Times, was a big rise in drug arrests in the mid-1990s, thanks largely to the spread of crack. That drastically increased the number of youths placed in foster care, which created pressure to move more and more youths into permanent homes. Leekin adopted all but one of her children between 1994 and 1996.


Michael Danjczek, 58, president of the Children’s Home of Easton. Danjczek, who was the past president of the National Association of Homes and Services for Children, retired in 2005 after running Children’s Home for more than 30 years.

Mike Buzbee, 68, CEO and founder of the Gulf Coast Trade Center. Buzbee spent his entire adult life working with Texas’ adjudicated youth, and he served as a board member for the National Youth Employment Coalition. Buzbee received the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s New American Community Award in 1994.

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