Newsmakers for April 2008

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Mike Caslin is leaving his post as executive vice president of the New York-based National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which helps youth in low-income communities develop business skills and entrepreneurial instincts.

In his 20 years with the organization, headed by Steve Mariotti, Caslin has overseen the expansion of the teacher-training program from two sites in New York City to sites in 45 states and 16 other countries. He has helped NFTE rake in $125 million over the years (almost none of it taxpayer money) and leaves the program with a healthy bottom line, carrying $16 million in assets to buffer a $16 million annual operating budget.

Caslin is going back to his entrepreneurial roots. He’s opening Caslin Enterprises, which will do strategic consulting for philanthropies and for-profits trying to take small operations to scale. He’s also starting the Urban Regeneration Partnership, a for-profit that will take on environmental and community development projects with the central belief, he says, “that the city is the solution.”

NFTE is searching for Caslin’s replacement. Contact: (212) 232-3333,

National Foster Care Coalition Executive Director Robin Nixon will leave the organization in June. Nixon founded the coalition in 2000 and leaves behind an organization that she believes has a healthy mix of foundation, membership and contract funding, with “probably the most diverse [membership] in terms of representation” in the field of child welfare.

Says Nixon: “We have a lot of youth representation, consumer representation – organizations that don’t normally get to sit at the advocacy table.”

One recent effort by the coalition focuses on the absurd delays in federal data collection about state expenditures under the Foster Care Independence Act (known as the Chafee Act), which provides each state with money to help youth aging out of foster care. Data collection and evaluation were supposed to begin almost immediately after the act’s passage in 1999, but it’s still not happening. The data could reveal which states are using the money well and which are not, or that the states aren’t getting enough money to serve those youth.

Nixon has led a small gaggle of voices asking why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was dragging its heels. After being pestered for years, in February the department issued a final rule detailing the data collection process. Nixon says the coalition is still sifting through the lengthy rule document before passing official judgment.

NFCC’s board is in the process of finding her successor, who would join the coalition’s only other staff member, Assistant Director Maria Garin Jones. Contact: (202) 280-2039,

Laurel Richie

Laurel Richie was hired by the New York-based Girl Scouts of the USA last month to be its first chief marketing officer, a move that reflects the organization’s effort to re-brand the Scout experience for new generations. The group has about 2.8 million members, but has lost at least 1 percent of its membership each year for a decade.

Richie comes to the 96-year-old organization from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, a major public relations and branding firm based in New York.

Richie’s task is daunting: Change the way America thinks about what it means to be a Girl Scout. The organization has long offered a wide array of programs focused on entrepreneurship, education and recreation. But the Scout archetype has not followed suit: It’s still green skirts, camping and cookie sales. (Fear not, the cookies will stay; the green skirts will go.) Contact: (800) 478-7248,

Voices for America’s Children named George Askew to be its deputy CEO. Askew is the founder of Docs for Tots, a Washington-based nonprofit founded in 2003 that trains medical professionals for advocacy work on behalf of youth. Askew will also handle resource development for the organization.

Voices also hired Marlo Nash as vice president of membership. Nash was United Way’s vice president for national initiatives and community impact leadership, but is no stranger to Voices. She was second in command for nine years at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Voices’ affiliate in the Sooner State. “She’s well known to our membership,” says Voices spokeswoman Halle Czechowski. Contact: (202) 289-0777,

After a year of building up the name of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR), a division of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, former Child Welfare League of America President Shay Bilchik has begun to hire key staff members.

Arlene Lee will be CJJR’s first deputy director. She was the executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children under Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. (R), and his successor, Martin O’Malley (D). In that role, Lee chaired the governors’ children’s cabinets.

Also hired is Macon Bowden as CJJR’s program manager. Bowden comes from Washington, D.C.’s, Child and Family Services Agency, where she rose from caseworker to become assistant to the deputy director for the Office of Clinical Practice.

CJJR strives to focus public agency leaders who are involved in youth systems of care on the key components of significant juvenile justice reform. Despite its juvenile justice roots, one of the center’s most promising attributes may be its ability to tie major systems together. One of its first major events was a one-day conference last month that brought together child welfare and justice leaders to discuss disproportionate minority populations in both systems. (See stories, pages 4 and 7.)

Before heading CWLA, the largest trade organization in child welfare, Bilchik served as director of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention under President Clinton. Contact: (202) 687-7657,

Hazelden Foundation CEO Ellen Breyer left the Center City, Minn.-based organization in early April. Hazelden focuses on efforts to combat substance abuse, including addiction treatment, continuing care, research, publishing and policy advocacy.

Breyer has led the organization since 2001, when she came to Hazelden after a five-year run as vice president of business development for Ryan Companies, a Minnesota construction company. A national search for a new leader has begun. Breyer will remain with the foundation through June to help ease the transition. Contact: (800) 257-7810,

Catholic Charities Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), which provides sports and outdoors programs for youth in the Bay Area, announced that Executive Director Brian Cahill is retiring. Cahill, who has been with the organization since 2000, oversaw the merger of Catholic Charities and CYO in 2003. He will step down next January. Contact: (415) 972-1200,

The New York-based Local Initiatives Support Corp., which since 1980 has spent $8.6 billion supporting the work of community organizations that set out to transform troubled communities, named Sandra Abramson to be vice president for field resources and learning. Abramson goes to the organization, with a staff of 350 at 28 sites around the country, from East Harlem’s SFDS Development Corp., which manages 600 affordable housing units in the city. Contact: (212) 455-9800,

The D.C.-based Community Action Partnership, which recently hired Don Mathis as CEO, has added another key staff member. Larry Koziarz, fresh off a Peace Corps volunteering stint in Albania, will be the partnership’s director of training. The partnership is a network of 1,000 community-based organizations that fight poverty on a local level. Contact: (202) 265-7546,

The Irving, Texas-based National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame hired Lisa Malin to be executive director of the College Football Hall of Fame, in South Bend, Ind. The organization recently scored an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The money came out of discretionary funds, but was given to the group by agency Director J. Robert Flores, whose grant-making practices have earned him an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (See story, page 6). Contact: (800) 440-3263,

Maxine Baker has been tapped to be president of the Washington-based African American Nonprofit Network (AANN). Baker was vice president of the McLean, Va.-based Freddie Mac, and also served as CEO of the Freddie Mac Foundation, which funds work in various fields, including foster care, adoption and youth development.

AANN connects African-Americans in the Washington area to leadership spots at nonprofits. Contact: (202) 973-2510,

The Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) has lost a number of key money men over the past few years, earmark master Robbie Callaway not least among them. But it remains one of the most skilled youth organizations in the country at locking down corporate dollars for its work. The latest project: Family PLUS, which will use a five-year, $7 million grant from the foundation of Kimberly-Clark Corp. to help parents find activities and parenting strategies that will strengthen their families.

Jose Cruz, who was BGCA’s director of family support, was tapped to serve as director of Family PLUS. Previously, Cruz oversaw a number of family initiatives as BGCA’s director of Latino outreach. Most of the grant money will go toward beefing up the Family PLUS website. The initiative will also award $16,000 grants to each of 20 local BGCA clubs to implement family programs. Contact: (404) 487-5856,


When a media outlet decides to take a hard look at the performance of a government contractor in youth work, there is almost always a little fallout. Rarely does the situation end as tragically as it did after The Mercury News of San Jose, Calif., examined Santa Clara’s troubled dependency court.

Gary Proctor, the founder and head of the firm that represented parents at the court, committed suicide just weeks after the paper’s exposé, which included criticism of his firm’s performance on behalf of parents.

The three-part series (“Broken Families, Broken Courts”) included one part, published Feb. 11, titled “A Timid Advocate for Parents’ Rights,” which focused on Proctor’s firm, Santa Clara County Juvenile Defenders.

In the story, former lawyers from Juvenile Defenders and outside experts said there was pressure to advise parents to cooperate with (rather than fight) the local social services agency, and to avoid the cost of experts and investigators. Clients often did not meet their attorneys until right before their hearings.

Days before the story was published, Proctor informed the county that he did not intend to continue the partnership, and a rushed solicitation for a new contractor began. (Some lawyers from Proctor’s firm have submitted their own bid.) On March 9, Proctor was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Based on the number of condolence messages on the Mercury News website, there’s no doubt that Proctor was a respected figure in youth work. Perhaps his most significant contribution was the Mentor Moms program, which put mothers who had gone through abuse and neglect cases in close contact with parents involved in new cases.

“He really recognized the value of peer support in helping families going through a difficult time,” says Jolene Smith, executive director of First 5 Santa Clara County, which recently partnered with Proctor on a successful $5 million federal grant proposal for a drug court that would incorporate his Mentor Moms concept. At a session for grantees in Washington this year, Smith recalls, one senior staffer singled Proctor out as a true example of a collaborator.

“I don’t think The Mercury News looked at the system-level issues,” Smith says. “I’ve been in those courtrooms; I see judges, Gary’s people, attorneys, all doing the best they could. It looks like they have their hands tied by the system. They’re so trapped by [their specific funding stream] to work categorically.”


Randi Ilyse Roth will be the new executive director at the St. Paul, Minn.-based Otto Bremer Foundation, which funds work on civic engagement and organizational effectiveness in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Roth was executive director of the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, where she had been for 17 years before being named as the court-appointed monitor in a lawsuit by African-American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

She will take over for the retiring John Kostishack, who left at the end of 2007 after 28 years with the foundation. Contact: (651) 227-8036,

Jim Hoke

The St. Louis-based Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative named veteran nonprofit financial executive Jim Hoke to be its chief financial officer. The initiative, run by CEO Gary Stangler, draws $7.9 million a year from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Seattle-based Casey Family Programs, and re-grants about $5 million of it annually to fund community work for youth who are aging out of foster care.

Hoke has nearly 40 years of financial management experience under his belt, much of it with nonprofits in the St. Louis area. He was chief financial officer at United Cerebral Palsy of Greater St. Louis, where he worked for eight years, and before that was executive director of the St. Louis Association for Retarded Citizens. Contact: (314) 863-7000,

Peter G. Peterson, the private equity tycoon and former U.S. secretary of commerce, will allocate about $1 billion of the money he made in the sale of The Blackstone Group to start the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The New York-based foundation’s priorities will include examining the ballooning of federal entitlement programs and the danger that poses to future generations. Tapped to head the new foundation: David Walker, who was the U.S. comptroller general (running the U.S. Government Accountability Office) for nine years. Contact: (212) 843-8040,

Johnny Celestin

Atlantic Philanthropies (assets: $4 billion) has hired Johnny Celestin as a project executive. Celestin was a senior manager at the Robin Hood Foundation, a grant maker dedicated to alleviating poverty in New York City by, among other things, funding youth development and education.

Celestin will assist Atlantic CEO Gara LaMarche and Executive Vice President Deborah Phillips in developing strategy with senior management, and in the organization and operation of board meetings. Contact: (212) 916-7300,