Newsmakers for February 2009

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Kevin Ryan has been named the first lay president of Covenant House (CH), the largest homeless youth services organization in North and Central America.

Ryan, who helped usher New Jersey through a litigation-inspired reform movement, joined the organization Feb. 1.

Kevin Ryan

“I have known Kevin personally for nearly 20 years, and I believe he is a perfect choice to lead this mission,” former CH President Sister Mary Rose McGeady said in a statement. “He is a tireless fighter, a courageous believer in doing what’s right, and a passionate believer in the dignity and beauty of every child.”

Ryan got his start in youth work at Covenant House New York, where he served as an advocate and legal counsel for homeless youth from 1992 to 2002.

“This is a real coming home for me in many respects,” Ryan said. “I cut my teeth doing street law work” for CH.

He was appointed the State of New Jersey’s first child advocate in 2003, a job created by a lawsuit settlement that spurred massive reform of the state’s child welfare system. In 2006, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) named him director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), then commissioner of children and families – a position he held until 2008.

Ryan spent the better part of last year helping other states deal with child welfare fiascoes through his consulting firm, the Newark, N.J.-based Public Catalyst Group. PCG serves as the monitor for Michigan, which recently settled a lawsuit with Children’s Rights, which is headed by Marcia Robinson Lowry.

Most recently, Ryan has been working intensely with Washington, D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, which two decades ago was the first actually to fight Lowry and Children’s Rights in court. (It lost.) A number of children known to the agency have died in the past year, and a panic set off by those deaths helped cause a daunting backlog of cases to investigate. He will remain the court monitor in Michigan, which will be his only project for the time being at PCG.

Ryan is the fourth president of the 37-year-old Covenant House, which operates 21 residential sites in six countries. The 15 U.S. sites include Anchorage, Alaska, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., Oakland, Calif., and Philadelphia.

Ryan inherits an organization that, financially, is “struggling just like everyone else,” CH spokesman Tom Manning said. “A big part of his mission will be to reach out, find more partnerships. We as nonprofits need to get out of the silos and work together… Ryan is experienced in doing that.”

The organization’s first president, the Rev. Bruce Ritter, resigned in shame amid accusations of sexual relations with a number of Covenant House boys.

Ritter was replaced by Sister McGeady, who was succeeded five years ago by Sister Patricia Cruise. Cruise will return to her roots in Cincinnati, where she will serve as president of Seton High School starting in July 2009. Contact: Covenant House, (212) 727-4000,

The Washington-based Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is preparing for a new administration that is expected to be friendlier to its mission. President Barack Obama and his staff have already borrowed heavily from CDF literature in their discourse on youth policy.

CDF has stepped up its media relations game, adding to its website an entire roster of national and regional contacts on issues including child welfare, education, juvenile justice and religion. The organization also added new leadership positions under President Marian Wright Edelman. One will lead the charge on CDF’s policy wish list; the other will try to get the money to keep that work going.

Rhoda Schulzinger

Rhoda Schulzinger will be the fund’s deputy vice president for policy. She goes to the organization after developing a multi-year initiative to provide expertise for state disability agencies for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and spent a decade before that conducting research and policy analysis as the principal of Family Policy Associates. Schulzinger has also been a staff attorney at three nonprofits: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and Center for Law and Social Policy.

The CDF vice president for policy job is vacant, so Schulzinger will be the point person for now for the many subject-specific policy people at CDF. That list includes MaryLee Allen, CDF’s longtime director of child welfare and mental health; Lynn White, senior policy associate on juvenile justice; and Natacha Blain, the lead adviser for CDF’s highest-profile initiative during the Bush presidency, the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

Armando Zumaya

Armando Zumaya joins the organization as vice president of development, with a lot of university fund-raising experience under his belt. Zumaya has helped lead billion-dollar campaigns for Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley. His last job was in the nonprofit world as chief income development officer for the American Cancer Society. Contact: (202) 662-3602,

Newsmakers is embarrassed to have missed this news over the summer, but a changing of the guard has taken place at the Children’s Rights Council, a Washington-based organization with 60 chapters in 39 states that seeks to help arrange for divorced or never-married parents to remain in the lives of their children. Its signature programs are the 40 child access centers it operates, which provide neutral drop-off and pick-up sites and supervised visitations.

David Levy

Myrna Murdoch replaced longtime CEO David L. Levy in August. Levy left the post he had held since the organization was founded in 1985, but he remains president of the board of trustees.

Murdoch, who founded the Hawaii chapter of the Children’s Rights Council in 2002, also continues to lead it. Contact: (301) 459-1220,

The Mid-Atlantic region of Jumpstart, which is based in New York, has a new executive director. Myung Lee served previously as the vice president for corporate development for the organization’s New York operation. Jumpstart, which was founded in 1993 and is based in Boston, pairs college students with nearly 13,000 preschool-age children across 20 states. Contact: (212) 868-2526,

Martin Sinnott is stepping down after nine years as CEO of Chicago-based Kids Hope United to explore other opportunities in youth services. Kids Hope United provides an array of services, including family preservation and counseling, to more than 15,000 children in four states.

COO Bill Gillis is taking over as interim CEO until a replacement for Sinnott is found. Contact: (312) 922-6733,

Jerome Kilbane is the new executive director of Covenant House New York (CHNY), the headquarters for the national organization that serves homeless, at-risk and runaway youth. He will oversee the nation’s largest care agency for homeless and at-risk youth, which serves more than 6,000 young people annually and operates a $38 million-dollar budget.

Kilbane, who began his career as a program coordinator at CHNY, had served as executive director of Covenant House Pennsylvania in Philadelphia since 1999. He has also served as associate executive director of Covenant House New Jersey. Covenant House New York provides a wide range of services to homeless youth, including crisis care, health care, substance abuse treatment, job training and a transitional living facility.

Kilbane replaces Bruce Henry, who is leaving after 22 years to head the newly created Covenant House Institute, also in New York, a research center that partners with academic and social groups to study homeless issues. Contact: (212) 613-0300,; Institute; e-mail

Judy Vredenburgh, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), has announced she will leave the post this summer after a decade. A committee, headed by Frank Bracken, chairman of BBBS’s board, will search for a replacement.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation’s largest network of volunteer mentoring services, with 262,000 volunteers serving youth through nearly 400 affiliates across the 50 states.

Before being named BBBS president and CEO in 1999, Vredenburgh served as senior vice president for revenue and marketing of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Earlier, she had been a executive in the retail industry.


The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has added two program officers to work with the head of its juvenile justice program, Laurie Garduque. The central mission of the program is MacArthur’s Models for Change project, which is using four core states to develop and enhance efforts to reform juvenile justice systems.

One of the new program officers, Cathryn Crawford, has been a staff attorney for the past 10 years at MacArthur grantee the Children and Family Justice Center, a part of Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic that is directed by Bernardine Dohrn.

Candice Jones joins the foundation from Chicago law firm Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg, where she served as a litigator focusing on complex commercial matters. In her graduate school days, Jones helped out at the New York Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division and the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem. Contact: (312) 726-8000,

The Stuart Foundation has hired Deborah Moss as its associate director for public child welfare systems. The Stuart Foundation partners with organizations in California and Washington state to provide services in the areas of public schools, child welfare, and youth and communities.

Moss has worked for more than 20 years in the child welfare field, most recently as division manager for the Contra Costa County Children and Family Services Agency. Her hiring is part of an increased focus for the foundation on child welfare issues. Contact: (415) 393-1551,

Elizabeth Gutierrez is the new director of the Educational Opportunities program at the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, a San Francisco foundation that has awarded more than $332 million in grants promoting social change since 1953. The Educational Opportunities program is designed to narrow racial and economic achievement gaps in education and to help people with the transition out of poverty.

Gutierrez joins the foundation from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s staff, where since 2004 she had served as director of education policies and programs. In that capacity, Gutierrez led educational policy development across New Mexico. Contacts: (415) 856-1400,


Jeff Slowikowski, associate administrator for the demonstration programs division, will become acting administrator for the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). He succeeds Robert J. Flores, who left with the change of administrations.

Slowikowski joined OJJDP in 1990 after a graduate fellowship at the Schaefer Center for Public Policy in Baltimore. He has managed projects including the development of OJJDP’s Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders and Pulling America’s Communities Together.

Slowikowski was also an auxiliary police officer for four years with the Baltimore County Police Department, where he worked in the Crime Analysis Unit and assisted staff in the development of the department’s local crime report and subsequent data submissions to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Contact: (202) 307-5911,

William Corr

William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids since 2000, is being nominated to serve as deputy secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Daschle, according to President Barack Obama’s transition office.

Corr, who was responsible for review and evaluation for the transition team at HHS, was the chief of staff for former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Corr also has close ties to Daschle, for whom he served as chief counsel and policy director from 1998 to 2000, when Daschle was Senate minority leader.

Corr has helped lead the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids for much of its history, most recently in tandem with President Matthew Myers.

President Barack Obama has chosen Melody Barnes to head the Domestic Policy Council and Heather Higginbottom to serve as her deputy director. The Domestic Policy Council coordinates the president’s policy agenda on issues including education, health, housing, welfare and justice.

Barnes, an attorney from New York, served previously as executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress and is a former chief counsel to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Higginbottom, former legislative director for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), began her career as an advocate for the national nonprofit Communities in Schools, which aims to reduce dropout rates through community collaboration.

Tim Smith, the superintendent of the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Va., spoke to Youth Today in 2006 for a story about how the design and planning of a facility can determine its success (“Design is Destiny, March 2006).

Tim Smith

Smith was not a juvenile justice guy by trade; he was brought in from the private sector, where he had spent 24 years in the department store business. He was credited with opening the first green juvenile justice facility in the country in 2003, a building that projects large cost-savings over its lifetime.

It looks as if Smith did all right with the actual programming side of things, too. Largely because of his expansion of services to include community placement and re-entry projects, Smith was given the 2008 Meritorious Award in the Area of Residential Services by the Virginia Juvenile Justice Association.