Newsmakers for March 2009

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Tracy Velázquez

Tracy Velázquez is the new executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI). Formerly the senior program associate at the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections, Velázquez takes over for Sheila Bedi, who left after a year at JPI.

Bedi plans to return to her previous passion, justice reform in the Southern states. Before joining JPI, she was co-director of the Mississippi Youth Justice Project, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization based in Jackson, which she joined in 2003.

Like Bedi, Velázquez made her name doing regional work. The Vera Institute is certainly a national operator, but Velazquez’s roots are in Montana, where she was executive director of the Montana Mental Health Association. One of her points of focus there was pushing for a reduction in the criminalization of people with mental illness. Velázquez, who ran for Congress once, was for a time the vice chairwoman of the Montana Democratic Party. Contact: (202) 558-7974,

The founding executive director for Washington-based Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is Wendy Young. KIND, which was formed in October 2008 by Microsoft and actress Angelina Jolie, plans to provide pro bono legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children.

Wendy Young

Young has extensive experience in refugee and immigration policy, including serving as chief counsel on immigration policy for the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees when Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was its chairman.

She has also worked for a host of advocacy organizations in the field, including the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the National Council of La Raza.

Young will guide the expansion of KIND in the coming years, with the goal of providing free legal representation in 100 percent of the unaccompanied immigrant child cases. The organization has offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Houston and Newark, N.J., and plans to expand soon to Baltimore and Boston.

KIND has partnered with nearly 40 large law firms that have agreed to provide pro bono services, as well as nongovernmental organizations that will assist in fieldwork and advocacy.

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which pared down its policy team during the Bush administration, continues to add high-level staff. Pakou Hang has joined CDF as its new deputy vice president of field operations. Hang manages daily field operations for the national child advocacy organization.

Hang, a former community organizer for St. Paul Youth Services, also served as deputy political director for the 2002 campaign of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).

CDF has also added Sheadrick Tillman IV as managing director of its Haley Farm facility in Clinton, Tenn. Tillman was most recently district director for contract compliance and strategic planning at the City Colleges of Chicago and has worked for more than 30 years as an administrator at universities and private companies.

Haley Farm is CDF’s leadership and training retreat in the mountains of Tennessee. Contact: (800) 233-1200,

Child Trends, the Washington-based research organization, has appointed two new executives: Hope Cooper and Timothy Ross.

Cooper joins Child Trends from The Pew Charitable Trust, where she was a senior program officer. She also served as senior policy adviser to the Senate Finance Committee, working for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), on children’s issues such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.

Ross is the former director of the Child Welfare, Health and Justice Program at the Vera Institute, where he led child welfare research projects. He is also the author of a forthcoming book, Child Welfare: The Challenges of Collaboration.

Cooper and Ross replace Rob Geen, who held both positions at Child Trends until he joined the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a senior fellow last year. Contact: (202) 572-6000,

Kids Hope United has removed the interim label and named Bill Gillis CEO of the Chicago-based agency, which provides child protection and family preservation services to 15,000 youths each year in four states. Gillis served previously as chief operating officer and acting CEO, replacing Martin Sinnott, who resigned in the fall after nine years.

Gillis arrived at Kids Hope with more than 35 years of experience in youth work, including more than two decades at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and nearly 10 years as CEO of The Baby Fold in Normal, Ill. Contact: (312) 922-6733,

C. Warren Moses

C. Warren Moses, CEO of The Children’s Aid Society, will retire at the end of 2009. Moses has served as CEO since 2005, and has spent 40 yearsworking for the New York City-based service organization.

The board has hired a company to conduct a national search for Moses’ successor. Contact: (212) 949-4800,

Rhianna Quinn Roddy, former chief marketing officer at Lighthouse International, is the new executive director of national designated funds and initiatives for Scholarship America.

Mary Wynn

Scholarship America provides some basic scholarship programs, but its signature operation is the 1,200 volunteer-led Dollars for Scholars sites around the country that help youth prepare for college and maximize financial aid.

Joining Quinn at the Minneapolis-based organization is Mary Wynne, the new assistant vice president of community programs. She was professional development director at Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network. Contact: (800) 279-2083,

Jack Kresnak, the CEO of Michigan’s Children, will be inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame on April 19. Before joining Michigan’s Children, Kresnak spent the majority of his 38 years in journalism covering crime and youth services, such as foster care and juvenile justice.


The William T. Grant Foundation announced Henry Gooss as the new chairman of its board of trustees. Gooss, who was appointed vice chairman in 2005, is senior adviser at Investor Growth Capital Inc. and worked previously as the chief investment officer of Chase Manhattan Bank.

The Grant Foundation funds research that focuses on issues affecting the lives of youths ages 8 to 25. Contact: (212) 752-0071,

Elizabeth Gomez is the board chairwoman for Woodland Hills, Calif.-based The California Wellness Foundation (assets: $1.2 billion). Gomez, who has served on TCWF’s board since 2005, is executive director of the Los Angeles Youth Network (LAYN), a major provider of services to the city’s homeless and runaway youth population. Gomez has been with LAYN since 1989, and for a time also served on the California State Commission on Juvenile Justice, Crime and Delinquency Prevention.


President Obama has changed the name of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, created by former president George W. Bush and first run by John DiIulio, to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

To run the office, Obama selected a young but close adviser, Josh DuBois, 26. DuBois has gained experience in the political and religious spheres. He worked for Obama when he was a senator and was his religious adviser on the campaign trail. DuBois, who has been an associate pastor at Calvary Praise and Worship Center in Cambridge, Mass., received a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University in 2005.

“He is a man of good character, someone able to reach out to faith-based groups across the country,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of the Ten Point Coalition in Boston.

A few details on the faith-based operation are known: There will be faith-based offices within several federal agencies (as there were under Bush), and the total number of staff members working under DuBois is expected to be about 50.

Obama also announced a Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will help establish the goals and parameters of the White House office. Mixed in among several religious leaders are five people from the youth work world who have been named to the 15-member council: Judith Vredenburgh, the retiring executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities; Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago; Fred Davie, president of Public/Private Ventures; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.

In Boston, Brown said he would like to see the federal office focus on involving urban churches with youth violence prevention. “Engaging youth at the street level ought to be an essential part of every urban church’s mission,” Brown said. “I know Josh understands that.”

DuBois can seek help on Brown’s request from Adolfo Carrion, who leads Obama’s newly created Office of Urban Policy, which will coordinate federal efforts targeting assistance to cities.

Carrion, who lacks federal experience, is an up-and-comer in the New York City political machine. He became Bronx borough president in 2001, has a close relationship with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and was considering a run at city comptroller before getting this post.

Serving as special assistant to Obama on urban affairs is a New York resident with some recent Washington experience, Derek Douglas. He had been New York Gov. David Paterson’s Washington counsel since 2007, and before that was associate director of economic policy at the Washington-based Center for American Progress.

Some pieces have fallen into place for Secretary Arne Duncan at the Department of Education. Carmel Martin is the nominee to be Duncan’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, a job currently held by Bill Evers. The office spent a lot of its efforts over the past four years evaluating the No Child Left Behind Act (there are now seven volumes on implementation of the act on the office’s website).

Martin is certainly familiar with the nuts and bolts of No Child Left Behind. She was a leading staffer for NCLB author Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; Martin served as Kennedy’s chief education adviser. Her other experience with the Senate includes stints as counsel to former Sens. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

Martin also has executive branch credentials. She was a trial attorney for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section.

To head civil rights for Duncan, Obama is expected to nominate Russlynn Ali. Ali is vice president of the Education Trust and founding director of the Education Trust-West. The Trust promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, with an emphasis on minority communities.

Ali’s resume also includes time as liaison to President Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, and as chief of staff to the president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.

A former spokesman for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) has pleaded guilty in Tampa, Fla., to production of child pornography.

Andrew Zimmerman, 41, faces a mandatory sentence of at least 15 years and up to 30 years in prison for making sexually explicit photos and videos of two 16-year-old boys whom he met through his job at DCF. Zimmerman, who was arrested in February, also victimized five other children, according to federal prosecutors. 


Ronald Gonzalez, 44, director of the New Brunswick School-based Youth Services Program, which provides case management and counseling to the youth and families of the New Brunswick, N.J., school system. Gonzalez, a former fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, died in the Feb. 12 Buffalo, N.Y., plane crash that killed 50 people.

John Crumbley, 57, senior counselor for Oregon Youth Services. Crumbley is lauded by state juvenile justice advocates for the development of Developing Options to Anger, a facilitator guide and curriculum he developed and later distributed in video format through Northwest Media.