Newsmakers for August 2009

Print More


The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) imposed its second round of layoffs in as many years last month. The cutback of eight positions leaves the Alexandria, Va.-based organization with 44 full-time employees, less than half as many staff as it had in early 2007.

The latest round of reductions is due in part to some frank conversations with funders, said Vice President of Policy and Public Affairs Linda Spears.

They were forthright with CWLA in saying, “this is what they are looking at in the next cycle of funding,” said Spears. “None of them left us high and dry.”

Among those laid off by CWLA were Floyd Alwon, director of its Walker Trieschman National Center for Professional Development; Joyce Johnson, the long-time spokeswoman; and Tom Hay, director of foundation and federal development.

The previous round of layoffs, in the summer of 2007, amounted to a structural downsizing and occurred just months after CEO Christine James-Brown came on board. [See “CWLA Slashes Staff in Overhaul,” September 2007.] James-Brown laid off 14 employees and eliminated 16 positions that were not filled, reducing the organization’s staff total from 90 to 60.

The largest staff cuts this round were made in the consultation division of CWLA, which essentially will become an outsourced operation. Some full-time staff members will handle consulting projects, Spears said, “but there are peaks and valleys in the need for such work. This will enable [CWLA] to better manage the ups and downs.”

Other positions were eliminated in the communications, resource development and regional services staffs. Contact: (703) 412-2400,

Liz Gomez, board chairwoman for The California Wellness Foundation, resigned as executive director of the Los Angeles Runaway/Homeless Youth Network in May. Gomez’s interim replacement is Matthew Louis, an LAYN board member who worked in finance and investment for Merrill Lynch.

Gomez had been with LAYN since 1989, when she began her career there as a shelter coordinator. Contact: (323) 957-7364,

David Murphey is the new senior research scientist for the indicators division of Child Trends, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that conducts youth-related research on 12 subjects, including child welfare, school readiness, fatherhood and well-being.

David Murphey

Murphey was a senior policy analyst in the planning division of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, where he was responsible for managing the collection and reporting of social indicators statewide, and for preparing Vermont’s Community Profiles, local reports on social indicators for the state’s 60 school districts. Contact: (202) 572-6000,

The New York-based Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), which helps nonprofits strengthen their financial health and improve their capacity, made two key hires recently. Tom McLaughlin, who was a nonprofit consultant for Boston firm Grant Thornton, is the new director of consulting services. Edward Sermier leaves his job as chief administrative officer at the Carnegie Corp. of New York to be director of direct services. Contact: (212) 868-6710,

Patrick Rooney is the new executive director for the Center on Philanthropy, which is housed at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The center’s mission is “increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice.”

Rooney was the center’s director of research, and has served as its interim leader since September. Contact: (317) 278-8972,


First lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, Jackie Norris, is now a senior adviser at the Corporation for National and Community Service in what is both a White House shake-up and an indication of the first lady’s sway over the corporation that oversees AmeriCorps, Serve and Learn and the Senior Corps.

Norris, who earned a master’s degree from Iowa State University last year, wrote her thesis on community service and youth voting. She was Obama’s Iowa campaign manager, delivering the state for him, and formerly was a high school government and history teacher. She has three children and is married to John Norris, who is chief of staff for former Iowa Gov. Tom U.S. secretary of agriculture.

This is a bit dated, but former National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC) Executive Director Robin Nixon is now working for the National Civilian Community Corps, a CNCS program. Nixon is the program director for the Atlantic region, and develops service projects all along the East Coast. Officially, she has been an employee of CNCS since last summer, but she spent much of 2008 on loan to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with the fallout from Hurricane Ike.

Nixon’s old shop, the Washington, D.C.-based coalition, is alive and kicking. It is run by Kathi Crowe, former deputy director of FosterClub, a national online community for youth in foster care. Contact: NFCC (202) 280-2039,

Another bit of late news. High-profile California attorney Jeff Bleich was brought on as a short-term special counsel by President Barack Obama. A litigation partner for Munger, Tolles and Olson in the firm’s San Francisco office, Bleich was the California co-chairman of the Obama for America campaign.

His connection to the world of youth work: Bleich was appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1999 to run the White House Commission on Youth Violence after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. Bleich is also on the board of directors of Legal Services for Children in San Francisco.

Jeff Bleich

Bleich did not return phone calls asking what his focus in the Obama White House would be. A press release from his firm indicates he has been with the administration since March and will remain there through the summer. Contact: White House (202) 456-1414,

Bryan H. Samuels, a veteran youth services leader in Illinois, has been tapped to head the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) a key youth-serving agency for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Samuels, who grew up in a residential school from age 7 on, ran the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) from 2003 to 2006. During that time, those familiar with his work say, he helped continue to reduce caseloads and the number of children in state care -- a trend initiated by his predecessor, Jess McDonald.

After resigning the DCFS post, he became chief of staff to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan when Duncan led the Chicago Public Schools.

ACYF is part of the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It houses the Family and Youth Services Bureau, which funds services that range from homeless youth shelters to abstinence education, and the Children’s Bureau, which manages the matching funds that go to states for child welfare services and conducts Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) of the 50 states child welfare systems.

Prominent youth researcher and Clinton-era leader Joan Lombardi will serve two roles at HHS Lombardi is deputy assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and will also be ACF’s interdepartmental liaison for early childhood development.

Lombardi was deputy assistant secretary for children and families under Clinton, and before that served as his associate commissioner of the Child Care Bureau. Since then Lombardi has served as director of The Children’s Project, which helped foundations develop youth-related policy initiatives and projects, and as a professor at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

Lombardi will likely answer to Carmen Nazario, who has been nominated by Obama to head up ACF. Nazario’s confirmation hearing has not been scheduled yet.

Cindy Mann, who has been influential in the development and expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), is the new director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations (CMSO).

Mann was the executive director of the Center for Children and Families (CCF) at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. She was a notable voice for expansion of SCHIP, a movement that was thwarted by two vetoes by President George W. Bush and then signed by President Barack Obama in February.

Mann was perhaps most effective in highlighting the problems with a directive issued by the Bush administration that could have stunted states’ efforts to reach more children with SCHIP. That directive has since been rescinded.

This is not Mann’s first time at CMSO, which is a part of the larger Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Before going to Georgetown, Mann was director of the Family and Children’s Health Programs at CMSO from 1999 to 2001, when SCHIP was in its infancy.

Joan Alker and Jocelyn Guyer, co-founders of CCF, will take over as its co-directors. Contact: CMSO (202) 690-6145,; CCF (202) 687-0880,

President Obama in April nominated Kevin Concannon to serve as undersecretary of agriculture for food, nutrition and consumer services. Concannon was director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services from 2003 to 2008, and previously held several state government jobs in Maine and Oregon.

Obama’s pick as undersecretary for research, education and economics at USDA, Rajiv Shah, was confirmed in mid-May. Shah was director of the agricultural development program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and served as the health care policy adviser for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. Contact: USDA (202) 720-4623,

The Department of Education has staffed up considerably of late, with some major hires by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the confirmation of a key nominee.

Obama’s choice for undersecretary of education, Martha Kanter, was confirmed late last month. Since 2003, Kanter had been chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which is based in Los Altos Hills, Calif., and serves approximately 44,000 students each year.

Kanter serves on the executive board of the League for Innovation in the Community College and is the vice president of the CEO Board of the Community College League of California.

Her selection was lauded by one California newspaper when Obama made the announcement in April. “If Duncan and Obama are serious about using federal dollars to push innovation, promote public service and improve college and vocational graduation rates, they turned to the right person,” said an editorial in the Mercury-News.

He tapped Margot Rogers, a special assistant on education at the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to be his chief of staff. At Gates, Rogers managed and co-led the development of the foundation’s five-year education strategy and staff realignment.

Margot Rogers

Judy Wurtzel has resigned her position at the Aspen Institute and returned to work at the Department of Education as deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. Ross Wiener, formerly of the Education Trust, takes Wurtzel’s place at Aspen, becoming executive director of education and society.

Duncan brought on Kevin Jennings to be assistant deputy secretary of education for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, which is very much an office in flux. In his budget for 2010, Obama proposed to eliminate the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities state formula grants program, which is currently funded at $295 million. Contact: (800) 872-5237,


The Princeton, N.J.-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York-based Ford Foundation, two major grant makers in youth work around the country, offered buyouts to many of their employees last month in the face of declining assets. Both foundations say the cuts are necessary to avoid cutting back on dollars that are actually going out to grantees.

RWJF, which over the past year has lost $3 billion of its $10 billion in assets, offered an early retirement incentive program to 105 of its 250 staff members – every member whose age and years of service to the foundation add up to 70. They have until the end of this month to accept or decline the offer.

At Ford, which took a 30 percent hit on its assets but still has an endowment of about $9 billion, one-third of the foundation’s 550 employees were offered buyouts.

RWJF, led by CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, funds youth work related to health. Its Reclaiming Futures initiative, which assists communities that want to better handle the rehabilitation of young drug offenders, has grown to include 26 sites. Three of those were added by a $2.3 million expansion investment last month, which was paired with a combined $3.6 million in grants from two federal partners: the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Recent grantees in its childhood obesity portfolio, another major youth priority for the foundation, include the University of California ($100,000 to examine the role of street vendors in the after-school eating environment) and the University of Utah ($74,041 to use Dance Dance Revolution to promote urban Latino school children’s physical health).

Ford, which has been led by CEO Luis Ubiñas since 2007, funds youth-related ventures in its social justice and education program areas. Recent youth work grantees include Baltimore-based Arts Every Day ($300,000 to provide arts education and cultural experiences in the city) and the University of Massachusetts ($200,000 to disseminate and promote a new framework for adolescent sexuality education).

Ford will move forward with a new chief investment officer: Eric Doppstadt, who was the foundation’s director of private-equity investments. Doppstadt replaced Linda Strumpf, who retired. Contact: Ford (212) 573-5128,; RWJF (877) 843-7953,

Grant making at the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Walter S. Johnson Foundation (WSJF) has slowed to a crawl and is not expected to resume until it’s time for 2011 plans (assuming the economic situation improves). The lull enabled Johnson Foundation’s much larger partner, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (assets: $6.3 billion), to borrow one of WSJF’s veteran program officers.

Senior Program Officer Denis Udall will head Hewlett’s considerable investment in the improvement of student success at California community colleges. He steps into that role to replace Pam Burdman, who oversaw the portfolio for four years and is relocating to Chicago, where she will be an independent consultant.

Udall said he plans to spend most of his time with Hewlett, which is also based in Menlo Park, and put some work in at Johnson for the time being. He will return to WSJF once grant making resumes for 2011. Contact: (650) 234-4500,