Newsmakers for October 2009

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Doug Nelson

Foundations

When he walked into Annie E. Casey Foundation’s old headquarters in Greenwich, Conn., in 1990, Doug Nelson thought he was there to give foundation leaders some advice on a project. Instead, they asked him to run the whole place.

Nearly two decades later, Nelson announced last month that he will retire in April 2010 as president of AECF, now based in Baltimore. Casey’s growth under Nelson has been exponential.

Casey’s 46 staff members grew to 500; its assets rose from $590 million to a high of $3 billion in 2007 (now at approximately $2.5 billion, after the recession knocked it to as low as $2.3 billion in March 2009). All the while, Nelson said, Casey paid out an average of 7 percent of its assets annually during his tenure, with spending increasing from $35 million his first year to $240 million for more than 900 grantees in 2008. (Youth Today is a recipient of AECF money.)

Nelson’s approach to the foundation’s work garnered him the respect of people who didn’t always see eye-to-eye with him. “We didn’t always agree,” said Douglas Besharov, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who was the first director of the U.S. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. “But he had a vision, it was a valid vision, and he pursued it with energy and good nature.”

Nelson’s legacy at Casey will include the foundation’s commitment to philanthropy informed by data analysis. Casey initiatives started under Nelson include the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which helps communities to make informed decisions about the use of secure detention facilities; Family to Family, which has helped state and county child welfare systems reform around foster homes and family preservation while minimizing the number of placements in institutional care; and Kids Count, which provides data on dozens of youth indicators for each state.

Besharov lauded Nelson most for his ability to correct course. “One of the things Doug was very good about was looking back and saying, ‘You know, this didn’t work,’ or, ‘We could have done that better.’ ”

Nelson would not comment on whether he thought one of his executives should succeed him, but indicated that whoever does will not come out of left field.

“I and the board want someone to fill this seat who really understands our mission,” he said. “We’re not looking for a stranger here. It will be a believer in what Casey aspires to do.”

Nelson will split his time between Baltimore and Wisconsin, where he was once a history professor and before that served as assistant secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services. He’ll remain involved with Casey projects on a volunteer basis, particularly the foundation’s East Baltimore Development Initiative, which includes efforts to keep together foster children and their children. Contact: (410) 547-6600, http://www.aecf.org.

Nonprofits

Changes are afoot at American Humanics, the Kansas City, Mo.-based organization that oversees a network of colleges, universities and nonprofits that work to develop nonprofit leaders through coursework (see “Raising Youth Work’s Next Leaders,” September). President Kala Stroup has announced that she will retire at the end of the year, and the organization has already settled on her successor.

The new president will be R. Wayne Branch, who formerly served as president of Clark College in Vancouver, Wash. The plan is for Branch to take office in November, said AH spokesman Richard Potter, so “they overlap a little bit and Kala can facilitate some introductions.”

Branch advises a higher education technology consulting firm. In addition to his Clark College presidency, he has also served as president and chief academic officer for the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus in Baltimore.

Branch is author of the upcoming book High School Is Not Enough:Helping Students Take the Next Step in Their Lives. It is scheduled for release early in 2010.

Meanwhile, one of Stroup’s last acts in her seven years at the organization might be changing its name. Potter said the organization is working with Trozzolo Communications Group, which is researching ways to “refresh the brand of American Humanics and better establish our corporate identity.” A name change is on the table, he said, but it’s still early in the process. Contact: (816) 561-6415, http://www.humanics.org.

The National Crime Prevention Council, of McGruff the Crime Dog fame, promoted from within the ranks after its CEO, Alfonso Lenhardt, was tapped by President Barack Obama to serve as ambassador to Tanzania. Lenhardt spent 31 years as an officer in the U.S. Army before joining the Council on Foundations as chief operating officer. He joined NCPC in 2004.

Ann Harkins

NCPC Chief Operating Officer Ann Harkins took over the nonprofit Sept. 9, the day after Lenhardt was sworn in as ambassador. Harkins was chief of staff to former Attorney General Janet Reno, and also served as a longtime senior staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Immediately before joining NCPC in 2006, she was executive director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

NCPC recently snagged a $500,000 grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, a division of the Department of Justice. Contact: (202) 466-6272, http://www.ncpc.org.

The National Council For Adoption (NCFA), which works to keep the public updated on adoption information and to promote healthy adoption practices, has found a new president. Mary Robinson takes over for NCFA’s vice president, Chuck Johnson, who had served as acting president since Tom Atwood resigned last November. NCFA, which turns 30 next year, is a research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting adoption, and assisting mothers who might consider adoption and adoptive parents.

Robinson is the founder and was the president of Bethesda, Md.-based Capacity Partners, a firm providing services for philanthropy and nonprofit management. Contact: (703) 299-6633, http://www.adoptioncouncil.org.

Marty Sinnott

Marty Sinnott has joined Chicago-based Kittleman & Associates, a consulting firm that helps nonprofits and other institutions recruit leaders, as a principal search consultant. Before he resigned last fall, Sinnott served nine years as CEO of Chicago-based Kids Hope United, which provides child protection and family preservation services to 15,000 youths each year in four states. Sinnott is also well-connected to the nonprofit world through the many boards on which he has served: the Child Welfare League of America, the Child Welfare Advisory Council and the Alliance for Children & Families, to name just three.

His boss at Kittleman, Rick King, is also cut of the Illinois youth work cloth. King, who succeeded founder James Kittleman in 1995, was the first executive director of the Illinois Youth Service Bureau Association, which was established in 1976. Contact: (312) 986-1166, http://www.kittleman.net.

Newsmakers missed this over the summer, but Susan Abramavel is in as vice president for education at Washington, D.C.-based Youth Service America, a service-learning organization led by CEO Steve Culbertson that helps communities connect youth to civic engagement activities. Abramavel most recently served as education director at SOLV, a statewide community-based organization in Oregon, where she developed a nationally recognized service-learning program engaging K-12 and higher education students in many schools and school districts. Contact: (202) 296-2992, http://www.ysa.org.

Government

In an administration that has been slow to develop its youth policy leadership, the Corporation for National and Community Service remains, perhaps, the agency most in flux. It has been overseen by Acting CEO Nicola Goren since David Eisner left the corporation in November of 2008, and President Obama’s first nominee to replace Eisner permanently – Maria Eitel – withdrew from consideration in May, citing health concerns.

Now changes are afoot on the CNCS board. Chairman Alan Solomont, who has served on the board since his appointment in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, will leave to serve as Obama’s ambassador to Spain. That leaves Vice Chairman Stephen Goldsmith, the former Republican Indianapolis mayor who chaired the board under President George W. Bush, in charge.

His first task ought to be to work with the Obama administration to fill out the board over which he presides. Nine board members are listed on the CNCS website, and its bylaws mandate there be 15. Terms for two of the nine members, one of whom is Goldsmith, expire in the next three months.

The backdrop to all this is a federal office that is preparing for a massive increase in its flagship operation, AmeriCorps, while taking fire for a controversial firing and less-than-satisfactory money management.

Former CNCS Inspector General Gerald Walpin, fired by Obama in June, filed a lawsuit over the summer claiming his dismissal was illegal,. (Search for “Obama Fires CNCS Watchdog” at http://www.youthtoday.org). That case continues, and Walpin filed a motion in mid-September to have his job reinstated immediately.

An evaluation of the corporation’s budget process, which was initially overseen by Walpin, found outdated policies, a lack of clear lines of command and no overall plan for the agency’s computer systems (see “Same Old Money Problems at CNCS,” September). Contact: (202) 606-5000, http://www.cns.gov.

It is finally official: Carmen Nazario is assistant secretary for children and families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Nazario was nominated to lead the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) in May. Then, like many other nominees, she waited as the Senate dealt with the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and went home for summer recess.

Nazario was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in late September.

She brings a wealth of federal, state and commonwealth-level experience to the table. She got her start overseeing local social services in Virginia, first in Norfolk, then in Loudoun County, before serving as secretary of health and social services for the state of Delaware from 1993 to 1997. She served as administrator of the Administration for Children and Families for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where she led an agency of 4,000 staffers with a budget of more than $220 million, from January 2003 to December 2008.

Sandwiched between those jobs was a Clinton-era stint at ACF, when Olivia Golden held the position that Nazario has now. Nazario was associate commissioner for child care, then became the principal deputy assistant secretary. Contact: (202) 690-6343, http://www.acf.hhs.gov.

There was nary a trace of J. Robert Flores, former administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, after he left the office in January. Until now: Flores was the keynote speaker at the Esperanza Award luncheon held by Washington, D.C.-based Restoration Ministries at a mid-September luncheon. According to its 2008 tax returns, the group, which is led by founder Candace Wheeler, “seeks to bring healing to men, women and children who are trapped in the slavery of sex trafficking and lead them into the freedom of Jesus Christ.”

According to the website’s biography of Flores, he has started Hampton Road Strategies, a consulting and law firm “dedicated to working with small and effective businesses and nonprofit organizations that can benefit from sophisticated strategic planning, partnership development, and improved resource management.”

Contact: Restoration Ministries (202) 213-6025, http://www.restorationministriesdc.org.

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Executive Director Rayna Aylward has left the Arlington, Va.-based grant maker after 19 years to accept a presidential appointment. Aylward will be a special assistant at the Department of Education.

In her new position, Aylward is charged with focusing on projects that include building federal-foundation partnerships and strengthening special education programs. That makes sense, as Mitsubishi’s mission under Aylward’s leadership has always been to help youth with disabilities maximize their potential and participation in society.

“She is a kind, caring, thoughtful, brilliant and unassuming person,” said The Corps Network CEO Sally Prouty. “She would never blow her own horn, but she’s accomplished great things” with the foundation. The Corps Network has worked with Mitsubishi on a demonstration project to include more disabled youth on traditional conservation corps crews.

At the foundation, which was officially established in 1991 by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan and its U.S. subsidiaries, the plan is for Program Officer Kevin Webb to manage things until the board selects Aylward’s successor late this month. Contact: (703) 276-8240, http://www.meaf.org.

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Rayna Aylward

lan Khazei, the 48-year-old who co-founded national service-learning organization City Year with Michael Brown in 1988, announced last month that he will enter the special election for the seat of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who died in August at the age of 77 after a year-long battle with brain cancer.

Khazei left City Year in October 2006 for a fellowship at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. More recently, he founded and led Be the Change, a Boston-based organization that led the charge for the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, the bill signed by President Obama in March.

Khazei is likely to face Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, U.S. Reps Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch, and Steve Pagliuca, a managing director at Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics. All are Democrats. The special election is scheduled for Jan. 19, but Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Paul G. Kirk Jr. as interim senator.

For more on Kennedy’s legacy in youth work, read “The Lion’s Legacy” at http://www.youthtoday.org.

Denise Revels Robinson has been hired as assistant secretary of the Children’s Administration in Washington state and is scheduled to take the position on Oct. 19. Robinson has worked in child welfare since 1969, when she was a foster care caseworker in New York City. She led Milwaukee’s child welfare system for a year in 1997 before the state of Wisconsin took over that operation as a result of a lawsuit, and then she directed the state’s Milwaukee bureau from 1998 until 2008.

The Washington Federation of State Employees has voiced “serious concerns” about the hire, because Robinson resigned her post in 2008 in the wake of a child fatality. Christopher Thomas, a 13-month-old foster child, was beaten to death by the aunt with whom Robinson’s bureau had placed him. A follow-up investigation found that one of the bureau’s private contractors, La Causa, had failed to properly monitor Christopher’s care. Robinson was skewered by Journal-Sentinel court reporter Crocker Stephenson for not discussing the case with the media.

Some close to the city’s child welfare system believe Robinson personally would have been more transparent, and the state leadership leaned on her to stay silent. “The state promised a lot, and didn’t deliver,” said Roger Quindel, a youth worker in inner city Milwaukee who has served on the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council.

Quindel said Robinson’s tenure largely coincided with a state-run move toward privatized child welfare in Milwaukee, which he believes was poorly developed and remains poorly monitored. “The kind of things we’d use with our own babysitters, we weren’t doing in utilizing social workers or monitoring contractors,” he said.

Quindel regards Robinson as a “nice person,” although he added, “I’m not sure how much was her fault. But she’s got to take some responsibility.”

So how did Robinson land a better job after a nasty departure in Wisconsin? Her superior in Washington state will be Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus, who served as administrator of Wisconsin’s Division of Children and Family Services until 2002. Before going to Washington in March to work for Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, Dreyfus was vice president of the Milwaukee-based national membership organization Alliance for Children and Families. Contact: Washington Children’s Administration (800) 737-0617, http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca.

Roxane White became Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s new chief of staff in late September. White was for eight years the CEO of Urban Peak, a well-known provider of services to runaway and homeless young people in Denver, before Hickenlooper plucked her to head human services for the city in 2003. She left in 2008 for a short-lived stint as executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation, which funds human services programs in four specific places: Denver; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California. Contact: (720) 913-1311, http://www.denvergov.org/mayor.

New duties have been added to the portfolio of Valerie Jarrett, a long-time adviser to President Obama: head of the first White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport. Job One is to help Chicago win its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

This is not a separate office per se; don’t go looking for a nameplate on a door at the White House. Rather, the White House says eight other staffers will find time to help Jarrett, whose primary title is senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement.

Jarrett, an attorney, served as senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign, then co-chaired the Obama-Biden transition team. Prior to that, she was CEO of The Habitat Company, and served in several positions for the Chicago city government, including deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley.

The Obamas hosted a ceremony outside the White House last month to promote the office and the Olympic bid. See “First Lady Heads Push for Chicago” at http://www.youthtoday.org.

Contact: Office of Public Engagement (202) 456-1097.

Crime

The federal grant application process for Indio Youth Task Force was questioned after participants involved with its grant, such as the Desert Sands Unified School District, raised questions concerning official signatures and documents of the application.

Various nonprofits as well as grant-writing professionals say that the task force did not follow proper measures to complete its application in regard to following national ethical standards and also offered an unconventional form of pay for its grant writer.

The organization was given a $35 million federal grant after hiring grant writer Jean Cross, who was responsible for securing funds for program development to support 36 schools and youth organizations. All funds were returned in 2008, once participants involved with the grant became suspicious of signatures and documents associated with the application.

Cross, who contracted for a 15 percent fee from the grant money for her work, was indicted on Sept. 2 by a federal grand jury on charges of mail fraud, forging documents and making untrue statements throughout the application process. Contact: (760) 391-4057, http://www.indiopd.org.

Susan Choi and Briana Boyington contributed to this article.