Newsmakers for November 2009

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Patrick Corvington

Government

President Barack Obama has announced nominees for some major youth-related positions within his administration.

Patrick Corvington is the president’s second nominee to be CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. (Obama’s first nominee, Maria Eitel, withdrew for health reasons.) Corvington, who was born in Haiti and grew up in Africa, is the senior associate in the Leadership Development Unit for the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, and also serves as senior adviser to Casey Executive Vice President Ralph Smith.

Before joining the foundation, Corvington was executive director of Washington-based Innovations Network, a small nonprofit that helps other nonprofits with planning and evaluation tools. Contact: (202) 606-5000, http://www.cns.gov.

Tapped by the president to serve as administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is New Mexico Health and Human Services Secretary Pamela Hyde. Hyde has served Gov. Bill Richardson (D) in that role since 2003, and before that she was CEO of Comcare, a private nonprofit managed behavioral healthcare firm. SAMHSA, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a budget of about $3.2 billion.

At another HHS agency, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), David Hansell will be the principal deputy assistant to Carmen Nazario, who was confirmed in late September as assistant secretary of HHS for children and families. Hansell was the commissioner of the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance for New York.

The Family Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), which is part of ACF, remains without a nominee to run it. FYSB programs include Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, Mentoring Children of Prisoners, Abstinence Education and Family Violence Prevention.

The fraternity of runaway and homeless youth servers in the field is clamoring for Obama to make a choice, because so many providers are drowning in demands for services, while state budget cu

John Laub

ts are forcing a full-on cash drought. (See related story.)

Those mentioned as candidates for the job include Esta Soler, president of the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund, and Deborah Shore, founder and executive director of Sasha Bruce Youthwork in Washington.

The person to whom the FYSB nominee would answer is Bryan Samuels, who is nominated to be commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). He has not yet been confirmed. Contact: SAMHSA (877) 726-4727, http://www.samhsa.gov; ACF (202) 401-9215, http://www.acf.hhs.gov.

The Department of Education continues to finalize its top ranks, while other youth-serving agencies wait for nominees to get through confirmation hearings and votes on the floor of the Senate. Brenda Dann-Messier was confirmed as assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, and Alexa Posny was confirmed as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services.

Not everything has gone swimmingly for Education, though. Conservatives in the media and Republicans in the House of Representatives have pushed for the ouster of Kevin Jennings, appointed by the White House to oversee the department’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.

Neither group appears likely to succeed.

Conservative media pundits, foremost among them FOX News’ Sean Hannity, blasted Jennings for a decision he made in 1988 and later discussed at a lecture in 2000. A student told Jennings, who was then a 24-year-old Massachusetts schoolteacher, that he was engaged in a sexual relationship with an older man. Jennings did not notify authorities about the situation, which meets the criteria of a statutory rape, and told the youth he hoped he “knew to use a condom.”

As discussion of the incident heated up, Jennings admitted that he “should have handled this situation differently. I should have asked for more information and consulted legal and medical authorities.”

But the notion of it being a fire-able offense now was tamped down when it was discovered that while Jennings remembered the youth as a 15-year-old in his 2000 recounting of the incident, he was actually 16, which is the legal age of consent in Massachusetts.

But that is not why 53 House Republicans, led by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), want Jennings out. Their reason, according to a letter they sent to Obama in mid-October: “As the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network [GLSEN], Mr. Jennings has played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America’s schools – an agenda that runs counter to the values that many parents desire to instill in their children.”

The key piece of evidence for this assertion is that, in 1999, Jennings wrote the foreword to a book entitled Queering Elementary School Education: Advancing the Dialogue About Sexualities and Schooling: “Ask any elementary school teachers you know and – if they’re honest – they’ll tell you they start hearing [anti-homosexual prejudice] as soon as kindergarten.”

The administration said neither argument has swayed its confidence in Jennings. “Kevin Jennings has dedicated his professional career to promoting school safety,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an October statement. “He is uniquely qualified for his job and I’m honored to have him on our team.” Contact: Education Department (800) 872-5327.

At the Department of Justice, John Laub was nominated to serve as director of the National Institute of Justice. Laub is one of five presidential nominees who would answer to Laurie Robinson, who, barring unforeseen circumstances, will soon be confirmed as assistant attorney general for justice programs.

Laub, a professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, has researched the course of crime and deviance over a lifetime. He wrote Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70 with Robert Sampson in 2003.

Laub is working on two juvenile justice research projects: the transition from adolescence to young adulthood of serious juvenile offenders in Philadelphia, and a study of the interplay among spirituality, morality and crime in adolescents.

Another of those five presidential nominees answering to Robinson will be the administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, but Obama has been silent thus far on who that will be. After receiving a recommendation from the Department of Justice, according to multiple sources, Karen Baynes appears to be the presumptive favorite to get the job.

Baynes is a Maryland native who got her law degree from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California-Berkeley in 1992. She settled in Georgia, working for the law firm Alston & Bird, but was drawn into youth issues while volunteering for a truancy project in Atlanta. She became director of program development for the Fulton County Juvenile Court in 1997 and was appointed the next year to be a juvenile court judge.

Baynes left the bench after about four years for the Carl Vinson Institute for Government at the University of Georgia, where she serves as associate director for governmental services and research.

“Karen is very aggressive about implementing best practices,” said fellow Georgian and Clayton County Juvenile Judge Steve Teske. “She has such respect in Georgia, really all she has to do is pick up the phone and just ask and things get done. That’s her personality.” Contact: Office of Justice Programs (202) 307-0703, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

Mary “Dee” Richter is leaving her post as executive director of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services (FNYFS) to join a state agency that can never seem to get its name out of negative headlines: the Florida Department of Children and Families. Richter, who was given the Annual Advocacy of Spirit Award by the National Network for Youth in 2008, will serve as deputy secretary for child welfare policy for department Secretary George Sheldon.

Richter’s work at FNYFS has been done mostly in partnership with the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, which funds the network to assist 25 community-based nonprofit agencies that provide early intervention services, such as crisis shelters, to nearly 20,000 youth each year. Contact: DCF (850) 487-1111, http://www.dcf.state.fl.us.

Nonprofits

Chapin Hall, a child welfare and juvenile justice research organization based at the University of Chicago, is the new home of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention (CCYVP) and its leader, Deborah Gorman-Smith. Gorman-Smith was working out of the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Families and Communities Research Group, which makes up one-third of CCYVP; the other two-thirds are the Chicago Project on Violence Prevention and the Illinois Center for Violence Prevention.

She goes to Chapin Hall with Michael Schoeny, who worked with her at Illinois-Chicago.

The announcement of the move comes amid plans for an ambitious violence prevention agenda in the city, spearheaded by Chicago Public Schools with funds from the federal government (See story, page 1.) Contact: (773) 753-5900, http://www.chapinhall.org.

Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) has appointed Nadya Shmavonian to replace Fred Davie as president of the Philadelphia-based organization, which conducts research and runs programs, including its Amachi mentoring model for children of incarcerated parents.

Shmavonian comes to P/PV from the Rockefeller Foundation, where, as vice president for strategy, she oversaw a reframing of the grant maker’s priorities and programs. Before that she spent 12 years as executive vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Shmavonian also sits on the boards of the Surdna Foundation and the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

She will join P/PV at the start of the new year; until then, P/PV Vice President Geri Summerville will remain acting president. Summerville has filled the role since Davie left in April to direct social justice and LGBT programs for the Arcus Foundation, which has offices in Kalamazoo, Mich., and New York. Contact: (215) 557-4400, http://www.ppv.org.

Mark Hardin is retiring as director of child welfare at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. Hardin joined the ABA in 1980 and has overseen its National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues since the program was established by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The ABA will not immediately look to replace Hardin at the Center on Children and the Law. At the Child Welfare Resource Center, Hardin’s assistant director, Jennifer Renne, will take over. Contact: (202) 662-1000, http://www.abanet.org/child.

D.C.-based Voices for America’s Children, a network of child advocacy organizations around the country, hired Jenn Novesky to be its new membership director. Novesky was advocacy manager for the Council on Foundations, where she managed organizational partnerships and lobbied Congress and the administration. Contact: (202) 289-0777, http://www.voices.org.

Terrill Wicks is the new vice president of military and international services for Atlanta-based Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Wicks brings more than 13 years of experience in youth development in the military world. She oversaw naval youth programs in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Department of the Navy Headquarters in Millington, Tenn., and served as director of children, youth and teen programs with the U.S. Marine Corps, which serves about 57,000 youth annually. Wicks replaces Tim Richardson. Contact: (404) 487-5700, http://www.bgca.org.

Marsha Ralls resigned as the CEO and publisher of Children’s PressLine at the end of September, 15 months after taking the job.

Ralls is founder and president of The Ralls Collection, a D.C.-based company providing fine art to private, corporate and institutional art collectors. CPL is a nonprofit organization that trains kids between ages 8 and 18 to be journalists. It is an offshoot of the media organization Children’s Express, founded by Bob Clampitt in 1975. Contact: http://www.cplmedia.org.