The executive director of the National Network for Youth, which advocates for increased resources to aid homeless and runaway youth, will leave in July after the board decided it had to close one of the organization’s two headquarters.
The board voted in April to close the network’s Seattle office because of financial concerns. Executive Director Vicki Wagner, who lives in Seattle, has traveled between that office and the Washington, D.C. headquarters during her six years leading the network. She decided that she did not want to move to Washington.
“As many of you know, for the past five years I have commuted from my home in Seattle to Washington, D.C. on a monthly basis,” Wagner said in a letter to members. “I believe that the time has come for me to be more rooted in the Seattle community.”
When Wagner took over the network, which has about 200 member agencies and 300 individual members, in 2004 it was in financial disarray. Della Hughes, a former executive director, had taken a number of the network’s federally funded projects with her to Brandeis University. The next hire for executive director, Brenda Russell, was jettisoned by the board a year into her employment.
Wagner tried to use short-term debt to get long-term financial problems off of the networks books, most of them related to “ridiculous lease amounts,” Wagner told Youth Today in November.
The network pushed successfully for increased thresholds on runaway and homeless youth spending during last year’s reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. It also partnered with the American Bar Association last year to produce a collection of model legislative statutes that state advocates could use to improve services for runaway and homeless youth.
But federal funding for the network has continued to wither. It was not renewed this year for a $400,000 annual grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, of which the network kept $200,000 and distributed $200,000 to members.
A grant from the Centers for Disease Control, which now represents almost a third of the network’s budget, is up for renewal next month.
The board has not made plans to search for a new executive director yet, and it is likely that board members in the D.C. area will assist the network’s three other staff members with day-to-day operation. Those three staffers are Vice President of Programs Kayla Jackson, Project Director Tara James and Public Policy Director Bob Reeg.
News of Wagner’s pending departure comes a week after the Obama administration acknowledged it may choose not to assign a political appointee to the federal agency that funds many of the network’s member organizations, the Family and Youth Service Bureau.