The Foster America team and Cohort 2 fellows gathered in Washington, DC during the first week of October for their third quarterly convening.
In a packed week of learning, fellows began by presenting on innovations they helped pioneer in their agencies, receiving feedback from their cohort peers as well as Foster America team members and invited faculty.
On Tuesday, fellows traveled to DC’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), home agency to Foster America fellow Carmen Knight. Leaders in CFSA illuminated the opportunities and challenges associated with child welfare in the nation’s capital; subjects discussed included poverty and low availability of resources like healthy food in certain wards of the city as well as DC’s rapidly changing demographics. The Center for Social Policy (CSSP)’s Judith Meltzer, federal court-appointed monitor of CFSA, spoke about class action litigation and its role in shaping child welfare. After the CFSA visit, fellows went to Capitol Hill to meet with senatorial staffers who helped pass the groundbreaking Family First legislation. They capped off the day with a visit to the Children’s Defense Fund, learning about CDF’s agenda to keep children safe in nurturing families and communities.
On Wednesday, fellows learned about child welfare financing and how states draw down federal dollars from Don Winstead, formerly Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families. Winstead made a seemingly dry subject come alive by presenting fellows with various scenarios and asking teams to compete with one another to identify the most optimal funding options. Following this session on financing, fellows took a deep dive into leadership with a presentation on leading teams from nonprofit brand management expert Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and an inspiring session on adaptive leadership from leadership advisor Jeffrey Lawrence. Fellows walked away with new tools to apply in their agencies and renewed energy for the journey ahead.