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Celebrating women leaders in child welfare — a message from our CEO

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March 28, 2023

Celebrating women leaders in child welfare – a message from our CEO


As the trees begin to bud and seedlings are planted, I’m thrilled to see many of National CASA/GAL’s endeavors taking root. This June, at our national conference in St. Louis, June 9-13, we will launch our 2030 Strategic Framework, which has been tended and watered by the collective wisdom of our network, partners and stakeholders. I’m filled with excitement to share our renewed mission, vision and goals with the many child and family advocates who will be present. Once again, we will celebrate the visionaries who have led efforts to improve the lives of children and families in the child welfare system with our Awards of Excellence. We have included more information about the conference and registration on the conference registration site. Please note you will save money by registering for the conference before April 21.

Along with spring, in March we celebrate Women’s History Month, and in this month, we honor the pioneering work of the late Carmen Ray-Bettineski, the founding director of the King County Dependency CASA Program and founding executive director of the National CASA Association. She developed the role of the volunteer court appointed advocate, which today is very similar to what it was in 1977.

We are also grateful for the efforts of other powerful women who have helped improve the lives of children in the child welfare system, such as early pioneer Lillian D. Wald, who became a public health nurse after recognizing the dire need to offer medical attention to families at all income levels, and in 1895, founded the Henry Street Settlement, which provided healthcare for impoverished communities.

Wald was a member of the New York Child Labor Committee and frequently campaigned to protect children from the workforce. Because of her advocacy and that of other women, in 1912, the United States Department of Labor added a Children’s Bureau.

Another woman who gave powerful voice to the need for children’s protection was Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry, the granddaughter of Frederick Douglass. She co-founded the Missouri State Association of Colored Girls in 1923 and the Colored Big Sister Home for Girls in 1934, which provided housing for black girls in foster care.

Building on the work of her foremothers, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, an African-American activist and child-welfare advocate, created programs in the 1960s to keep youth active during summer school breaks and opened child care centers for mothers who needed to work. She organized the first battered women’s shelter in New York City and co-founded the New York Agency for Child Development and the Women’s Action Alliance. We lost Hughes at the end of last year, but her work will live on forever.

I’m inspired by the leadership and wisdom of these remarkable women and believe that, together, we will carry their legacy forward.

I hope you enjoy the warmer weather and longer days.

Tara Lisa Perry
CEO, National CASA/GAL Association for Children