A group of more than 50 influential players in the New York City child welfare ecosystem is now advising Mayor-elect Eric Adams on forming his future administration.
There are nearly 800 people on the transition team list — “an unprecedented collection of great minds and hard-working New Yorkers who will prepare my administration for success,” Adams said in a statement last week.
His advisers on human services issues include parent advocates, former foster youth and organizations that help some of the most vulnerable families in New York City.
The 58-member team is still receiving its assignments, members said in interviews this week, but they are eager to have some influence.
Among them is Jeanette Vega, co-executive director at RISE, a group serving parents whose children have been taken into foster care. Vega is the first person in her organization to serve on a mayoral transition team.
“I think it’s exciting,” she told The Imprint. “Now other stakeholders are seeing the importance of incorporating parent and youth voices in these conversations.”
The group of human services advisers will be co-led by Anne Williams-Isom, a professor at Fordham University’s graduate school of social service, and Ron Richter, a former Administration for Children’s Services commissioner who is now the CEO and executive director of the foster care agency JCCA, formerly known as Jewish Child Care Association. Williams-Isom spent 13 years in leadership with the city’s child welfare agency. Five professionals from other fields will also help lead the advisory group.
Other members include: Leslie Abbey, deputy executive director and chief operating officer at Covenant House, an organization that serves homeless and trafficked youth; Jess Dannhauser, former CEO of Graham Windham, a Brooklyn-based youth and family services provider; and Ericka Francois, a former foster youth and coordinator for Fair Futures Youth Advisory Board.
Vega said she plans to advise the team about the “parent perspective” of the foster care system — and what policies and approaches currently in place aren’t working for families in the city. With the opportunity to advise the mayor, she said she aims to incorporate more parents with lived experience into policy conversations.
“I’m hoping that having parents and youth at the table will give them a better understanding of what child welfare does to families, and the trauma and harm that it actually causes,” Vega said.