Forward Ever: A Year in Review

As I reflect on my first year as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for the work that CSSP has done in advancing our mission and honing our focus on health justice, economic justice, and family autonomy underpinned by our commitment to anti-racism. When I took on this role last April, I inherited an organization with a rich history of dreaming big—and working bigger. Since CSSP’s founding in 1978, it has been at the forefront of the most pressing policy issues impacting families, combining rigorous standards for policy analysis and nurturing innovation in communities. We count among our partners philanthropic organizations, labor unions, federal, state, and local administrators, child welfare rights organizations, families and youth, and many more—all of whom are working to push for the big changes that our nation needs to ensure a more fair and just society. From our origins focused on anti-poverty to where we stand today, social justice and equity have always been at the core of our work. 

The work CSSP does has always aligned with my personal values, and I am grateful for the opportunity to advance even bigger, bolder thinking during my tenure as president. We have a moral imperative to dismantle oppressive structures and create a society where every individual can thrive, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background. Our efforts are not merely about addressing symptoms. Rather, they are about understanding the root causes that have shaped our current landscape and using that knowledge to create innovative solutions that transform our society all while listening to and working in partnership with communities to create meaningful upstream supports. We must both engage with and learn from people who have been impacted by systems, while working to change existing harmful policies and advance new, anti-racist policies. We believe that as families and communities are supported and strengthened, so too will our society be supported and strengthened.   

We know that to truly accomplish our goals, we must actively turn our ideas into action. To that end, allow me to share with you some of the work we have done in this past year:  

  • Our work to advance an anti-racist, inclusive child allowance is driven by real families across the country and rooted in deep historical research, fostering new idea generation and collaborative action for change. 
  • Our initiative, Creating Actionable & Real Solutions, or CARES, brings together 27 young adults with experience in the foster care system to radically reimagine what the future must look like to support and affirm young people. This authentic partnership is grounded in the belief that young people must be at the center of shaping policies that concern them so that those policies are actionable and responsive to their real needs. 
  • Our research into unpaid caregiving has allowed us to more fully understand current policy gaps and how we might better support unpaid family caregivers moving forward. 
  • Our work to understand culturally responsive care, and the need to prioritize radically different, anti-racist family supports that center the voices of diverse children and families of color. This work highlights and addresses the barriers that stand in the way of families having access to those supports.  
  • Our expanding, anti-racist early childhood portfolio, which includes our Early Learning Nation and Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone (DULCE) initiatives, works to imagine the changes necessary to ensure that all families are supported in ways that meet their unique needs and priorities. 

To do this important work well, we had to make critical investments in our staff and infrastructure. In the past 12 months, we have welcomed three new board members and voted on a new Chair of the Board of Directors; with their support, we embarked on an exciting strategic planning process. In addition, we have also invested in critical infrastructure by developing new key roles with the goal of ensuring that all staff and our work are properly supported; these efforts include hiring a full-time Director of Human Resources and beginning the hiring process for a full-time Director of Development. Furthermore, we recently launched a comprehensive staff professional development and coaching program and have created a staff-driven internal equity learning initiative, which just kicked off its second year.  

Click here to see an infographic showing some of these achievements.  

As we look ahead to the future, I am filled with hope and determination. Together, we will continue to think bigger, building on our strong foundations to develop new and innovative ideas that will contribute to creating a more just and equitable world. Thank you for your unwavering support in this past year and your commitment to our shared vision now and in the future.