Leonard Burton Selected as Next President of the Center for the Study of Social Policy

Washington, DC (February 15, 2023)The Board of Directors of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is pleased to announce the selection of Leonard Burton as President. Mr. Burton brings more than three decades of experience leading anti-racist, intersectional social justice work including executive leadership in public social service systems, philanthropy, community change, faith-based programs, and youth development.  

Mr. Burton succeeds Judith Meltzer, who announced her retirement from CSSP in 2022. His appointment comes after an extensive national search process led by CSSP’s Board of Directors with the support of Work Renewed. Mr. Burton will begin his role as president on April 10, 2023; in the intervening weeks, he will work closely with CSSP’s leadership and Board of Directors to develop a transition plan that extends the work that CSSP has done since its founding and begins to set a course for its future.

Mr. Burton has spent his career as a servant-leader and brings a deep connection to racial justice and community mobilization work. He most recently served as a Senior Fellow at CSSP, working on the Systems Change and Public Policy teams, and brings a wealth of knowledge about the organization, our partners, and the communities in which we are working. In addition, Mr. Burton also co-developed CSSP’s partnership with upEND, which seeks to reimagine care for children and families and to reduce family policing and family separation. Prior to joining CSSP, Mr. Burton served for nine years as the Chief Operating Officer at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. He previously served as Assistant Commissioner of Child Welfare and Regional Services with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS), helping to end Tennessee’s over-reliance on institutional care for children and youth. 

We are at an inflection point in our nation’s approach to supporting children, youth, and families.  “His clear commitment to both anti-racist intersectional work and collaborative leadership ensures that Leonard will be a strong advocate for those who have been historically marginalized by public policies and institutional practices,” said Carol Wilson Spigner, Chair of CSSP’s Board of Directors and member of the search committee.

“Leonard possesses the bold vision, organizational leadership, and most importantly the heart and soul to lead CSSP’s strategy,” said Larkin Tackett, Vice Chair of CSSP’s Board of Directors and chair of the search committee. “In addition, his ability to engage people at all levels ensures that he is the right leader to take CSSP into the next era.”

Mr. Burton serves on the Boards of Building Bridges Initiative, and leading research organization WestED. He is also a strategic advisor for the Center for Child Trauma, Services, and Systems Integration at Northwestern University, and served as faculty coach on Breakthrough Series Collaboratives for Transition Age Youth, and Father’s and Paternal Relatives in Child Welfare.

“CSSP has always been committed to racial, social, and economic justice,” Mr. Burton said. “I could not be more honored to continue and to build upon that legacy, and to lead the organization to be bold, values-driven, unapologetically anti-racist, and intersectional.”

“I am confident that Leonard will expand our work consistent with our mission and values. He will work closely with our staff and partners to continue to innovate and seek solutions to the problems that prevent opportunity and success for all children, families, and communities,” said Judith Meltzer, outgoing President of CSSP.  

Mr. Burton is a proud native of Detroit, Michigan, and currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama with his spouse Cheryl; they have two adult children and a teenage grandson. Mr. Burton is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and a combat veteran of the US Army. 

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at www.CSSP.org. For press inquiries, please contact Jessica Sheets Pika, Communications Director, 202-866-6572.