Ilana Levinson to Lead Alliance for Strong Families and Communities D.C. Office

In August, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities laid off the staff of its headquarters in Washington, D.C., signaling plans for a change in the way the membership organization did business in the nation’s capital.

“This is actually a strategic move and investment to enhance and bolster the Alliance’s policy advocacy and strengthen the work of our members and our network for the children, adults and families we serve,” said Chief Operating Officer Ron Clewer, in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change back in August. “The elimination of the existing policy positions was done to make way for the new directors of impact structure with subject matter experts overseeing various issue areas.”

Clewer said in August that the new D.C. team would be led by a senior director of government relations, and that hire has now been made. Ilana Levinson, former senior director of public policy for YouthBuild USA, began today in that role.

Levinson spent four years at YouthBuild USA, the national nonprofit that supports affiliate sites around the country working to connect at-risk youth to trade skills and education. Before that, Levinson worked in the office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for five years before leaving for New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Services.

“She will be critical to our continued efforts to advocate for system change across policy, practice, regulatory and fiscal legislation with her experience, which bridges the nonprofit human services sector and federal government,” said Susan Dreyfus, CEO of the Alliance, in a statement announcing the hire.

The Alliance traditionally kept a modest presence in the Beltway, preferring a strategy of building advocacy skills amongst its membership to representing them as a whole on the Hill.

That changed in 2014, when CEO Susan Dreyfus announced that it would establish a national headquarters in Washington, though she and most of the leadership team remained in Milwaukee. There was a single policy goal that drove the decision: reform of the way that federal money flows into state and local child welfare systems.

Ilana Levinson, former policy director for YouthBuild USA, will now lead government relations for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. Photo courtesy of the Alliance.

That change came with the passage last year of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which expanded the federal child welfare entitlement to fund efforts at family preservation while also limiting federal funds for group homes and other “congregate care” placements.

The Alliance will surely look to have a place at the table as the federal government continues to roll out rules and regulations related to Family First, and as states decide how to prepare for the law’s benefits and limitations. The organization also unveiled an ambitious plan last called “The National Imperative,” a call for needed investments to improve and stabilize the human services field.

The overall plan for the D.C. office appears to be the establishment of a central hub for a policy team that might operate from different parts of the country. The home office will include Levinson, an operations analyst, and two additional staff.

Three current members of the Alliance staff serve as subject matter experts:

  • Rehana Absar, director of organizational excellence
  • Jennifer Jones, head of the organization’s Change in Mind Institute
  • Undraye Howard, director of equity, diversity, inclusion and engagement.

Jennifer Devlin, a spokesperson for the Alliance, said more hires for the D.C. office will be made in short order. A webinar for Alliance members is scheduled for tomorrow to introduce Levinson and explain the new plans for the D.C. office.

Marlo Nash, who until August headed up the D.C. headquarters, is now the national director of partnerships and policy at Saint Francis Ministries.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.