Children’s Defense Fund Adds New Policy Staffer on Child Welfare, Mental Health

Steven Olender, new senior policy associate on child welfare and mental health for the Children’s Defense Fund. Photo: CDF.

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), which recently mourned the loss of its senior expert on child welfare policy, has brought in Steven Olender to serve as a policy staffer on the issue.

Olender will join the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, founded in the 1970s by Marian Wright Edelman, as a senior policy associate on child welfare and mental health policy. Olender, a recent master’s graduate in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was a city leadership fellow with Baton Rouge, La., where he worked on a cradle-to-kindergarten initiative for Mayor Sharon Broome. Before that, Olender spent two years apiece at two Austin, Texas, organizations: SafePlace, and the local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) office.

He joined CDF in June, the same month that the organization lost its longtime child welfare policy leader, MaryLee Allen. Allen, a mentor to dozens and widely considered to be among the most knowledgeable people on Capitol Hill in regard to child welfare, died of liver cancer at the age of 74.

Olender will have an even bigger gap to fill than that suggests, at least temporarily. CDF’s deputy director of child welfare and mental health, Stefanie Sprow, will be on maternity leave until early 2020.

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