It is with enormous pride and satisfaction that I am announcing today that I will be stepping down as president/CEO of Children's Home Society of Washington (CHSW) and Children’s Home Society & Trust Foundation in 2018. The CHSW Board of Trustees has retained Ford Webb Associates to undertake a nationwide search during 2017-18. My successor will be hired well in advance of my departure in order to assure a smooth transition. As the organization’s 14th chief professional officer since our 1896 founding, I have had the honor and joy to serve, for almost three decades, Washington state’s children, their families and communities, both in the good as well as the challenging times.
Currently, CHSW is in the midst of the most robust growth period in its 121-year history with an ambitious vision and strategic plan designed to carry us for the future. This is the ideal time to make way for new energy, skill and capacity in order to flourish. This willingness and ability to change with the times and grow with the needs of children and families remain hallmarks and core values of CHSW’s standard of excellence. It is with this in mind, after considerable thought, that I have made the decision to transition at this time.
With a history steeped in the tradition of being there for children and their families when they most need us, our work today is as critical and relevant for children to thrive as it was when CHSW was founded at the turn of the last century. CHSW’s success is grounded in our commitment to provide the very best quality of service informed by research and innovation, while listening earnestly to the families with whom we partner.
Similarly, we take seriously our responsibility to advocate for ALL children. I am proud of CHSW’s stellar tradition of public policy leadership and systems reform locally, statewide and nationally. Our impact over the years has helped to create model services and programs, and improve both public and private systems for children that are replicated throughout the country. Family voice is a critical component of our success and our commitment to holistic service delivery. It is with this in mind that I can say I take great pride and satisfaction in the reputation we have at CHSW and the accomplishments that we and our families have made and continue to make every day.
Our 2016-21 Strategic Plan calls for the creation of a comprehensive model (also known as the "hub") in communities throughout the state that focuses on all phases of a child's life from birth to 12. In eliminating barriers and insisting on continuity of services, the hub comprised of our signature services—Adoption & Secure Families, Child & Family Counseling, Family Support and Early Learning—significantly improves access and success for our families. The community hub is primarily focused on prevention and keeping families together and out of the public child welfare system. When children enter the foster care system, our focus is to reunite them with their family as soon as possible. For those who cannot remain with their birth families, we are committed to helping these children find forever families.
A vital and new component of our hub will be the expansion of CHSW’s Adoption & Secure Families signature service. Recently, CHSW in collaboration with the State of Washington and private partners has been identified to scale evidence-based Wendy's Wonderful Kids adoption program throughout Washington state. It is with humility and a sense of pride and accomplishment that I know CHSW has never been more clearly and strongly positioned to ensure that children with their families reach their fullest potential.
As all of you know it is our work together that has encouraged and allowed me to remain in my position all these many years. Whether it is amazing dedication, passion and professionalism of our staff or the gift of time and energy of hundreds of volunteers—you provided a thrill and energy that have always inspired me. The late-night meetings and early morning sessions and seemingly endless efforts with community partners, funders and policymakers have always reinforced my confidence that ultimately, we all have the same goal—the very best for ALL our children! The phenomenal generosity of donors never ceases to amaze me, and the stories behind why you give are priceless and humbling.
That said, the greatest inspiration of all for our work is to see the courage, love and boundless stamina of families who work tirelessly to gain the strength and skills required to be quality, loving parents. And then there are the extraordinary families who step up to form a “forever family” for an adopted child or a sibling group in need. None of this work could be accomplished without you. It is with a sense of profound gratitude that I thank each and every one of you for your commitment to our work and your belief in our children and their families.
My journey at CHSW would not be complete without my heartfelt appreciation and respect for the amazing CHSW Board of Trustees. In working with multiple boards, volunteers and community leaders, never have I found a more dedicated, compassionate and talented group of business leaders, academics, consumers and strategically focused professionals who through their stewardship have created a vision and plan for Washington state’s children. It remains a privilege to work alongside you.
In 1899, CHSW co-founder Libbie Beach Brown wrote what I have experienced at CHSW. “This institution is not enclosed in a wall of brick, stone, wood or iron ... CHSW will endure forever because it is built in the hearts of people.” I am proud to be one of those whose heart this great institution has claimed.
Thank you one and all for providing me the opportunity and supporting my time to work and partner with Washington state’s parents and their children. I leave my position at the helm of this amazing organization knowing that we remain strong, vibrant, and committed to create a “world where all children thrive!”
Sharon Osborne is the president/CEO of Children's Home Society of Washington and Children's Home Society & Trust Foundation.