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Posted at 03:08 PM ET, 05/09/2011

Roque Gerald resigns as D.C. Child and Family Services director

UPDATED 4:35 P.M.

Roque R. Gerald has resigned as director of the District’s Child and Family Services Agency, less than a week after a court-appointed monitor delivered a mixed review of the troubled agency’s progress.

Gerald submitted his resignation, effective at month’s end, Monday morning, said CFSA spokeswoman Mindy Good.

Former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) appointed Gerald to lead the agency in July 2008, about six months after the discovery of Banita Jacks’ four dead daughters in a Southeast home threw CFSA into crisis.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who oversaw the agency as chairman of the human services committee from 2007 until January, credited Gerald with closing a massive backlog of cases that built up after the Jacks revelations. “He managed resources to urgency in a way that his predecessors did not,” Wells said.

Wells’ successor as human services chairman, Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), called Gerald’s departure “a loss” for the agency. “I rather wish he would have stayed,” he said.

But establishing lasting reform at the agency has been difficult. The agency has been the subject of a federal class-action lawsuit for two decades, and while the city agreed to an exit plan in December, the court monitor’s report released last Monday indicated that much work is still to be done.

The report was particularly critical of Gray’s proposed cuts to the CFSA budget, impacting mental health services and aid to community nonprofits that aid troubled families. Gerald did not appear at a D.C. Council hearing on the agency’s budget last week, because he was participating in a program to develop child-welfare systems in the former Soviet Union, Good said.

At the hearing, Graham was critical of the agency’s “top-heavy” management — noting that Gerald had proposed cutting funding for outside programs without taking a close look at his own staffing needs.

Gerald’s departure does not come as a surprise. Like many Fenty-appointed agency directors, he was allowed to keep his job on only an interim basis — far from a vote of confidence from the new administration. “I think that the mayor definitely wants his own person in the position, and that’s understandable,” Wells said.

The Gray administration has not yet announced an interim director. Gerald’s chief of staff, Loren Ganoe, represented agency management at last week’s hearing.

UPDATE, 4:35 P.M.: Gerald wrote the following e-mail to CFSA employees:

I’ve forwarded my resignation today to Mayor Gray. I’ll be leaving CFSA at the end of this month. Although this was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my professional life, it stems from a personal sense that I need to pursue new horizons.

It’s close to three years since I stepped into the leadership position at CFSA. During that time, all of us pulled together as never before to overcome a crisis—and then we’ve gone on to make the safety net stronger than it’s ever been. Federal reviewers, Casey, and the Court Monitor in her recent report all recognize our progress and achievements. Never, never doubt that what we do here makes a huge difference to the most vulnerable children and families in our community.

Later this week, I’ll be meeting with the Deputy Mayor about the upcoming transition, so there aren’t yet any details to share about that. However, one of the many strengths now in place at CFSA is a seasoned management team that’s fully prepared to continue directing all the important work underway. I have every confidence that their support for you and your partnership with them will keep CFSA on track in meeting our goals. Expect to hear from them when information about the transition is available to share.

During this month, there will be time for conversation and closure. But I wanted to let you know quickly and directly about my decision and ask for your continued diligence and support during the upcoming transition. This has been an incredible journey for me as a founding member of the Healthy Families Thriving Community Collaboratives, as a member of For Love of Children and then both as Deputy Director for the Office of Clinical Practice within CFSA and as your director over the course of almost three years.

I leave a strong agency, with excellence in some areas and also challenges in other areas but with a solid framework to achieve the goals and mandates that face us. Thank you for your incredible support during my tenure within CFSA but especially since July of 2008. Words cannot express my gratitude and pride in what you have accomplished. Stay the course.

By  |  03:08 PM ET, 05/09/2011

 
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