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Brenda Donald returning to D.C. to lead child-welfare agency, sources say

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Mayor Vincent C. Gray will name a former D.C. deputy mayor and Maryland social-services secretary to take charge of the District’s troubled but improving child-welfare agency.

Gray (D) will name Brenda Donald director of the Child and Family Services Agency on Thursday, marking her second stint leading the agency, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the hiring decision.

Donald, 56, led the agency from 2004 to 2005, when she was named deputy mayor for children, youth, family and elders under Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). If confirmed, she would be the agency’s first permanent director since May, when Roque R. Gerald resigned.

The agency, which has operated under a federal court decree since 1993, continues to deal with the repercussions of the 2008 discovery of the four slain daughters of Banita Jacks, which caused a dramatic spike in the number of abuse reports.

A report issued this week by an independent, court-appointed monitor says that “essential foundational work is underway” at CFSA, but “implementation of key strategies has been challenging and has not yet produced significant results.”

“[O]verall performance is still not achieving the outcomes expected by the Court’s Order, the community or its own standards for practice,” the report says.

The search for a child-welfare director has been particularly nettlesome for the Gray administration, representing its last major unfilled post. Donald could not be reached Wednesday to comment.

In 2007, after leaving the D.C. government, Donald was named Maryland’s secretary of the Department of Human Resources, where she had administrative responsibility over such areas as child welfare, food stamps and homeless programs. Since August 2010, she has been an executive at the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Prior to serving as CFSA director, Donald was the agency’s chief of staff from 2001 to 2004. She was previously known professionally as Brenda Donald Walker and is a native of Southeast Washington.

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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