D.C. Child and Family Services Director Resigns

By Elissa Silverman and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 17, 2008

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced last night that he has accepted the resignation of Sharlynn E. Bobo, director of the city's troubled Child and Family Services Agency.

Fenty (D) named Roque Gerald, who has served under Bobo as deputy director, as the agency's interim director.

"I accepted Dr. Bobo's resignation today and would like to personally thank her for her dedication to public service and for working to turn our troubled child welfare agency around," Fenty said in a statement. "The protection of the District's children is paramount and we will continue the work started by Dr. Bobo."

Bobo has been under fire from city leaders and child advocates since January, when the four daughters of Banita Jacks were found dead in the family's house in Southeast. The deaths came despite warnings to the agency from a school social worker, who had suspected trouble in the home.

Since the Jacks case, the agency has struggled to manage caseloads. A social worker in the agency was fired this month after a 6-month-old boy's death became public. And the agency said Monday that it is investigating the death that day of a 4-month-old infant.

In a statement, Bobo said she did not want questions about her leadership to distract the agency from its mission of protecting the city's children.

"It is my sincere hope that the reforms and improvements we worked on together will continue," she said.

Bobo had served as the agency's deputy director and became permanent in June 2007.

City leaders expressed surprise at the resignation but said the city must move forward.

"I think that it's critical that we assure that we have leadership at the agency to handle the backlog of cases and to better serve the children and families of the city," said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who oversees the agency as chairman of the council's Committee on Human Services.

"I think our challenge is greater now that she's leaving, because I don't think the agency has a very deep bench," Wells said. "We will need to bring in outside support quickly."

He said he plans to meet with Gerald as soon as possible and he wants to meet with social workers to hear their concerns about the management shake-up.

"The city's counting on our social workers, no matter what leadership is there, on the front line to keep our children safe," Wells said.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company