Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Testimony of Raymond Davidson, Acting Director/Director Nominee before the Committee on Health and Human Services Council of the District of Columbia
Good morning, Chairwoman Alexander and members of the Health and Human Services Committee. I am Raymond Davidson, Acting Director of the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). I am honored and privileged to come before you today as Mayor Bowser’s nominee for director of CFSA.
I joined CFSA in 2008, after a successful career in various private-sector organizations. My experience from three decades of working in Fortune 500 companies has equipped me with a keen sense for achieving organizational performance by always having a clear strategy, putting the customer first, and retaining an engaged workforce. My past positions were focused on delivering organizational performance based on outcomes such as earnings per share and return on investment. When I came to CFSA, I was introduced to a very different way of looking at organizational performance—that is, protecting children and youth from harm and providing a strong safety net for our city’s most vulnerable children and families. Over these past seven years, I have developed a deep appreciation for the far-reaching impact of this crucial mission. This experience continues to have a profound impact on me both professionally and personally, and it is a privilege to be on this journey. You might say I am a businessman with a heart for social work.
I am humbled by Mayor Bowser’s appointment to lead CFSA and by the continued vote of confidence from Deputy Mayor Brenda Donald. Through this appointment, I intend to maintain continuity and further CFSA’s progress.
I am the product of a Central Virginia family that survived for generations primarily as farmers and occasional factory workers. At very young ages, my three siblings and I experienced the challenges of a broken family that included domestic violence, alcoholism, and borderline poverty with a young mother and disengaged father. Fortunately, we were blessed with an extraordinary mother and grandparents who were supportive during this challenging time. My mother set demanding standards for her children, and she and my grandparents heavily influenced the values that my siblings and I carried forward. Today, my siblings and I are all college graduates and post-graduates who enjoy successful careers and comfortable lives because we found our pathway to the middle class. That’s my history, and I know I’m not the only one who comes from a family with enough resilience to withstand socioeconomic challenges. However, too many other families are devastated because they are not equipped to withstand challenges. These families and children need and deserve our support.
My knowledge of and experience at CFSA are both broad and deep. Since joining CFSA, I have held senior positions as a thought leader and key partner in our current strategies. I have worked closely with agency leadership and front-line employees to restructure and implement key organizational changes across operational and administrative functions. For two years, I served as Director Donald’s right hand in preparing the agency budget, which gave me a bird’s eye view of how each function is managed and of overall strengths and challenges across the agency. I was the lead in the move to our new headquarters location, including ensuring the developers were designing an infrastructure supportive of our agency’s unique needs. From my background in human resources, I have a deep understanding of and appreciation for our workforce, both labor and management. I have shadowed our social workers while they conducted investigations and visits across the District. For seven years, I have sat at the leadership table with colleagues who are knowledgeable, experienced, and expert child welfare practitioners. No group of people could have given me a better on-the-job orientation to the field.
Now, I have the opportunity to build on the great foundational work of all the previous CFSA directors including Dr. Olivia Golden, Uma Ahluwalia, the late Dr. Sharlynn Bobo, Dr. Roque Gerald, and Brenda Donald. Each provided leadership and innovation that moved District child welfare forward to becoming the model agency gaining national recognition that we are today.
Most recently under the leadership of Brenda Donald, who is now a Deputy Mayor, the local child welfare system embraced a strategic agenda known as the Four Pillars. It speaks to all the essential functions in child welfare, highlighting foundational values in each area and driving toward what all of us want for those we serve—measurable positive outcomes. It is wholly in line with the goals of Mayor Bowser’s Fresh Start agenda to improve government services. CFSA’s performance gains under the Four Pillars indicate that we are on the right track, and I plan to stay that positive course. Having made significant investments over the past couple of years in more than a dozen best-practice improvement strategies, I see FY15 and beyond as a time to go deeper and to ensure full implementation and completion of model practices and procedures.
For example, we must continue the transformation of CFSA from an agency geared for foster care to one primarily providing support for struggling families. This support should be a hand-up to greater stability, capability, and self-sufficiency—and is very much in line with Mayor Bowser’s agenda regarding pathways to the middle class. The District’s success in gaining a Title IV-E waiver presents just the game-changing opportunity we need to develop a robust array of services for District families. Later this summer, I plan to engage a team of stakeholders in considering fresh ideas regarding prevention resources in the District. CFSA will lead implementation of a broad, integrated array of preventive services in our community hub locations. The best investment we can make in resources for struggling families is in prevention, and the powerful IV-E waiver gives us the means to do so.
So while continuing to embed Four Pillars strategies, investing in prevention will be a strong plank in my platform. Another important plank for me involves an outward focus.
As I mentioned earlier, my previous experience was in organizations where attention to customers was critical and expected. Competition meant that if our customers were unhappy, they would go somewhere else. In translating that perspective to public service, we have a responsibility to seek out and listen to the voices of our customers, our partners (including advocates), and our employees doing the difficult work on the front lines. We must ensure we are always tuned in to the needs of the children, youth, and families we serve and that we are leveraging resources of the District and our various stakeholders to deliver for our customers. If anything, this outward focus is even more important in this environment where child and family needs are critical and they have nowhere else to go. I am convinced that we can gain important input and insights from our youth in care, fellow providers, and employees (along with many other stakeholders), and I have already put a high priority on tapping and hearing these voices regularly.
A third focus I am emphasizing at CFSA is attention to quality, internal monitoring, and self-correction. CFSA has made great strides in meeting our commitments under the LaShawn Implementation and Exit Plan. Going forward, I expect to work cooperatively with our private partners, community-based Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaboratives, and Court Monitor. We must have measurable outcomes and accountability. I plan on engaging the services of a nationally-recognized consultant to move us forward in continuous quality improvement. This is an area in which my administrative background and business management skills are distinct assets.
Before closing my remarks today, I want to acknowledge my strong confidence in the power of the employees of CFSA. Last year, our agency won the Mayor’s Dwight Bowman Labor-Management Partnership Award, recognition that we were thrilled to earn and intend to continue to live up to. Each day, I witness the passion and commitment of our employees, and it is amazing. We have so many stories that speak to that commitment—for example:
Our 24-hour/365-day Hotline, Child Protective Services, and Placement operations that stay on duty regardless of the weather, always ready to act when children aren’t safe.
- Social workers who stay well beyond their tours of duty to see a client through a crisis.
- A social worker who refused to give up until she found an adoptive home for a young teen with severe disabilities who had been in our system since infancy.
- Repeatedly reminding and encouraging our youth in foster care “Yes You Can” complete high school and go on to college or vocational training.
- And bringing services, solutions, and hope to struggling families—some with as many as 12 children including several with special needs.
I look forward to continuing to serve the District. I also realize that the vision and goals I outlined today cannot be accomplished unless we work together as a DC community. Chairwoman Alexander, I see you and this Committee as allies in this effort and appreciate your commitment to children, youth, and families and your partnership in ensuring a strong safety net.
Working for the District’s children and families is a privilege. With the vote of confidence that I respectfully seek from you today, I look forward to doing all I can to take this valuable and noteworthy agency to the next level and beyond. Thank you.