LSSI's Tatenda Perry Awarded 2021 Minority Professional Leadership Development Fellowship for Leaders in the Child Welfare Field

Tatenda A. Perry, MSW, LCSW, Associate Executive Director based at LSSI's Children's Community Services Office in Peoria, was one of 16 child welfare professionals nationally chosen for the 2021 Minority Professional Leadership Development Program through Adopt US Kids. Adopt US Kids is a national organization that works to ensure that children and teens in foster care get safe, loving, permanent families. 

Adopt US Kids' Minority Professional Leadership Development program is a 12-month fellowship designed for emerging minority leaders working in direct service in the child welfare field. The structured program includes hands-on experience, exposure to national experts, and mentorship opportunities. Each year, 16 emerging leaders are selected nationally through a competitive process. The program is now in its third year. 

"I am so honored to be selected as one of the fellows to participate in the 2021 Minority Professional Leadership Development Program through Adopt US Kids," Perry said. "As a social worker, I have always had a passion for social justice issues and a desire to make change in my community, especially for disenfranchised populations. I believe all children in our child welfare system should be given a chance to be a part of a family and reach their highest potential." 

As Associate Executive Director at LSSI, Perry has administrative oversight for a complex child welfare program at multiple, regional offices, including Canton, Champaign, Danville, Galesburg, and Peoria. Programs at these offices include foster care, intact family services, and adoption preservation. 

Through the Minority Professional Leadership Development Program, Perry will participate in action research projects that fellows design and implement in their workplace to address issues related to adoption or guardianship. This helps fellows gain professional experience, while directly impacting their local communities. Fellows will receive expert, individualized guidance to help them complete their projects.  

The program also features online structured courses in policy, practice, research, and transformational leadership, as well as mentoring from leaders within the fellow's organization and from program alumni. Jere Murry, MSW, Executive Director, LSSI Children's Community Services, will be Perry's organizational-based mentor. 

The focus of Perry's Action Research Project through the Fellowship will be addressing the racial disproportionality of African American children in foster care through decreasing their length of stay in care. "I am troubled by the racial disparities at critical decision points in the child welfare continuum and the impact of this racial bias toward families of color," said Perry. Statistics from the U.S. Government Accountability Office show that once African American children are placed in foster care, their length of stay in is nine months longer than their Caucasian counterparts.  

According to Adopt US Kids, "Leaders who are culturally competent, prepared to be transformational, and mirror the diverse representation of the child welfare population may help agencies respond to the needs of diverse communities while identifying barriers faced by minority families and strategies to overcome them." 

Perry, who lives in Normal, received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Purdue University, and a masters of social work from Indiana University. 


Barb Hailey