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The first MPLD cohort continues to transform the child welfare system

15 members of the first cohort of the AdoptUSKids Minority Professional Leadership Development program
15 members of the first cohort of the AdoptUSKids Minority Professional Leadership Development program

The Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program is a 12-month fellowship for emerging child welfare leaders.

The goal of the program is to develop and support emerging minority leaders in the child welfare system. Children and youth of color continue to be overrepresented in foster care. Leaders who are culturally competent and mirror the diverse representation of the child welfare population may help agencies respond to the needs of diverse communities.

Applications are open now through October 10 for our next cohort.

Looking back on MPLD’s first cohort

We’re counting down to the application deadline for our next cohort by taking a look at the fellows of our very first cohort and highlighting where they are now. This group represented 13 states across various leadership roles—fellows were program directors, program managers, child welfare consultants, and more. Since they participated in the MPLD program, a staggering 60% of alumni have earned promotions.

Action research projects focused on older youth, diligent recruitment, and trauma

While in the program, fellows create and implement an action research project in their place of work to address issues in child welfare. Cohort one projects resulted in a support group, pieces of training, and fresh insights into the field. The most common topics were related to older youth, diligent recruitment, and trauma.

AdoptUSKids has published articles about some of these action research projects for anyone who’d like to learn more:

So, where are alumni now? In the years following their graduation from the MPLD program, alumni have spoken nationally, earned promotions, and contributed to change.

Alumni continue to lead the way

Ligia Cushman is a National Child Welfare Consultant with AdoptUSKids and an adoptive mother. Her action research project aimed to improve the matching process to increase sustainable adoptions for children of color. Since graduating, she has continued this work and has been recognized as a transformational leader. Just last year, Ligia was recognized as a 2021 Top Latino Leader Awardee. She also sat down for an interview with NBC News Now in a segment celebrating diversity within the Latino community. 

Another alum who is creating change is Kimberly Bonham. Kimberly is dedicated to increasing older youth engagement in the adoption process. To this end, she created a Teen Support Group to address adoption ambivalence. Since graduating from the program, she has spoken in the National Adoption Month webinar, which reaches a significant audience of child welfare professionals.

Finally, three alumni—Alfonso Silva, Ligia Cushman, and Marisele Esperance—joined forces to lead the Congreso de Adopción 2020, a national adoption day celebration in Puerto Rico. They shared the strategies and findings of their action research projects with an audience of families and child welfare and judicial professionals.

It is easy to find stories like these in which many of the alumni from cohort one continue to develop as leaders while improving the child welfare system.

Alumni credit their experience with helping them grow personally and professionally

After graduating from the program, here’s what some alumni had to say about their experience:

  • “I have a new family. I have colleagues across the country who have the same background as me—personally and professionally—who I can learn from and share ideas with. And I have a new understanding of disparity and disproportionality in child welfare.”—Marisele Esperance
  • “[T]hrough my work with MPLD, I became a stronger leader, and I brought new opportunities and an increased level of national recognition to my agency.”—April Ludwig
  • “Participating in MPLD opened new opportunities for me to train at other agencies and conferences in the future.”—Thomas Threlkeld

Considering applying to join the next cohort? We can’t wait to see how you’ll drive systemic change.

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