Marty Sinnott joined Child & Family in January as president and CEO after almost 35 years of leadership by predecessor Peter DiBari. Sinnott brings 30 years of experience with human service and nonprofit administration to the agency. Most recently, he served as CEO of Amigos de las Americas, an international non-profit with 25 chapters in the U.S. and projects in 10 Latin American countries. He also served for 18 years as the CEO and president of One Hope United, a national human service organization and The Youth Campus in Park Ridge, Ill. Here, Sinnott discusses goals and objectives for Child & Family.
PBN: What are your first priorities in taking the reins from predecessor Peter DiBari?
SINNOTT: I have a lot of passion, drive, energy and appetite for this work. So, my first priority is to pace myself, learn about the culture of Child and Family and Rhode Island and set the right short-term priorities for myself and the organization. I also want to learn about what motivates the staff and volunteers of Child and Family and at the same time share elements of what makes me tick.
PBN: What are some short-term and long-term goals for Child & Family and how do you plan to achieve them?
SINNOTT: One short-term priority is improving the depth and nature of how the leadership of Child and Family engages staff in our mission and collective impact. The work is tough and the pay for most is low. Staff needs to feel recognized and appreciated in order to serve kids and families. The second-short term priority is partnering with the R.I. Department of Children, Youth & Families and the General Assembly to insure that services provided through the two state-wide networks for the most vulnerable kids and families of Rhode Island – Rhode Island Care Management Network and Ocean State – are adequately funded. Some real improvements have been made, but the system of care to prevent and treat the ravages of abuse and neglect is fragile. Improvements in the networks need to be well thought out, evaluated and adequately funded. To miss any one of those steps will lead to inadequate protection of children and more money being needlessly spent.
Two long-term goals include assisting the Board of Directors and stakeholders of Child and Family in developing an ambitious, comprehensive strategic plan and bringing more philanthropic dollars to the work that we do. Most people incorrectly see Child and Family as an extension of government. We need to engage the communities in which we work around a shared vision for our future and [show] how their financial support will really strengthen the fabric of families and communities.
PBN: Given your background, what global perspectives about nonprofit work in human services will you bring to bear at Child & Family?
SINNOTT: A couple of things influence my work and the contribution I hope to make at Child and Family to the state of Rhode Island. First, I know that despite what can be the horrific experience of abuse and neglect, children and young people are incredibly resilient. Given the love, nurturance, support and opportunity, most of the kids and families that we work with are very capable of leading fulfilled, productive lives. As a community we are very capable of breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for success. I can also say that I have worked in some of the lowest and highest performing child welfare systems in the country. There is a great deal of experience and reliable research out there. Rhode Island, as well as Child and Family, needs to get serious in evaluating our impact and learning from what has worked well in other parts of the country. I am determined to bring that broader, “outside-in” perspective to what I do as the CEO of Child and Family.
PBN: The nonprofit serves constituents of all ages: Where do you see the greatest need and do you have plans to expand service in that area?
SINNOTT: Our core programs are focused on supporting children, families and by extension, communities. With such a broad, ambitious mission, we touch everyone from newborns to the elderly. Here are a few dynamics that will certainly influence what we perceive as the greatest needs and how our services will expand accordingly.
First, 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders will be over the age of 60 by the year 2030, a 32 percent increase from 2012. The number of low wage earners, including those with a bachelor’s degree, is also high in Rhode Island. Starting salaries for those in service roles at Child and Family are too low. Finally, we need to be more focused on raising the skills and educational achievement of the kids and families we work with. Every child who is a ward of the state should leave foster care ready for higher education or employment.
PBN: Your pool of volunteers numbers more than 300; how does this leverage the work your staff does?
SINNOTT: We are much stronger as an organization since we have both professional staff and volunteers who represent the legs and hands of our vision and culture. Our volunteers turn what we do into a movement where communities have the vision and power to support their families and members.