It’s about gratitude.
“For me, it’s a matter of gratitude. I’m grateful for the opportunity that NIU gave me, and I’m immensely grateful for the lives that have been enriched as a result of our work.”
Angela Baron-Jeffrey has been the director of the NIU Center for Child Welfare and Education (CCWE) since 2008, but her story with the center began earlier. In 1994 Baron-Jeffrey, then a graduate student in NIU’s College of Education, worked with Dr. Sharon Freagon on a task force Freagon chaired to address the education of children in foster care.
“When we first started looking at children in foster care and their education, we conducted focus groups to capture information because there wasn’t much documented,” says Baron-Jeffrey, “The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) also had no regulations regarding their education, and children had been out of school for over four months.”
The groundbreaking work that followed led both to the issuing of the first DCFS education policy and the founding of NIU’s Educational Access Project in 1997. EAP evolved into the foundation for the Center for Child Welfare and Education, established three years later.
Housed in the NIU Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development and with staff throughout the state, CCWE engages in ongoing policy improvement, professional development, research and direct interventions to promote the academic success of children in foster care.
“Angela’s dedication and her leadership of CCWE staff and NIU colleagues have resulted in changes in policy for children in foster care, expansion of the research base, and, especially, improving the lives and prospects of these children,” says Anne Kaplan, vice president of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development. “NIU provides a home for this center and administers the DCFS grant that helps to fund the center, but Angela gives the center its heart.”
Baron-Jeffrey exudes a similar sense of gratitude for the support NIU has offered and for the dedicated staff of the center.
“More than 20,000 children have been individually touched by our services, and that’s exceptional,” Baron-Jeffrey says. “These are not just numbers. I know children who received help and have graduated from high school and college and have gone on to do marvelous things. I have had the joy and opportunity to see lives changed through the work of the center.”