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DSS Selects 12 for Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellowship

Department of Children & Family Services (DSS) Secretary Kristy Nichols today announced the 12 members of the first class of the Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellowship, a six-month program that will provide leadership training and technical assistance as the fellows work to develop innovative social service projects. "DSS is excited to work with our first 12 fellows to provide leadership and development opportunities and to see the results of the innovative projects that they will develop over the next six months," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "This group of highly qualified DSS employees and community leaders has demonstrated innovative thinking in the projects they have proposed to foster change in social service delivery, achieve cost savings, increase efficiencies and improve client outcomes."

Funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will support the fellowship class during the six-month training academy whose goal is not only to develop the proposed innovative projects but to foster new leaders in the social services field.

The academy will consist of both a virtual learning environment and a formal curriculum including expert speakers, technical assistance, peer information sharing, collaborative social networking tools, and Web casts.

Upon completion of the fellowship, the best developed innovation project will receive a $1,500 award. All participants will receive a $500 stipend, and their employing organization will receive a $500 staff development award.

The first Innovation in Louisiana Government Fellowship class is comprised of the following community-based, non-governmental, government and industry representatives:

Jan K. Byland, GSW, JD, CPA of Baton Rouge is an administrator with DSS' Office of Community Services (OCS). Jan's project will develop strategies to more fully understand the developmental needs and challenges of maltreated children ages 0-5 in Louisiana.

Willene P. Griffin is a Program Manager for the OCS' Child Protection Program. Willene's project is to create a framework for DSS to utilize when planning and providing services to immigrant and other non-English speaking customers.

Terri Hines is a native and resident of Shreveport where she works with the Shreveport Housing Authority as community service liaison and social service and family self-sufficiency coordinator. Terri's project, Changing Our Lives Today (COLT), is an escrow savings account program which encourages saving for participants of DSS' Strategies To Empower People (STEP) program who successfully complete job training, obtain employment, and maintain employment for at least one year.

Dana Hunter, MSW is a Baton Rouge native and works as a recruiter for foster and adoptive homes with OCS. Dana's project, Motivating All to Self-Sufficiency (MASS), will work to strengthen families and reduce poverty through education, intergovernmental agency teamwork, and policy reform.

Tammy B. Keaton is IV-D Administrator and Assistant District Attorney for the District Attorney's office in Washington Parish. Tammy's project, the Incarcerated Parents Program, will enhance collaboration between DSS/Support Enforcement Services and the Department of Corrections along with Probation and Parole to address child support and paternity issues involving inmates and recently released probationers and parolees.

Dana Lum is the Director of Research and Policy for the Afterschool Partnership. Dana's project, Expanded Learning Opportunities: Quality Children and Youth Programming Initiatives at DSS, will study and develop policy recommendations to improve the quality of after school and youth development programs and will focus on child care licensing, professional development and guidance training to child care providers.

Kitwana McTyer serves as Director of Performance Improvement Safety and Training at Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston. Kitwana's project seeks to implement a statewide training program for staff in residential care facilities to lower the number of physical interventions, which will lead to a decrease in the number of valid CPI incidents throughout the state.

Gary Rambin has worked as the Director of Social Services for the Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston since 1986. Gary's project will create and establish services and systems that will provide child care programs and agencies with the resources and partnerships necessary to achieve positive outcomes for children and families in care and a continuum of care program in the state of Louisiana.

Charles Shiber, a native of Metairie, has 15 years of state service and now works in DSS Child Protection Investigation and Family Services. Charles' Project will study staff turnover including employee work perceptions at the start and after six months on the job, staff training, development and support, employee performance and client response.

Kelli Singleton is a Child Welfare Specialist in the Alternative Response/Family Assessment Program for OCS. The goal of Kelli's project is to enhance families' ability to remain united by reducing the potential for recidivism.

Bora Sunseri is a Program Manager in the Child Protection Investigations (CPI) Section for OCS. Bora's project will research the feasibility, potential financial impact and long-term savings of creating a specialized Out of Home Investigations (OHI) unit for DSS/OCS, which would be more mobile and equipped with advanced technological tools for child protection investigation.

Nayita Wilson is a Marrero resident and serves as the Deputy Director of Public Information for the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office. Nayita's project is EMPLOY!, an education and experience-based program that focuses workforce development for youth, particularly at-risk youth who are in state custody, have an incarcerated or deceased parent(s), and involved in the juvenile justice system.

Nichols recently appointed members to the agency's new Leadership Forum Advisory Board, made up of representatives of community-based and non-governmental agencies, as well as government and industry. At the board's first meeting August 26, members reviewed and confirmed the 12 fellows based on the nominations.

In addition, the forum will advise DSS on policy and program issues on a regular basis and will provide input on innovative solutions to help streamline DSS services and increase the efficiency of business practices.

Board members will serve as mentors to the fellowship class and provide guidance to the as they work to develop effective solutions to social service delivery that may be implemented, assessed and replicated. In addition, members will hold a twice-yearly Leadership and Innovation Conference to serve as the opening summit and graduation for the fellowship.

For more information about DSS leadership and innovation initiatives, visit or call Brandon Reeves at (225) 342-6775.

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