CASA announces new executive director

Leigh Anne McKelvey was named executive director of CASA Youth Advocates, nonprofit that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the Delaware and Chester County child welfare systems.

Leigh Anne McKelvey

McKelvey succeeds Anne Shenberger, who led the organization through a financial and structural turnaround during her nine-year tenure. Shenberger will continue her involvement with the organization in the role of strategic director.

Since 2007, McKelvey has worked for CASA Youth Advocates, most recently as assistant executive director, promoted from program director when Shenberger and CASA's board of directors selected her as Shenberger's eventual successor.

"Leigh Anne's natural leadership ability, combined with her passion for CASA's mission, make her the ideal candidate to continue the momentum we've built under Anne. Leigh Anne's contributions as assistant executive director were invaluable, and she's more than ready to take the helm. In addition, we're thrilled that Anne has agreed to continue with CASA in a strategic capacity. We're fortunate to be in such a strong position," said CASA Youth Advocates' board chair Anthony Cavaliere.

Under Shenberger's mentorship, McKelvey played an instrumental role in CASA Youth Advocates'expansion, in which the organization quadrupled its operating budget to $1 million, tripled its staff to 9, and increased the number of cases it served by nearly 40 percent to 134 in 2017. In 2015, the organization expanded its services beyond Delaware County by contracting with Chester County as well.

"All of this growth translates to more services for more abused and neglected children as we partner with county child welfare agencies to achieve better outcomes for children," explained McKelvey. "It's a trend I want to continue."

As executive director, McKelvey's first priority is to build CASA's infrastructure to sustain the organization's recent growth, including an assessment and overhaul of technology and human resources management, as well as an eye on expanding the organization's individual donor base.

"Focusing on the internal first will help us move to the next level of sustainability and growth," said McKelvey.

Continuing to build relationships with other agencies in the child welfare system will be another major focus for McKelvey, who is already well-connected in the field. She has held several leadership roles in the region, including chair of Delaware County's ACT 33 Child Fatality and Near Fatality meetings — state-mandated multidisciplinary reviews of all fatal and near-fatal incidents involving minors in order to develop better methods and procedures for prevention and intervention.

As a faculty member and field liaison for West Chester University's Graduate School of Social Work from 2011 to 2016, McKelvey kept current on the latest trends and research in the field while building connections with resources throughout the region. She was also recently invited to join the Board of the Friends of the Delaware County Women's Commission.

From the very beginning of her career, McKelvey has been involved with different CASA organizations in some capacity, dedicating over 14 years of service under the CASA model. She always knew she wanted to work with children, and first discovered her interest in the child welfare system through volunteer work at a residential facility as an undergraduate.

She went on to earn her master's degree in social work with a certificate in child welfare from the University of Pittsburgh. It was during this time she heard a representative from CASA of Allegheny County speak.

"I had never heard of CASA before, but I instantly felt that was where I needed to be," explained McKelvey, who was inspired to spearhead a social work internship with the organization.

Prior to McKelvey, the University of Pittsburgh had no internship ties with CASA, and CASA of Allegheny County had only taken legal interns, never a social work student.

McKelvey's spring 2004 internship with CASA of Allegheny County led to a part-time job with the nonprofit, and later a full-time position after graduation—a post she held until 2007 when she moved to this region and began working for CASA Youth Advocates in Delaware County.

As the sibling of two younger sisters adopted from the child welfare system and the relative of a biological parent involved with the system, McKelvey brings a unique perspective to her role. She resides in Delaware County on the Delaware-Chester county border.

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