Friends of Children is pleased to welcome several new key staff members, as we continue to strengthen our services to and advocacy for vulnerable children.
Jeffrey Rivkin, MSW, joined in autumn of 2021 as the Program Manager of the Focus Program, which serves young adults aging out of foster care. Jeffrey’s multi-faceted background includes work in adolescent behavioral treatment, community mental health, crisis counseling, and most recently, a decade with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). At DCF, Jeffrey worked in the Rapid Response Workers Unit, which identifies placements for children coming into foster care, and the Missing and Absent Child Unit, which serves youth who are on the run or victimized by the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Jeffrey also served as a DCF Family Resource Supervisor.
Born and raised in western Massachusetts, Jeffrey has been involved with Friends of Children since 2011, when he began volunteering with the FOCUS program he now manages. He became a liaison between DCF and Friends of Children–and found himself inspired by Executive Director Jane Lyons and the organization’s unique combination of direct services to youth and state-level policy advocacy. “Joining Friends of Children has felt like a natural progression,” asserts Jeffrey. “ I want to help to ensure that the needs of children, youth, and young adults in the child-welfare system are being met in fair and equitable ways.”
Valerie Smart joined as Volunteer Coordinator in Spring 2021. She brings experience in marketing, journalism, and community outreach. After working in the corporate world for many years, she is grateful to be part of a team where her hard work can partner with her heart work. As a proud mom to two of the most amazing human beings to walk this green earth, she is inspired to make sure all children experience the love and support needed to be their best selves. Valerie is active in her local community of Agawam.
Valerie shares, “Each day in my work with Friends of Children I get to live the quote: The efforts of one person can’t move mountains. It’s the strength of all of us working together that makes a change. While connecting dedicated volunteers with the young people who are part of Friends of Children, I see firsthand how our collective dedication is making a difference for children and families in our corner of the world.”
Sarah Segura, the new CASA Case Manager, brings a diverse professional background which includes international humanitarian work, a career with Massachusetts’ Department of Transitional Assistance, and work as an interviewer for University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work with focuses in clinical and trauma-informed care.
At Friends of Children, she is excited to support CASA volunteers in their ongoing efforts to serve children and families in Hampshire and Franklin Counties, through direct supervision and through organizing opportunities for continuing education. Sarah has seen firsthand the need for engaged, local individuals to advocate for children and youth involved with DCF, and she looks forward to lending her voice to the cause.