Professor Wattenberg is one of Minnesota’s most respected, well known, and longest serving child welfare professionals. Esther has educated and trained hundreds of the State’s current and past professionals. As a new professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota in 1951, she championed issues of professionalism for the child welfare workforce while applying pressure to human service systems to continually improve services for children and their families. She has worked tirelessly to advance policy and legislation while also being a fierce advocate for young children living in poverty and those in unsafe circumstances. In 1992, Esther founded and became the first Director of CASCW. For more than a decade Esther has held a dual position within the School of Social Work and at the Center for Urban and Rural Affairs (CURA). Esther holds a master of arts degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. She has published in the field of integrated services, paternity issues, kinship care, school-linked services, protective supervision, immigrant families and children, and children in neglecting families. She was the editor of Practice Notes. Professor Wattenberg served on the Hennepin County Children’s Justice Initiative Task Force, the Mortality Review Committee of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and was a member of the advisory committee for the Employment Action Center. Esther was a contributor for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and her opinions have been published in the New York Times.
Dan Koziolek2016 Recipient
Dan has a seemingly endless dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of children while also supporting families to take the steps needed so that they can provide for the safety, care, and well-being of their children. Dan is also relentlessly dedicated to supporting the professional development and well-being of his colleagues and staff. Dan served as the Child and Family Services Director of Carver County. Following a brief retirement from county service in January 2016, Dan organized a new consulting company called, Safety Planning Inc. Safety Planning Inc’s mission is to work with child welfare jurisdictions across the country that struggle with high costs and deeply entrenched challenges related to the provision of safety planning in child protection. The consulting work of Safety Planning Inc. is designed to free up funds in these jurisdictions for staff training and increase social worker time for learning and practicing new skills.
Priscilla Day2015 Recipient
Priscilla A. Day is a Professor in the Department of Social where she has worked since 1993. Fall 2012, she started her second term as department chair; previously she was department chair in 2000-2003. She also serves a Director for the Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare (2006-present). She wrote and trains for the Minnesota Department of Human Service, “Bridging our understanding: American Indian family preservation.” Her areas of research are American Indian family preservation and culturally competent practice. Priscilla is an Anishinabe tribal member enrolled at the Leech Lake reservation. She is the mother of three adult children and relishes her new role as grandmother.
David Thompson2014 Recipient
David Thompson, Interim Deputy Director of the Olmstead Implementation Office at Minnesota DHS, is best known for leading the Minnesota Alternative Response Demonstration Project, which realized the impressive outcomes of improved child safety and greater family stability while being cost-effective for the State. Mr. Thompson also worked for nearly 30 years on the front lines of Ramsey County child protection as a child protection social worker, supervisor, and manager. Mr. Thompson has been a community faculty member for the departments of Social Work at the College of St. Catherine and the University of St. Thomas. In 2007 David was awarded the Children’s Bureau Commissioner’s Award for his work on the implementation of Alternative Response in Minnesota.
Susan Ault2013 Recipient
Susan Ault is Senior Director in Strategic Consulting for Systems Improvement for Casey Family Programs. She has over 35 years of experience in child and family services, 20 of which are in public child welfare. As the former Director of Children and Family Services for Ramsey County Community Human Services she led numerous change efforts, including strategies to end racial disparities, that resulted in improvements in the delivery of services and outcomes for children and families. She also spearheaded efforts to end racial disparities and is also one of the pioneers of the Family Service Collaborative movement. She has also worked extensively on Indian child welfare issues, first with Leech Lake Family Services in Minnesota and then through participation in the development of the Minnesota Tribal State Agreement.
Anita Fineday2012 Recipient
Anita Fineday became the Managing Director of the Indian Child Welfare Program for the Casey Family Programs in 2011. She previously served as the Chief Judge for the White Earth Tribal Nation for 14 years and as an associate judge for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa. She has also taught federal Indian law and policy at the tribal college, university, and law school levels. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Colorado School of Law. She is an enrolled member of the White Earth Tribal Nation.
Joan Riebel2011 Recipient
Joan Riebel is a licensed clinical social worker with forty years of experience as a trainer, consultant, writer, and educator in a variety of child welfare settings. She is a graduate of the College of St. Benedict and the University of Minnesota where she earned her Master of Social Work degree. Joan has been recognized as a leader in the field of child welfare having held many national and local leadership positions. She received the Benedictine Service Award from the College of St. Benedict, the Morris Hirsch Award from the Minnesota Social Service Association, 100 Points of Light Award from the University of Minnesota, and Social Worker of the Year Award from the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Joan believes we have no greater responsibility than to our most vulnerable children.
Rob Sawyer2010 Recipient
Rob Sawyer has been a leader in developing and implementing innovative child protection practices in Minnesota for more than 40 years. He led the implementation of a number of child welfare and child mental health reforms including differential response in child protection, family group decision making, and domestic violence services and risk/needs classification. His leadership made Olmsted County a model for child protection practice, and his efforts have made a clear difference in the lives of abused and neglected children in Minnesota. He has served on numerous Minnesota state task forces interested in child welfare services. In February 2010 he was appointed a Senior Fellow by the American Humane Association Children’s Division.