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Recognizing leadership: SLO Social Services' assistant director receives honors 

Two statewide organizations are honoring Tracy Schiro, the assistant director of the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services, for her dedication and contribution to child welfare and foster care services. The County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) and the Youth Law Center are recognizing Schiro’s work at the county and state level.

On Oct. 6, Schiro received the CWDA’s Executive Leadership Award, which promotes a human services system that encourages self-sufficient families and protects vulnerable children and adults from abuse and neglect, for her impact on leading California’s efforts to change Child Welfare Services. 

click to enlarge HONORING :  Tracy Schiro is being awarded by two state organizations for her work throughout the county and state on transforming child welfare services. - PHOTO COURTESY OF TRACY SCHIRO
  • HONORING : Tracy Schiro is being awarded by two state organizations for her work throughout the county and state on transforming child welfare services.

She designed and implemented the Transitional Age Youth Financial Assistance Program, which assists foster youth to enroll in higher education. With this program, 185 young adults have been enrolled in college and three individuals have moved on to a master’s degree program. Schiro developed the Resource Family Approval project, a family-friendly and child-centered caregiver approval process that started in San Luis Obispo County and is now spreading across the state. She is also seen as a leader for her advocating on behalf of youth victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

CWDA Executive Director Frank Mecca told New Times via email that by giving Schiro this award they are honoring her for her passion and advocacy on behalf of children, youth, and families in San Luis Obispo and throughout the state. 

“It’s clear when you meet, talk, and collaborate with Tracy that she sincerely cares about the people served by our programs,” Mecca said.

Schiro will also be the recipient of the Loren Warboys Unsung Heroes award on Dec. 12; honoring her is the Youth Law Center (YLC). Based in San Francisco, the YLC is a law firm that works to protect children in the nation’s foster care and justice systems from abuse and neglect.

The award was established in honor of the past managing director of the YLC, Loren Warboys who died of leukemia in 1999. Warboys was known for his dedication and efforts to improve the lives of youth in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. 

YLC Executive Director Jennifer Rodriguez told New Times via email that Schiro demonstrates the values of the firm’s mission through her work.

“Tracy’s approach as a child welfare agency leader in San Luis Obispo and across the state is to make decisions as she would for her own children,” she said, “which is not common in our field where often other interests come first.”

Schiro has been a strong proponent in California of guiding the effort of effective parenting for all children in the child welfare system through the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI). The initiative is an effort to rebrand foster care by changing the expectations and support for foster parents and other caregivers. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private philanthropic organization devoted to helping federal agencies that create effective responses to issues that negatively affect children, has recently nationally recognized the initiative as the direction of the future for foster care.

“She is really an example of what can be achieved in child welfare with a vision, dedication to children, and smart and kind leadership,” Rodriguez said. 

Schiro is regarded as a role model, Rodrigez said, for so many other leaders in California and across the country who are also trying to make needed changes in their child welfare systems. 

Schiro told New Times that she’s passionate about these children and their cases simply because she used to be a child and she has children of her own. What she wants for her children is the same for the foster children: a safe environment to grow up in.

She sees herself as a bridge between San Luis Obispo County and other counties to brainstorm and develop ideas for the various child welfare services in each county. 

“Every day is going to be difficult because we’re dealing with the lives of children and their families,” Schiro said. “We don’t look for perfect; we look for safety.” 

Fast Fact

Snow is coming to the Downtown SLO Farmer’s Market Dec. 8 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Chorro at Higuera Street. 

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week’s Strokes and Plugs. Send Story ideas to [email protected].

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