David Tobis founded the Fund for Social Change in 2002 and remained its executive director until 2012. The Fund administered collaborations between governments, service providers, communities and foundations. He was the executive director of the Child Welfare Fund from 1992 to 2009 which provided grants to increase the influence of parents and young people affected by the child welfare system in New York City.
For the past 30 years he worked to reform child welfare in the United States, and internationally as a consultant to UNICEF and the World Bank. Internationally, beginning in 1991, he worked to prevent children, the disabled and the elderly from being placed in long-term residential institutions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, particularly in Lithuania, Romania and Armenia. He is currently a founder and senior associate of Maestral International (www.maestralintl.com), that works to promote the well-being of vulnerable children and families. He worked with UNICEF to develop a toolkit to map and assess child welfare systems throughout the world and most recently worked with UNICEF in East and Southern Africa to strengthen the child protection systems in those countries.
He began his social activism in Mississippi in 1965 first rebuilding a burned church and then returning as a civil rights worker. He spent the next decade as an anti-war activist, traveling to North Vietnam in 1968 as part of the first student delegation to visit that country. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Guatemala in 1966-67 and co-edited the book published by NACLA, Guatemala: And So Victory is Born, Even in the Bitterest Hour. He was also a Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 1987-88 given to individuals who have worked to improve New York City. He is the author of numerous reports and articles on New York City’s child welfare system that have led to significant changes in service delivery. His monograph published by the World Bank, Moving from Residential Institutions to Community-Based Services in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union became the basis for the World Bank’s community services strategy. He also wrote the article for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s Book of the Year 1996 on the Child Welfare Crisis throughout the world. He is currently the Associate Editor for the Global South of the International Journal of Social Welfare.
His recent book, From Pariahs to Partners: How Parents and Their Allies Changed New York City’s Child Welfare System, was published by Oxford Press in 2013.
Previously he was Director of Human Services for New York City Council President Carol Bellamy and led that office’s successful efforts to reform New York’s foster care system. He served on the Board of Directors of the Urban Justice Center (chairman 1987-99), High Tide Dance, Inc., the Global and Regional Aspergers Syndrome Partnership (GRASP, chairman 2008-2010), and the Carlo Pittore Foundation (President, 2005-2010). He graduated from Williams College and received a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University.
Photo: Charles Eshelman