Using data to solve child welfare's toughest challenges

Leadership Fellows is a data leadership program that educates and empowers local child welfare staff across the state in order to increase positive outcomes for children and families.

The program provides the child welfare workforce with the skills, resources and support to strengthen Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) through data mining, analysis, research, planning, project development, evaluation, communication, brainstorming and effective use of technology.


An investment in time that delivers real-world results

Leadership Fellows is designed to accommodate a child welfare employee's busy schedule. Over six months, participants commit to a day of classroom instruction and a day of coaching focused on their office's challenges. Learning in strengthened via web-based lessons. The program is designed for the child welfare professional who enjoys meeting challenges, facilitating problem solving, and getting to results.

Our Mission

To promote a data-driven and results-oriented protective services process to support children and strengthen families.


The program is firmly grounded in the values of the child welfare agency with a workforce committed to the goals of helping children and their families. We are committed to finding solutions to some of our most persistent problems—both internal and external to the organization.


We envision a statewide network of child welfare professionals skilled in data analysis, working together, sharing strategies, and overcoming challenges. We envision offices that have the capacity to best serve their communities.


Four components provide personalized instruction and accommodate a busy workforce

Classroom Instruction

Multimedia presentations plus large and small group discussions to provide opportunities to learn, share, debate, role play and dialogue. The activities promote empowerment, nurture creativity and strengthen critical thinking.


Participants receive coaching focused on identifying problems and building skills needed to initiate and strengthen CQI. Coaching provides technical assistance in data analysis, research, software, technology, capacity-building, group facilitation and communication.

Web-Based Lessons + Resources

The Leadership Fellows website provides participants with lessons, links to data, access to research and all the tools and virtual training needed to support a data-driven, results-oriented process.

Sharing + Projects

Participants choose a challenge to solve with ongoing support from the instructors. Participants are given the tools to share all aspects of the program, including the development of the local data-driven projects, with their office.


Education continues online with a learning management system

The web-based learning management system provides unique features to strengthen all aspects of CQI including: project management, assessment, planning, data-informed action, evaluation, policy and program research. The website allows the participant to continue learning in their present work environment and supports the blended learning approach, combining web-based instruction and classroom experiences. Web-based instruction supports participants with different learning styles and levels of interest.

State-of-the-art features:

  • Six lessons on key topic areas
  • Multimedia to reinforce topics
  • Links to data and research
  • Infographics to illustrate key concepts
  • Guide to data mining and analysis
  • Guide to policy, protocol and program research
  • Training materials for local office staff
  • Comments and feedback features
  • Post-lesson surveys
  • Teleconferencing with instructors
  • Complete course curricula
  • Evaluation tools and procedures

To learn more about the evaluation of the program, go to: Leadership Fellows Evaluation.


We Empower Institutional Change

Hover over the course topics below for more details on lesson content:

Session 1:
Begin Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Process
Session 2:
Assess Workflow Strengths and Challenges
Session 3:
Exploring Research and Data Sources
Session 4:
Plan with Logic + Research
Session 5:
Test a Hypothesis + Collect Evidence
Session 6:
Facilitate Change with Communication and Technology

Leadership Fellows focuses on quality improvement and reaching measurable and meaningful goals in all areas related to meeting our children's and families' needs.


Instructors and coaches understand the power of research and technology

headshotDominic Cappello (Developer and Instructor) is the co-founder of Safety+Success Communities — a socially-engaged design and strategic planning non-profit collective. He began his work in public service as a health educator in Seattle's Juvenile Detention Facility and youth group residential homes. He worked for the NM Department of Health's Epidemiology and Response Division and the NM Protective Services-Research, Assessment and Data Bureau. His training and curricula development clients include Casey Family Programs, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rhode Island Department of Health, National Education Association and Navaho Nation. He has a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Language and Communication from Regis University. Dominic is the creator of the Ten Talks book series on family safety that gained a national audience when he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He's also the co-author (with Katherine Ortega Courtney, PhD) of Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment. Dominic oversaw the development of the Leadership Fellows programs in New York City, Connecticut and New Mexico. He's now leading the design of the nation's first data-driven and cross-sector Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) prevention program called Resilience Leaders in New Mexico and Kentucky.

headshot Jacki Hoover, LSW, (co-facilitator and content expert) has over 20 years of experience in Child Welfare. She is the Deputy Director at Allegheny County Children Youth and Families. Hoover has worked extensively with various family engagement strategies targeting system integration Some previous positions include the manager of the Teaming Institute, Independent living supervisor and Manager Family Group Manager. Areas of expertise include transition age youth, physical well-being for children in foster care, building community/natural resources and case planning for multi-system children and families. Hoover earned a bachelor’s of social work from Slippery Rock University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. She was also an adjunct professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Social Work.

headshotSarah Marker (Coordinator) graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a MS in Applied Developmental Psychology with a focus on Program Design & Leadership and Behavioral Health. Sarah is also a Georgetown Fellow and graduate of the 3rd cohort of Allegheny County’s Leadership Fellows program. Her career at CYF spans a 975 hours internship, 4 years as a Caseworker at NRO, 7 years as a KIDS Specialist and over a year as the Business Operations Specialist. In her current role, Sarah’s function is to support what is needed to make CYF run as a company. This includes work on hiring/retention, standardization of processes, liaison to other DHS Offices, among a plethora of other duties. Sarah is and has been a member of various workgroups and committees, with focuses ranging from education to dually involved youth to implementing technology.

headshot Katie Arvay (Fellows Program Manager) is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in psychology and Spanish. In 2009, she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Master of Social Work in Community Organizing and Social Administration from the School of Social Work and a Master of Public Administration in Public and Nonprofit Management from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. She joined DHS in 2008 as an intern in the Executive Office and then spent six years in the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation as a Quality Improvement Specialist. During that time, she was a coach for the first cohort of Leadership Fellows in 2014 – 2015. In 2016 she joined the Office of Children, Youth and Families as a Child Welfare Practice Analyst. In this role, she is responsible for assisting staff in using and understanding data and assisting in connecting data to practice. She has served as a lead for DHS’ predictive analytics work as implemented in CYF’s call screening unit, is the lead for Safe Measures in Allegheny County and began the Child Welfare Data Review to strengthen data presentation and research skills of key leaders within CYF.

headshot Kyle Jennison (Fellows Data Liaison) manages the Child Welfare Analytics team in DHS’ Office of Data Analysis, Research, and Evaluation (DARE). In this capacity he has had the opportunity to perform ongoing research and reporting on child welfare system dynamics in Allegheny County, and to help build and support applications and tools used by CYF staff and leadership. In recent years, his team has provided technical and analytic support in the implementation of predictive analytic tools in CYF. Prior to his work at DHS, Kyle earned his Master of Science degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon's Heinz College in Pittsburgh, and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University.

headshotLeah Weber (coach) graduated from University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work with a MSW in Social Work with a certificate in Child Welfare. Over the last 15 years her work in Child Welfare has included Casework, Resource Specialist and Application (KIDS) Specialist. Leah currently works in the Office of Data Analysis, Research and Evaluation, where she completes qualitative reviews of cases and practices of the different departments within DHS, primarily in the Office of Children, Youth and Families.

headshotJames Caldwell (coach) is a is a 2010 graduate of Clarion University in Clarion, Pennsylvania, with a degree in Political Science. In 2012, James received a master’s degree from Duquesne University’s Graduate School of Social and Public Policy. James currently serves as an Application Specialist in the DARE program office of Allegheny County Department of Human Services. In this capacity, James works to implement, and support IT applications designed to meet programmatic needs of DHS internal staff and provider network.

headshotLiz Reiter (coach) graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work with a BASW in 2007, and completed the MSW program in 2010. She is a licensed social worker, and is currently a Casework Supervisor at the Office of Children, Youth, and Families Mon Valley Regional Office. Liz was a member of Allegheny County Leadership Fellows class one, and was a Resource Fellow for classes two and three. She remains active in coordinating regular meetings, communication, and advancement of projects with Fellows alumni.

headshotKelley (Smith) Smithula (coach) began working for Allegheny County DHS in 2009 as a CYF caseworker, gaining experience in a wide array of areas - family services, GPS intake, safety response unit, and call screening. Her curiosity for data began as she tracked her own work, looking for trends in what she was facing in her day-to-day experiences. This led her to pursue the Leadership Fellows program, where she was a graduating member of the 2016-17 class. In September 2017, she was promoted to DHS's Integrated Program Services, where she works as a Resource Specialist. Being in Court almost daily, she works with defendants involved with the Magisterial District Judges in the County, connecting those in need to services for hopes of prevention from on-going Court involvement. Additionally, part of her responsibilities include the DHS diversion program for Applications to File Private Dependency Petitions, born from the Leadership Fellows' first class. In the first year of the program, 65 teens were referred to the program. Almost 80% of those teens avoided Dependency from the Application that was filed.

headshotAmanda Berube (coach) graduated from West Virginia University with a BA in Criminology and Investigations. She started working with youth as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor at a Residential Treatment Facility after graduation. Amanda began her career at CYF in 2008 as an Intake Caseworker eventually becoming a Family Service Caseworker for several years. In 2014, she became a Contract Monitor who collaborates with contracted providers who are caring for CYF youth and families. Her current position has really allowed her to utilize data when developing new strategies and monitoring more effective business processes with providers. Amanda participated in the 2016-2017 Child Welfare Leadership Fellow Program.

headshotErin Frawley (coach) graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Erin began her career in child welfare at a provider agency working as a foster care caseworker and SWAN worker. Erin has been with Allegheny County for over three years as a Caseworker and most recently as a Contract Monitor for education stability. Erin participated in the third group of Fellows.

headshotGreg Phillips (coach) graduated from California University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Business, with an emphasis on management and organizational behavior. Greg began his career at DHS in 2010 as a caseworker in the Office of Children, Youth and Families. His primary interests are in coaching, leadership and personal and organizational development which he focuses on in his current role as Manager of Conferencing and Teaming. In addition to his primary role, Greg is also a contracted trainer with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, and serves in his community through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

headshotAudrey Bement (coach) began working with Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families as an intern in 2006 with the Family Group Decision Making unit. After completing her internship, Audrey remained with the county as an Intake Caseworker. Over the next ten years, Audrey moved to become a Family Services Caseworker, was promoted to a Caseworker 3, and piloted the “One Caseworker” model that is now in place. As a member of Leadership Fellows Class Two which focused on re-entry, Audrey’s work group was instrumental in bringing about the Kinship Navigator Program that focuses on placing children with kin. In 2016, Audrey was promoted to Supervisor at the Mon Valley Regional Office.


headshot Richard Dunks (content expert) is the founder of Datapolitan, an urban informatics consultancy based in New York City that focuses on the data and information needs of the public sector, including government agencies and non-profits. A graduate of the urban data science program at NYU's Center for Urban Science and Progress, Richard works on applying new and innovative techniques to the processing, analysis, and visualization of public data to make meaningful and positive actions with measurable impact. With over 6 years of experience as a data analyst in the public sector, Richard brings a variety of skills to the task of making sense of data. Through past work with the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, he helped develop innovative methods of data analysis and visualization to medium-sized cities across the country. He currently teaches a series of informative and engaging classes in open data and geospatial analysis for the City of New York, and has taught courses in data mining, spatial analysis, information visualization, and informatics at Columbia University, Fordham University, and Pratt Institute.

headshotKatherine Ortega Courtney (content expert) has a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the Texas Christian University, where she studied at the Institute of Behavioral Research. Dr. Courtney worked with the State of New Mexico for eight years, first as the Juvenile Justice Epidemiologist, then as Bureau Chief of the Child Protective Services Research, Assessment and Data Bureau. An advocate for data-informed decision-making, Dr. Courtney championed and co-developed the Child Protective Service’s Data Leaders program, liaising with Casey Family Programs as she oversaw program implementation and the training of the majority of local office managers throughout the state. She currently is the Director of Collective Impact Initiatives with the Santa Fe Community Foundation. Dr. Courtney continues to serve as an advocate for strengthening continuous quality improvement throughout all the sectors that impact children, youth and families. She's also the co-author (with Dominic Cappello) of Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.

headshotHeather Labansat (content expert) graduated from Texas Christian University with a PhD in Experimental Psychology with an emphasis in Cognition. Interested in applied research, her research developed new strategies for helping people be more effective at goal attainment and learning. Her work with Child Welfare focuses on using scientific methodology to develop evidence-based practices to solve workplace and community problems. Heather currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses for Tarleton State University in Dallas-Fort Worth.

headshotGregory Sherrow Gregory Sherrow (IT expert) is a technology architect for both educational and commercial enterprises. Gregory was the technology architect of the Leadership Fellows program and course series. This website serves as a repository for lessons, tutorials and links to data and research. He provided Data Leaders technology solutions for the sites for the child welfare systems of New York City and Connecticut. Trained as an educator, Gregory has been involved in online technology development and management since 1997 and has developed and managed web technology solutions for companies large and small, most notably 6+ years as the head of Patagonia, Inc. Web Development Department and more than a dozen years as a technology and services executive for an online publishing solution. Gregory architected the prototypes for the Safety+Success learning management systems piloted in South Carolina and New Mexico that housed courses for parents on family health and safety. His learning management system clients include State Departments of Health, Education and Attorney Generals Office and he is currently developing a learning management system to house the Resilience Leaders course focused on implementing a citywide system focused on the prevention and treatment of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), based on the book Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.




To view the answers, click on the

The program is designed to reinforce and complement the experimentation and use of data that is integral to the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) process. Program participants will receive focused training on CQI, data mining and analysis, and research into evidence-based practice. Program participants will bring back what they learn from the program to their individual offices, addressing challenges specific to that office, team, or facility.

The program is designed to empower individual offices to identify the strengths and challenges unique to their communities; understand how data informs local projects, innovations and change initiatives; and how evaluation effectively measures progress. The program provides participants with the skills to solve problems using data, research and technology— strengthening systems change on the agency and community levels.

The program is designed for child welfare professionals who are interested in data, research and evidence-informed practice. We seek self-directed participants who are motivated to learn, share, challenge assumptions and manage change.

Qualities of successful participants include: being invested in using data to inform practice and decision-making; being invested in CQI; a willingness to enhance communication skills to present the relevant skills learned in the program to their local office; and an interest in proactively improving agency performance and outcomes for families and children.

The program is an ongoing CQI process, which will continue to impact participant's work in years to come. The program begins with a series of training sessions taking place over a six month period. Participants attend two full days of classroom and coaching sessions per month. Participants will impart the knowledge, skills, and insights they gained with co-workers.

The application process includes getting buy-in from immediate supervisors to ensure that participants are allotted the time needed to invest in the program and fully commit to data-informed decision-making. Department leadership is committed to ensuring that those participating in program have time to dedicate to the process.

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, the dates for the program are:

Pre-Data Fellows Oct 16, 17 at Rachel Carson Room - HSB
Nov 13, 14 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills
Dec 11, 12 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills
Jan 15, 16 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills
Feb 12, 13 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills
March 12, 13 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills
April 16, 17 - 10 Duff Road, Penn Hills