Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - 4:29am
Madison - Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced today that Office of Community Services Director Dorothy Conniff will retire on September 4 after 30 years with the City of Madison. Conniff began employment in March, 1977 as the city's first child care specialist.
"Dorothy Conniff has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community," said Mayor Cieslewicz. "She has been a passionate advocate for their needs, particularly in the area of childcare for low-income families. Dorothy has given a voice to the voiceless, and she will be missed in both city government and the community at large."
One of Conniff's proudest accomplishments was the growth and improvement of the City of Madison's childcare program:
• Under her leadership, the City child care program has grown from nine accredited programs to more than 80, as more and more centers and family homes seek the support of the city accreditation program to achieve and maintain quality.
• City accreditation is widely recognized as a marker of high quality. City-accredited centers receive a quality bonus in child care payments from the State of Wisconsin, and studies show that accredited centers consistently rank higher on measures of quality such as staff educational levels and turnover and compliance with State licensing standards.
• In 2006, the city program reached a milestone: more than half of Madison's children who are in child care are in city-accredited care.
In 1981, Conniff became supervisor of both the child care and community resources programs. "We talk a lot about program accountability for the nonprofits, but as funders we also have to have accountability," said Conniff. "Being a good funder means being informed about community needs, making decisions that strengthen essential services, and building awareness and support for approaches that work."
Conniff cited two aspects of the City's community services programs as being especially notable:
• The community resources program has worked with Madison nonprofits collaboratively to establish a number of programs responsive to community need, including such programs as the Respite Center, the Rainbow project, Girl Neighborhood Power, and the Volunteer Home Chore service for older adults.
• Over time, Community Services has taken the risk and initiative to be the first funder for many innovative services that agencies and the people they serve have developed to meet community needs. Among those are the MAP program in Allied Drive, Life as a Boy in the Vera Court neighborhood, and the Latino Family Resource Center in Bridge-Lakepoint.
"These two programs, community resources and child care, have made a real difference for many of Madison's families," said Conniff. "The City can be proud of these accomplishments, and I am proud to have been part of building an innovative, responsive human services program within the City. Nobody requires us to provide these programs. We do it because we care, and that makes Madison a better place."
Conniff has served under five mayors in six administrations and led her office through five different reorganizations: the transition from the Welfare Department to the now-defunct Human Resources Department, back to Welfare, to the Mayor's Office, the Department of Planning and Development, and now the Economic and Community Development Unit. She says that these many reorganizations have produced the gray hair that she now sports so proudly.
"The City of Madison is fortunate to have employed some of the most professional, creative, and caring people you could hope to meet," Conniff concluded.
- George Twigg(608) 266-4611