To Step Down in January 2018 After 15 Years Leading The Nation’s Oldest Child Welfare Agency

BOSTON, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017 — Christopher Egan, Chairman of the Board of Directors at The Home for Little Wanderers, announced today the retirement of Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D., as President & Chief Executive Officer of The Home for Little Wanderers, the nation’s oldest and one of Massachusetts’ largest child and family services agencies, after fifteen years of leading the agency. Mr. Egan also announced that Lesli Suggs, LICSW, currently Vice President for Program Operations at The Home, was selected by the Board in a unanimous vote to succeed Dr. Wallace-Benjamin as President & CEO on January 2, 2018.

“This is really a moment of strength for The Home, when we can build on the momentum of Joan’s accomplishments,” said Mr. Egan. “Joan has transformed The Home into a leader, if not the leader, of modern child and family services in Massachusetts, and therefore the nation. I am confident that our future is incredibly bright because of her work. Furthermore, Lesli’s unanimous endorsement by our Board speaks to her ability to continue The Home’s leadership in an ever-changing field into the coming decades.”

Joan Wallace-Benjamin has worked in the field serving children and their families for the past 35 years. She joined The Home for Little Wanderers as President & CEO in February 2003. Among her previous positions she served as the first Chief of Staff to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and President and CEO of the Urban League of Massachusetts.

Lesli Suggs joined The Home in January 2011 as Senior Director of Community-Based and Behavioral Health Programs. She was then named V.P. of Program Operations in October 2013. As V.P. of Program Operations she has been responsible for the day-to-day operations of all of The Home’s programs, with management oversight of over 700 of the The Home’s 800 employees.

Ms. Suggs is the driving force behind The Home’s new Permanency Initiative, whose motto is “Stay Home, Go Home, Or Find Home.” Permanency is the concept of continuous family commitment, both emotional and legal, for youth in the child welfare system. The Permanency Initiative is designed to reduce the number of young people in Massachusetts, currently 800 annually, who age out of the child welfare system and transition to independent living without permanent connections. Working through the Permanency Initiative, The Home strives to first provide community-based intensive services, and then work to get youth back into their homes or find new nurturing and loving families.

Ms. Suggs has extensive experience in child welfare and behavioral health, focused on residential & special education; adoption & foster care; community mental health; sexual abuse; and trauma; as well as issues that impact children such as income inequality, poverty, and community violence. She received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Texas Christian University and later graduated from Simmons College with a Master’s in Social Work. Before joining The Home, Ms. Suggs served as Vice President of Program for Communities for People in Boston and Assistant Vice President at Health and Education Services on the North Shore. Ms. Suggs serves as a Board Director for Link House, Inc. and Co-chairs the Transition Aged Youth Coalition (TAYC) for The Children’s League of Massachusetts.

Dr. Wallace- Benjamin graduated from Wellesley College in l975 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She received her Ph.D. from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 1980. She holds Honorary Doctorates from several prominent colleges and universities.

Among the numerous awards she received in her career are the Henry L. Shattuck Public Service City Champion Award, and the Urban League Civil Rights Award.

Dr. Wallace-Benjamin has overseen growth in The Home’s endowment from $71 million in 2003 to $99 million today. She has also overseen the growth of the Agency’s signature fundraising event, Voices & Visions, which went from $250,000 in 2005 to $1 million annually since 2013.

“I am very proud of the thoughtful and transparent manner of the search process that culminated in the Board’s unanimous vote to appoint Lesli,” said Mr. Egan. “I’m grateful to all of the Board members and the CEO search committee in particular.”



For Immediate Release

Sarah Blodgett

Brian Condron