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When Bryan Samuels took over the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in 2003, the number of children in the system had dropped from a record-high of 51,000 in 1997 down to 23,400.

While those in the field took the numbers as a good sign, Samuels saw them as too good to be true, the child welfare expert said on Nov. 12 at Fordham.

Samuels, the executive director of Chapin Hall Center for Children in Chicago and a child welfare advocate, delivered the Graduate School of Social Service’s (GSS) James R. Dumpson Memorial Lecture. The talk honors GSS Dean Emeritus James Dumpson, Ph.D., who died last year at the age of 103.

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On Nov. 12, 2013, GSS will host a memorial lecture to honor Dumpson, who died Nov. 5, 2012 at the age of 103.

The featured speaker will be Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall Center for Children in Chicago and former commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families. Samuels’s lecture will center on child welfare, a topic about which Dumpson was passionate.

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For the past five decades, Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service has been led by three giants in the field—JAMES DUMPSON, Mary Ann Quaranta, and Peter Vaughan—pioneers who have helped set the course for the profession.

In 1968 New York City, tough times had set everyone on edge.  Teachers and sanitation workers were striking. Racial tensions, already high, soared after the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr.  There were riots in Harlem, protests in Brownsville, students staging sit-ins, and garbage ablaze in the streets. Mayor John Lindsay declared the latter six months of the year “the worst of my public life.”   Clearly the reforms set in place by President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, including his declared war on poverty, had yet to accomplish their goals.  But they had ushered in a new era in social work, one in which, though societal ills still existed, there were more programs to address them.

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The Fordham University community mourns the death of James R. Dumpson, Ph.D., former dean of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) and tireless advocate for the poor. Dumpson died Monday, Nov. 5 at the age of 103.

“Dr. Dumpson was an outstanding professional role model and leader in the profession,” said Peter Vaughan, Ph.D., dean of GSS. “He was also an exceptional leader in the city of New York, and a wonderful friend and supporter of GSS and the University.”

Born in 1909 in an area of Philadelphia known as Hell’s Half-Acre, Dumpson began his career teaching in a segregated school inOxford, Pa. He moved on after several years to work as a supervisor in Philadelphia’s welfare bureau, and in 1940, he became a caseworker for the Children’s Aid Societyin New York City. He joined the Department of Welfare in 1956 and was appointed deputy commissioner two years later.

In 1959, he became the second black commissioner in New York City government and the first social worker to oversee welfare. He used the position to advocate strongly for the rights of welfare recipients. Against critics of the time, Dumpson argued that those on welfare desperately needed the support, and that virtually every adult would rather work than receive welfare, because employment is bound up with personal dignity.

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First as a young Boston Catholic Charities caseworker helping pregnant teens, and then as a distinguished social work professor, Brenda McGowan, D.S.W., has dedicated her adult life to helping children in peril.

Fordham’s newest James R. Dumpson Chair in Child Welfare Studies is well versed in the ways in which systemic pitfalls can fail or harm children who already have been abused or neglected by their families. She spent 42 years as a child welfare advocate and 33 years on the faculty of Columbia University’s School of Social Work before joining Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) this past January.

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