Q&A: Children's Home + Aid President, CEO Nancy Ronquillo

Q&A: Children's Home + Aid President, CEO Nancy Ronquillo

December 5, 2007

CHICAGO - “ The Illinois Venture Capital Association has interviewed Children's Home + Aid CEO Nancy Ronquillo about how the organization is making a dramatic difference in the lives of children and families in Illinois and how members of the venture capital and private equity industries can become involved.

IVCA: What is the mission of Children's Home + Aid? How long has the organization served children and families in need in Illinois?
Nancy Ronquillo:
Children's Home + Aid reaches out to nearly 40,000 children and families in 40 Illinois counties every year. Our boys and girls and their families face overwhelming obstacles to their well-being and future success.

Our broad array of services include adoption (uniting children with loving families), child and family counseling (strengthening families through support and guidance), early childhood care and education (building the foundation for a lifetime of learning) and foster care (protecting and nurturing children and building strong families).

We also offer family services (keeping families together through intervention), parent support (supporting the role of parents in child development), residential services (helping children heal through extensive therapy) and youth services (serving the needs of at-risk youth).

IVCA: How can professionals and individuals from the local private equity industry best get involved?
We offer a wide array of volunteer opportunities for individuals, teams and families. These include leadership roles (several board roles and options), mentors and reading to children (literacy projects), facility projects (painting and landscaping) teaching teens life skills.

You can also invest in children through individual and corporate donations. In addition, you can participate in special events that introduce Children's Home + Aid's mission and results to prospective volunteers, donors and board leaders.

IVCA: Children's Home + Aid has a number of Chicago private equity investors on its board of trustees including Paul Carbone at Robert W. Baird & Co. and Mark Tresnowski of Madison Dearborn Partners. What unique attributes do individuals from the private equity sector bring to their roles as trustees?
Along with Carbone and Tresnowski, current private equity investors involved in Children's Home + Aid include Paul Wood of Madison Dearborn Partners and Jim Crawford III of Triad Capital Management. Business leaders in private equity bring unique analytical savvy and have a heightened awareness of the risk and return dynamics in the business arena.

This skill set is valuable in a number of important ways to Children's Home + Aid. Our programs are designed to achieve significant - œreturns-  for our children, youth and families and for the investors providing resources so critical results and goals can be attained.

For those individuals looking to make a profound difference and to add value to children with great potential, Children's Home + Aid offers opportunities to put talent and treasure to work.

IVCA: What initiatives do you have planned for 2008?
We plan to expand our ability to improve the educational success of at-risk students through our community schools program in Chicago. In partnership with the Chicago Public Schools, this serves a total of six schools in the Englewood and Humboldt Park communities. More than 1,200 students are involved.

We also plan to improve the outcomes for children in our early childhood program through a capacity-building initiative in six sites across the state for more than 600 children. In addition, we are piloting a new approach to strengthening fragile families in Aurora and Lawndale.

We are also increasing volunteer involvement directly with youth and increasing recruitment of foster families especially for teenagers through a Chicago White Sox - œBring Me Home-  campaign. Jim Thome and Paul Konerko are leaders in the campaign.

On the philanthropic side, we are building a new child and family center for low-income/high-need families in Schaumburg with a $1.5 million campaign goal. We are also building an e-philanthropy capability along with a major gift initiative to underwrite innovation and improved outcomes in key programs. That has a $3.6 million goal.

Finally, we are building visibility and engagement through the celebration of 125 years of life-saving, life-changing efforts. We have been building better lives for children and families today and into the future. Come celebrate and lend leadership, talent and support.

IVCA: What's the biggest challenge you currently face?
Our biggest challenge is a need for greater awareness. Children's Home + Aid is a high-performing organization that delivers outstanding results for children, youth and families. Still, we do not have high visibility.

This impedes our ability to secure resources to achieve the best results and to reach all the children and families in need. The consistent erosion of public support also has impeded our ability to fund innovation and to leverage best-practice models. We need access to savvy investors along with an opportunity to tell our story and inspire engagement and generosity.

IVCA: What are your plans with the Chicago White Sox for the 2007 holiday gift drive?
As a part of the year-round - œBring Me Home-  campaign, Chicago White Sox top talent Jim Thome and Paul Konerko are working to provide more than 600 foster children and youth with holiday gifts this season.

Between now and Dec. 12, we are seeking unwrapped toys and gift cards. These items may be dropped off at US Cellular Field. Learn more about how you can help our kids and families this holiday by visiting http://www.childrenshomeandaid.org.

Spring training is just around the corner. We invite your members to sign up to be a member of the - œBring Me Home-  campaign this spring for the 2008 season.

The following IVCA members are actively involved in Children's Home + Aid. They have provided us with their input as well.

Baird Capital Partners managing partner Paul J. Carbone: Children's Home + Aid has a long and successful history of helping Illinois children and their families.

As we all look to find ways to give back to our community, few could be more deserving and important than helping the many children and families in need in Illinois. I am proud to be involved with Children's Home + Aid and will do whatever I can to support their worthy mission.

Madison Dearborn Partners managing director Mark B. Tresnowski: There are many ways to make a positive contribution to your community. In my case, I wanted to do something in recognition of the many advantages I had early on in my life.

I grew up in a safe and secure home with loving parents who set a good example both in terms of fundamental values and in terms of how to develop my talents. I have worked very hard over the course of my career and made many sacrifices. As I started looking back, I realized that I would be nowhere today without having such a firm foundation in my youth.

So many children face a future without this foundation. While I can't change that, I wanted to get involved in at least trying to mitigate the implications of this reality.

The average age of a homeless person in our country is nine years old. That is a very sad statistic. It should be a call to action for the rest of us. Children's Home + Aid is a leader in trying to address the heart of this problem: disadvantaged children.

It is a wonderful organization with a special and important mission. Interestingly, as I looked into Children's Home + Aid, I was also encouraged to find that its board of trustees included many of the people in the business community I admire most.