ChildNet Youth and Family Services, a private, nonprofit organization that offers innovative programs to over 5,000 young people and their families annually, has announced that Robert Di Stefano is stepping down after 27 years as president/CEO. Kathy Hughes, who was most recently COO of ChildNet, has been unanimously selected by the board of directors to serve as the new president/CEO.
ChildNet was founded in 1970 as the Long Beach Youth Home. Since DiStefano’s arrival in 1984, ChildNet has grown from a single facility serving 100 boys a year, to 13 locations covering six counties, and helping over 5,000 children and their families. Since 1984, Di Stefano has grown ChildNet from a budget of $893,000 to a current budget of over $22 million.
Having worked with teenagers at Long Beach Youth Home and, before that, at Boys Republic, Chino, he realized that better results could be achieved with early intervention. Recognizing that there was often more than one issue in the family dynamic, the ChildNet goal, said DiStefano, “was to be able to handle all of the family care needs.” As a result, he conceived Continuum of Care, which created a range of services for families and their children.
The concept led to several programs with a wide array of services. In 1987 the expansion began with Foster Family Network, which now provides homes for abused and abandoned children in five counties. ChildNet’s two schools, Zinsmeyer Academy and Vista Ridge Academy, provide for special educational needs of children referred by school districts throughout greater Long Beach and the San Gabriel Valley.
Whereas most of the children have experienced trauma and need counseling, some children may also need medical support. The Behavioral Health Services and Wraparound programs were established to meet these mental-health needs and provide family-support services. The newest program, Adoption Services, provided permanent homes for 30 children last year.
Hughes has been with the organization since 1986, when she began her career as a caseworker for the Long Beach Youth Home. A graduate of California State University, Dominquez Hills and a licensed marriage/family therapist, Hughes has held various positions of leadership throughout her many years with the organization.
“I am extremely proud of everything that we were able to achieve at ChildNet over the past 27 years,”
DiStefano said. “When I was asked to join ChildNet as president/CEO, it was hard to imagine that we would become a multi-service organization, helping so many in need. I am honored to have presided over its growth and feel that it has become one of the best agencies of its kind. I am sure that Kathy Hughes will continue to guide ChildNet into the future with her gracious style and confident leadership, developing new programs and expanding our Continuum of Care.”
Hughes said she is looking forward to the challenge of filling the shoes of Di Stefano. “He has built ChildNet into the leading nonprofit organization it is today. His leadership will be greatly missed, but he is leaving behind an organization that is strong, stable and successful.”