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  • Dan Vallaro

2022 Summer - True To Life: A Change in Leadership


After 46 years at ECFA, I’m preparing to retire from my position as Executive Director of ECFA. My interest in human services began when I was in high school. I learned of an organization on the north side of Chicago called Misericordia. The facility was operated by an order of Catholic nuns who cared for children with developmental disabilities and other special needs. I was allowed to volunteer there once a week to spend time and play with the kids who were eager for attention.


In college, I took courses in social sciences and acquired a bachelor degree in psychology. As a young adult I found a position as child care worker at Chapin Hall for Children. It was there that I got firsthand experience as a house parent for seven teenage boys. Four years later, I was hired as the recreation director at Sunny Ridge Home when it served trouble youth referred by DCFS and the court system.


It was July 1, 1976 that I joined the staff at Evangelical Child and Family Agency when ECFA was located in downtown Chicago. I carried a mixed caseload of adoptive families and foster care cases. Because of my experience working with teens, my supervisor gave me families with older children who had special needs. I attended graduate school on a part-time basis and earned a Master of Social Worker degree. Later I became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor.


For a period of five years I supervised both the Adoption and Foster Care Programs at the Agency. For another five years, I worked as a therapist in the Counseling Program. After Doris Wheeler retired in June 1991, I was asked by ECFA’s Board of Directors to assume the position of Executive Director. Through the years, the Agency staff has provided pregnancy counseling services to many thousands of women, placed well over 3000 children with Christian adoptive families, served thousands more children in foster care and Intact Family Services, and served hundreds of individuals and families in the Counseling Program.


The time has come for me to step down from my position at the Agency. However, fortunately for ECFA, Wendy Payne has been named as the new Executive Director effective October 1, 2022. Wendy is a seasoned professional in the field of human services and a committed Christian who is actively involved at Village Church of Bartlett. She had worked for several years at another agency serving disadvantaged children and families in the Cabrini Green neighborhood in Chicago.


Wendy first joined ECFA in January of 2002 as a foster care supervisor. In 2004, she initiated the Intact Family Services Program at the Agency. When Dave Lundberg retired in 2015, Wendy assumed the position of Director of Professional Services. She oversees the Pregnancy Support Services and Adoption Programs in both ECFA’s Illinois and Wisconsin District offices, along with the Intact Family Services Program in DuPage County. She has also served as an adjunct professor at both Wheaton College in their Sociology Department and at Aurora University in their Social Work Department.


I am grateful for the years that I have been privileged to serve as a caseworker, program supervisor, individual and family counselor, and Executive Director at ECFA. I am also confident that I will be leaving the Agency in very capable hands of the new CEO, a talented and committed professional staff, and a dedicated Board of Directors. I encourage all of ECFA’s friends, donors, and volunteers to continue to wholeheartedly pray for and support the vital work and ministry of the Agency.


~ Ken Withrow, LCSW, CADC

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