On November 17, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards to recognize individuals who are making a bold difference right here in the Central Valley. We will highlight the ten honorees in our Heroes Blog Series.
Name: Wendy Osikafo
Occupation: Director, Kings County Human Services
Nominated By: Social Welfare Evaluation Research and Training Center
Wendy Osikafo thought that working in child welfare would just be a few years to add to her resume. 22 years later, she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“Child welfare is one of the more complex and stressful fields you can work in as a social worker,” Osikafo said. “I think that those of us that stay in the field feel called to serve in this vulnerable population and are driven by a deep passion to serve.”
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Montana in 1996, Osikafo joined the Peace Corps for two years. Stationed in Ghana, she worked with homeless children, building a connection with them and their community. Upon her return, Osikafo completed her Master of Social Work degree at Fresno State while working part-time with the Fresno County Department of Social Services in the Department of Child Welfare. For the next 16 years, she continued with the agency in a variety of roles including social worker, social work supervisor, program manager and deputy director.
It is deeply important to Osikafo that affected community members are afforded the dignity and self-advocacy to be engaged in the change process. This is evident in her work with the Family to Family organization in West Fresno and the pilot program of the California Partners for Permanency (CAPP) addressing the disproportionate numbers of African American and Native American children in the child welfare system, which became the basis of the model that now guides child welfare practice for California.
“I am inspired by the resiliency of the youth we serve and the way our field has grown to be one that is collaborative and centered on keeping the child safe as well as connected to those that are important in their lives,” Osikafo reflected.
In 2016, Osikafo became the assistant director for the Kings County Human Services Agency and was responsible for the Department of Child Welfare and Adult Services. Earlier this year, she was appointed as the new director. Over the years, Osikafo has worked to safely reduce the number of children in foster care in Kings County and successfully reduced the number of youth placed in group homes and short-term residential therapeutic programs from 30 to zero over the last six years.
Osikafo has previously lectured for the Department of Social Work Education at Fresno State and today, works with both undergraduate and graduate social work interns. She also regularly partners with the Social Welfare Evaluation Research and Training Center on programs and statewide initiatives.
“I find myself reenergized and reinspired anytime I get to hear the success stories of those we serve,” Osikafo said. “I look forward to opportunities to hear directly from youth and parents and caregivers and community partners and of course our staff. Their ideas, concerns, celebrations, frustrations and stories remind me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be doing work that matters.”
The 2022 Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held virtually this year. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at email@example.com.