Meet Oakland County DHHS Director and MALDI Grad

In addition to serving children and families, the team at Spaulding is proud of our work to develop the professional capabilities and leadership skills of talented men and women.

This work includes initiatives to strengthen the representation of minority professionals working in the child welfare system across the country.

Ivana Maplanka credits one pioneering program, the Minority Adoption Leadership Development Institute (MALDI), a program led by Spaulding and funded by the Children’s Bureau, with helping her discover and develop her professional interests and competence. Today, she advances the interests of children and families as the Acting Director of the Department of Health and Human Services in Oakland County, Michigan.

Years ago, Ms. Maplanka was recommended for the MALDI program by a District Manager in her office at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Then a Supervisor with Child Protective Services, Ms. Maplanka was not sure the program with its focus on foster care and adoption was the right fit. As an investigator, she had gained extensive experience with foster parents and childcare institutions and, later, with adoptive families.

Ms. Maplanka attended the first MALDI meeting in Detroit and was excited by all the talent in the cohort. She knew that she had much to learn about the work and wondered what she might contribute. In answer, the team at MALDI showed her how she could make a difference. A distinctive and invaluable aspect of the program is the mentor each member receives.

While Ivana and her MALDI mentor then worked in the same department, Ivana had not previously worked closely with her at MDHHS. Through this experience, Ms. Maplanka not only gained great insight in the area of adoption, but established a great mentoring relationship that continues to this day. In addition to providing information and guidance, MALDI mentors were important for helping participants determine the focus of the yearlong program. The program’s other resources included consultants and advisors who each generously shared their knowledge and suggestions.

“I will always remember the support I received in the MALDI program,” Ms. Maplanka said. “With guidance from my mentor, and the support from MALDI, I was able to determine my focus for my project. As a worker in the child welfare system, I had not realized before the program how many decisions were made without the full realization of the impact on all programs. So, I took on the exploration of adoption through the Child Protective Services’ lens. I learned to ask what could have been done differently when a family came in contact with CPS.”

Ms. Maplanka incorporated the concept of the continuity of care into her MALDI project and ultimately into her professional career. With her research, she now sees the child welfare system through a different lens.

“Every professional in the system needs to understand their role and how it affects all other programs,” Ms. Maplanka said.

Following the program, Ivana’s career path continued to expand with new opportunities from Supervisor to Section Manager, District Manager and now Acting Director.

“I believe that because of the MALDI program and what I learned and the connections I made, I have greater insight into the field I work in,” Ms. Maplanka said. “The experience I gained through the MALDI program has put me on a different level in understanding the Child Welfare System.”

When asked what she would say to professionals considering the program, Ms. Maplanka replied: “It’s a lot of work, but it’s all purposeful. It helps us to always look for ways we can find meaning and improve how we can make a true difference in child welfare.”

The MALDI program has evolved into the current Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program. Learn more, including opportunities to join the coming cohort, below.

Minorities in Child Welfare Wanted for Leadership Development

Currently, the Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program is led by Spaulding and administered by the Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) as one of the components of the multifaceted AdoptUSKids project funded by the Children’s Bureau. As with MALDI, the MPLD program was established to develop the professional leadership skills of men and women working to make positive change through service in the child welfare system. Both programs have made major impacts in the child welfare system through the work and contributions of their professional alumni.

You and other professionals in the child welfare fields can develop new leadership skills, expand your professional network and gain transformative insights that MALDI and MPLD graduates have experienced when you sign up for the next cohort.

Please enroll by June 7. To do so, please click here.