Interview Series: Darelle Porter, Program Director at Ozanam, Inc

Darelle Porter
Darelle Porter

Darelle Porter is a Program Director at Ozanam, Inc., a Pittsburgh nonprofit that provides educational programming, athletic competition, social and cultural activities, and support services to enhance the lives of local youth.  Darelle has been involved with Ozanam for 35 years. He is also a volunteer with Cash For Kids – Swin Cash’s foundation that works with youth from the McKeesport area.

Years in the Pittsburgh area:

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

What was your first job?

My first job after high school was working at Ozanam. I started working at Ozanam in the 11th grade.

How were you drawn to nonprofit work?

I was drawn to nonprofit work to give my children and other kids the experience I had with Ozanam as a youth.

What is the first thing you do each day?

The first thing I do each morning is check my phone for any new messages. My son Darelle Jr. is a freshman in college and my daughter Michaela is a sophomore in high school. My cell phone is my computer, alarm clock, phone book and clock with all the modern technology.

What keeps you motivated?

The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago. I want to give each and every one of them a positive experience and a place for that to happen.

"The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago."
“The thing that keeps me motivated is thinking any kid who walks through the door could have been me 35 years ago.”

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

The best advice I have been given is something my grandfather told me when I was in the 1st grade. He told me in life there are not that many things that are free, but an education is one of them…take advantage of your education so you can live a better life than I have now.

What are you reading?

I am currently reading up on some of the best practices for nonprofit organizations.

What current trend(s) or issue(s) do you see currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?

The current issues I see affecting our program are the difficulty getting funding and getting more parents involved in the program. I think parental involvement is one of the problems that having more funding can address. With proper funding, Ozanam would be able to get a social worker/counselor to establish a safe haven for children and their parents to deal with some of the issues they face on a daily basis. Ozanam would also be able to make dinner available for adults with additional funding that keeps the parents involved. This would allow Ozanam to bridge the gap that is present with family bonding time.

What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?  

 The one goal I hope to accomplish in 2015 is to promote the Ozanam brand to more people. I feel if more people know about what we are doing, the more children Ozanam can serve in a positive way.

What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?

The best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh is the amount of foundations that support nonprofit organizations. However, there are so many people doing similar things that go after the same funding.

What does Ozanam have coming up? 

We have a Youth Leadership Conference on May 27, 2015 at the Ammon Recreation Center at 2217 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219.

June 6, 2015, 18U Girls Summer League starts

June 15, 2015, 12U Boys Summer League  starts

June 17, 2015,  16U Boys Summer League starts

June 22, 2015, Summer Camp  starts

Study Highlights Challenges Faced by Children of Wounded Service Members

Between 2001 and 2011, over 2.2 million American service members were deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although it is not unusual for military families to experience some stress when a loved one is deployed, studies have found that children with a deployed parent are at risk for higher levels anxiety, poorer academic performance, and drug and/or alcohol use than their peers. Now, research from the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research at the University of San Diego, in partnership with Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, indicates that children of returning wounded service members face additional challenges that may impact their development.

Through extensive interviews with wounded servicemen and women and their familiesresearchers identified several themes:

  • Invisible wounds. Children with parents diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder along with their visible wounds reported increased anger and an overall lack of understanding of the changes in their parent.  Youth tended to adapt quicker to tangible wounds and the special care they required.
  • Losing both parents.  Attention was diverted from children in the family to the newly returned wounded parent, with older children taking on the adult role of providing emotional support and care  to siblings and/or the non-injured parent.
  • Too much or too little information.  Lack of communication with children around the reality of the returning parent’s injuries caused distress.  For adults, ill-timed “information dumps” on resources/programs that occurred too early in the reunification process were overwhelming and often not helpful.
  • Isolation. Families transitioning from the military to a civilian community with a seriously wounded family member reported feeling isolated, cut off from those who might best understand their experience.

To better meet these needs, the study authors recommend the development or expansion of programs that help families build long term resiliency, as well as youth mentoring and peer-to-peer social support for children.

If you are interested in reading more about the challenges faced by wounded service members and their families, RAND has an exceptional series of reports and presentations from their Military Caregiver Study available at their website.




Report Citation: Schumann, M.J., Nash Cameron, E., Deitrick, L., Reed, G., and Doroliat, D. (2014). Study on Children of Seriously Wounded Service Members. San Diego, CA: Caster Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research, University of San Diego.

Lessons on Systems Change from The Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare

The impact of parental substance abuse on children’s stability and well-being is a concern that crosses systems.  Data suggests that parental drug and alcohol use is related to abuse and neglect and increases the likelihood of a parent’s involvement in the justice system – including the possibility of incarceration. The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) provides In-Depth Technical Assistance (IDTA) to a handful of sites across the country in the areas of substance abuse, child welfare and the courts to result in better outcomes for families involved in these systems.  For approximately 18 months, the IDTA team works with local, state or tribal entities to coordinate strategy and services across systems through the use of evidence-based programs and on-site technical assistance in order to grow capacity for improved child and family outcomes.

The report, In-Depth Technical Assistance (IDTA) Final Report 2007-2012 provides an overview of the IDTA program model, related site accomplishments, and the lessons of system change at various levels. Some findings include,

  • 50 percent of the sites implemented (or enhanced) a recovery specialist model in their programs;
  • 68 percent developed and/or implemented cross-system training plans;
  • 60 percent developed and/or implemented screening protocols that resulted in lowers costs, reduced redundancy and a more efficient referral process;
  • 27 percent used cross-system data collection and tracking processes, such as case reviews and drop-off analysis, to inform policy and program decisions. (Note: according to the SAMHSA website, a Drop-Off Analysis is “a method used to assess linkages among child welfare, treatment agencies and courts. The method helps to identify connections that families need to make between systems to obtain services and achieve their child welfare case goals.”)

In addition to program findings, the brief discusses numerous lessons learned around systems change, particularly: issues in achieving long-term policy and practice changes and avoiding the fracture of collaborative relationships post-project,  leadership focused on engaging and sustaining partners,  use of data to identify areas of and opportunities for change, and realistic timelines for implementing system change and shared accountability.

Child Welfare Court-Ordered Reforms – A Best Practice?

The role of courts in demanding change from the child welfare system is not a new one.  However,  in the paper Court-Based Child Welfare Reforms: Improved Child/Family Outcomes and Potential Cost Savings, Liz Thornton, a Staff Attorney for the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, finds evidence that such reforms have resulted in both lower fiscal costs and improved child welfare outcomes.

Several case studies are presented to discuss court-ordered changes including those around service accessibility, family treatment and improvements to child welfare system processes or practices. Of interest to Pennsylvanians may be the American Bar Association’s Permanency Barriers Project which, according to the brief, resulted in 20 PA counties reducing the average time by youth spent in foster care by 9 months, resulting in a significant cost savings.

The complete brief is available for download at the First Focus website.