Wanja Ogongi, MSW


Wanja Ogongi joined Community Legal Services, Inc. (CLS) as a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellow. She worked with the Family Advocacy Unit within CLS to examine the high rate of children returning to foster care within one year of being reunified with their families. This rate is far higher in Philadelphia than throughout the rest of the state. In Pennsylvania, 28.6% of children and youth re-enter foster care within 12 months of reunification. In Philadelphia, this rate is 43%.

Children who must return to foster care soon after reuniting with their families experience confusion and emotional distress that is detrimental to their development and well-being. This upheaval means that these vulnerable youth lack consistent and responsive caregivers to provide them with necessary support. Wanja seeks to understand the difficulties that families confront before and after reunification, and how CLS and other service providers could better prepare for and address the needs of soon-to-be or recently reunified families.

Prior to receiving a Stoneleigh Emerging Leader Fellowship, Wanja worked as a foster care social worker in Philadelphia. As a foster care case manager, she has worked directly with children in foster care, and with their foster and biological parents. It was during this time that she discovered that often little effort went into ensuring that the biological parent received needed support. She also noticed that when a child was reunited with his or her family, there was little contact between Wanja as the foster care worker, and the newly assigned aftercare worker. A native of Kenya, Wanja has also advocated for children and family rights in her home country.

She is currently a PhD candidate at Widener University with a concentration in Social Work, expected in May 2011. She has her MSW from West Chester University and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.