Director of the Office of Youth Empowerment, Institute for Families
Braun Scalera began teaching as an adjunct professor at the Rutgers School of Social Work in 1994 and has been teaching MSW students ever since. During this same time frame, she also taught workshops in the Continuing Education Department, providing training to all new Family Preservation Services workers, teaching in the Training Skills Certificate Series, and providing a number of clinically and ethically oriented courses to social workers.
She joined the Institute for Families full-time in May 2011 as the Director of the Office of Child Welfare Initiatives. In this role, she oversaw the expansion of the New Jersey Child Welfare Training Partnership (the Partnership). The Partnership provides professional development for public child welfare staff. In the first four years of her tenure, the Partnership greatly expanded the number of developed course curriculums and increased the training offerings to the DCF community.
In November 2013, Braun Scalera also brought Transitions for Youth, a suite of services that work with youth who are involved with and/or transitioning out of the child welfare system, into the Office of Child Welfare Initiatives. Four of these programs (Project MYSELF, Price Family Fellows, Summer Housing and Internship Program, and Summer Internship Program) work with college-enrolled youth aging-out of the child welfare system. The programs provide supportive coaching, workshops, and activities to assist the youth in successfully achieving a college degree and moving into a career. Another set of programs (Statewide Youth Advisory Boards) empower youth in foster care to learn leadership skills, providing advocacy and collaboration with DCF to create positive changes in practices and policies impacting youth in the child welfare system. Staff also conduct an annual Adolescent Networking conference and run a youth-directed Speakers Bureau.
Due to the expansion of services within the Office of Child Welfare Initiatives, responsibilities were divided to create two separate offices in the fall of 2015 with Braun Scalera assuming oversight of the newly formed Office of Youth Empowerment. This work will continue to focus on current and future programs designed to empower and enhance the lives of youth in foster care and those aging-out of the child welfare system.
Braun Scalera has a long history working in public and private organizations dedicated to improving the lives of families involved in the child welfare system. This work began with the statewide implementation of Family Preservation Services, an intensive in-home family education and crisis intervention program for families at risk of out-of-home placement. Future work has included oversight of clinical programs, training, and technical assistance to start up the first Family Success Centers in NJ, agency administration, program development, and replication.