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Donald returns to D.C. child-family post

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D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray has picked a former director of the city's Child and Family Services Agency to again run the department, which is responsible for the welfare of children in the District.

Mr. Gray on Thursday formally announced Brenda Donald as the agency director. The agency protects the city's foster children, young victims of abuse and those subject to neglect.

Ms. Donald served as agency director in 2004 and 2005 and as deputy mayor for Children, Youth, Families and Elders until the end of Mayor Anthony A. Williams' administration in late 2006.

Then-incoming Mayor Adrian M. Fenty criticized the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration — an agency under Ms. Donald's oversight — for what he called "administrative chaos" and the deaths of mentally retarded residents in group homes.

Meanwhile, the CFSA remains under close scrutiny as a result of case in which resident Banita Jacks killed her four children in summer 2007, then kept the bodies in the upstairs bedroom of their Southeast rowhouse until they were discovered in January 2008.

The incident prompted Mr. Fenty to fire several CFSA staff members for failing to recognize warning signs before the children's deaths.

Ms. Donald now "takes the helm of the agency at a time when her leadership and the expertise she's acquired over the years will be immensely helpful to us,"Mr. Gray said.

She will also try to lead the agency from federal court monitoring under a lawsuit that dates back to the 1980s.

Ms. Donald received a warm reception from attendees at the mayor's event Thursday and is supported by the Healthy Families-Thriving Communities Collaborative Council, a community network that seeks to improve the quality of life in the District.

Ms. Donald most recently served as a vice president for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Prior to that, she served as secretary of Maryland's Department of Human Resources.

Mr. Gray said his administration used Ms. Donald as a consultant during their search for a nominee, before deciding she was right for the post.

"Ultimately, she did a wonderful job, because she found herself," he said.

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