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SSA Centennial Celebration
Profiles of Distinction Series

Erwin McEwen, A.M. 1998

Director, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)

“I am passionate about the work I do with and for kids,” says a dedicated Erwin McEwen, who is the Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “I am grateful to SSA for the skills in helping me bring focus and direction to my work in child welfare.”

Mr. McEwen has devoted more than 20 years of service to children and families, in various Illinois social service communities including Kaleidoscope, Hull House, DCFS, and Lakeside Community Committee. “I grew up in Chicago in the Robert Taylor Homes at a much different time. I saw families facing challenges, but I also saw children loved and supported by a strong network of family and friends. I wanted to be an influence for change and to make a difference in these young lives. From my first job with the Lakeside Community Committee, where I ran four core child welfare programs, I knew that I was on the right track to make that difference.”

“As I moved up in the child welfare system and wanted a better supervisory role, it became apparent that I would need a graduate degree to reach a higher professional level. After 15 years of working in the system, I knew that a master’s was in my future. Of course, the only choice for me was SSA.” Mr. McEwen has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Illinois State University, and received a master’s degree from SSA in 1998, with a clinical concentration in family systems.

“My time at SSA was a very positive experience, with great support from faculty and some students. I learned how to really read and analyze data, and look behind the numbers and facts. I am a better critical thinker thanks to such professors as Waldo Johnson (Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., Ph.D.) and Dodie Norton (Dolores G. Norton, Ph.D.), whose guidance prepared me to advance in my work.”

Mr. McEwen has received numerous citations for his many outstanding achievements. In 1998, he received the University of Chicago’s Evelyn Harris Ginsburg Memorial Prize, which is awarded to a graduating master’s student for outstanding work, with special consideration given to the promise of future achievement in the field of services to children. He also received the University’s Elinor Nims Brink Fellowship, and the Chicago Police Department and Board of Education have recognized his achievements with the We Care Role Model award. In 2008, the Chicago District of the National Association of Social Workers - Illinois Chapter honored him with its Social Worker of the Year award.

“In my current position, I oversee programs and services for 100,000 kids across the State of Illinois, who are growing up in a wide range of circumstances,” Mr. McEwen notes. “SSA prepared me for meeting these challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our youth, and will continue to be passionate about their future, and my ability to make a difference.”

Erwin McEwen, A.M. 1998

Erwin McEwen, A.M. 1998