President & Chief Executive Officer, Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights

$200,000 - $220,000 yearly
  • Koya Partners
  • Chicago, New York, Washington, DC or Harlingen, TX
  • Mar 08, 2021
Full time Immigration Management Nonprofit-Social Services

Job Description

About the Young Center

The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights (“the Young Center”) is the leading, national organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights and best interests—safety and well-being—of immigrant children in deportation proceedings in the United States. The Young Center’s goal is to change immigration practice, policy and the law so that immigrant children are recognized by immigration judges, asylum officers, custodial and enforcement officials as children and their best interests are considered in every decision. The Young Center works to achieve this goal through both its Child Advocate and Policy programs.

Through the Young Center Child Advocate program, attorneys and social workers are appointed as Child Advocate (guardian ad litem) by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Their role is to advocate for the children's best interests while they are subject to deportation. This includes advocacy on release from custody, family reunification, conditions of detention, safe repatriation, and the ultimate decision about whether the child will be granted legal protection and allowed to remain in the U.S. The strength of the  Child Advocate program is grounded in the Young Center’s interdisciplinary approach that combines the trauma-informed and child-centered expertise of  social workers with the strategic legal advocacy of  attorneys. Through its Policy Program, the Young Center advocates with the administration, legislators, federal agencies and other stakeholders to incorporate a “best interests of the child” standard in the law, and to create a reimagined system built around the needs, capacities, and rights of children.

Immigrant children who seek protection in the United States are thrown into an adversarial system of laws, regulations and policies developed for adults. That system is adversarial, with the government in the position of protagonist, fighting to restrict migration into the United States. Children are on the defensive. They bear the burden of responding to and defending against the government’s effort to remove them from the country and they bear the burden of proof to win protection—no matter their age. Unlike most other systems in which the child is the subject of the legal proceeding, decisionmakers are not required to consider their best interests when making decisions that directly impact a child’s safety, permanency, and connection to family. This is what the Young Center has set out to change.

The Young Center has made tremendous progress changing practice and policy. Two decades ago, immigration judges didn’t know what best interests was in the immigration context. Today, immigration judges, asylum officers, even enforcement officials ask for best interests recommendations and for the appointment of Young Center Child Advocates.

Founded in Chicago in 2004 by Maria Woltjen, the Young Center started as a pilot project when ORR provided seed funding to build a model to provide Child Advocates to advocate for the best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children. The Young Center is now a national organization with offices in Chicago, Harlingen, New York, Washington, D.C., Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

An influential leader in the field of children’s rights, Woltjen has been recognized nationally for her success in creating a national program to integrate children’s rights and best interests into immigration practice, policy and the law. After 17 years of growth, impact and fighting for children from all over the world, Woltjen is retiring in June 2021. The Young Center is well poised for its next leader who can continue the trajectory and guide its success.

For more information on the Young Center, please visit their website.

The Opportunity

The Young Center is seeking a visionary President & CEO (“CEO”) who will advance the mission and the movement to develop a new immigration system for children, built around their needs, capacities and rights. This is a critical time, with the opportunity to work with the new administration to press for change and undo the harmful policies of the last four years. The CEO will help envision the Young Center of the future, one that will continue to lead the movement to implement a reimagined immigration system that recognizes and treats children as children.

The Young Center employs an interdisciplinary approach in its Child Advocate program, with both attorneys with experience in immigration and child welfare law, and social workers who ensure the advocacy is informed by a trauma informed lens. In collaboration with a passionate team of attorneys, social workers, and staff, the CEO will leverage relationships, diverse funding sources and partners to work for change at the federal level.

The CEO will embody the Young Center’s strong commitment to social and racial justice and will enhance operations to promote the organization - accelerating its impact, resource development and brand recognition. This leader will be a highly capable manager, demonstrating investment in and maintaining a presence with the whole of the Young Center staff. Reporting to The Young Center's Board of Directors, the CEO will manage and oversee all operational and programmatic functions with over 70 staff across eight locations throughout the US.

Key Responsibilities:

Developing a Strategic Vision

  • Collaborating with staff and Board to conceptualize, develop and implement long-term strategic priorities to expand the Young Center's impact and reach.
  • Serving as an innovative and visionary voice for the Young Center, balancing a collaborative, relational spirit with business acumen and discipline to ensure sustainability and increased impact for the organization.
  • Leading the effort to implement a reimagined immigration system as set forth in the Young Center’s Reimagining Children’s Immigration Proceedings—ending long-term detention, changing adjudication practices, and ensuring safe repatriation.

Leading External Relations

  • Leading engagement with external stakeholders, serving as a compelling and persuasive spokesperson about changing law, regulations and policy.
  • Maximizing the impact of the organization on immigrant children. Persuading political leaders, federal agencies, and the public to take a rights-based approach to policies impacting immigrant children. Cultivating and inspiring a culture of innovation and creativity that results in new fundable ideas and initiatives.
  • Oversee work with senior officials in each of the following federal agencies:
    • Department of Homeland Security—to implement the protections set forth in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to ensure no child is returned to danger, and reverse harmful policies issued in the last four years.
    • Department of Justice—to end policies and practices that deny due process, and issue new guidance for immigration courts.
    • Department of Health & Human Services—to end detention of children in congregate care settings.
    • Department of State—to ensure safe repatriation.
  • Engaging with class-action attorneys to use the Young Center’s expertise and knowledge to inform litigation efforts, and draft and submit amicus briefs.
  • Cultivating relationships with immigration experts at a national level through partnerships, conferences and policy meetings where top legal experts in government and social justice organizations are invited to collaborate and debate issues. Working with other top immigration organizations advocating for changes to the immigration system.
  • Developing and strengthening new and existing partnerships with key funding organizations, corporate partners, and individual donors. Collaborating with Board Members and senior leaders to cultivate new, diverse funding sources.
  • Engaging with media through TV and radio appearances, writing op-eds, and posting on social media to persuade the public and policy makers to include children’s rights in U.S. immigration policy.

Providing Programmatic, Operational, and Fiscal Leadership

  • Leading the team to achieve goals, evaluate progress, and course correct in times of challenge or crisis, while nurturing alignment through periods of change; guiding and directing the organization through periods of both planned and unanticipated change.
  • Assuring the organization’s financial viability to sustain its mission and achieve its vision; ensuring the Young Center meets the highest standards in stewarding its financial and other resources.
  • Promoting the Young Center’s interdisciplinary approach and ensuring the equal partnership of attorneys and social workers.

Advancing Equity and Inclusion

  • Ensuring the implementation of measures that advance the Young Center’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Creating a culture of learning and respect that improves the organization’s ability to address challenges around issues of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, disability, age, and more.
  • Fostering an inclusive and engaged workplace; demonstrating transparency, empathy, and respect; supporting a culture of authenticity and self-care. Coaching and facilitating the team in support of a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment.

Candidate Profile

The President & CEO of the Young Center will possess the following attributes and competencies:

Strategic Leadership & Vision

The President & CEO will be a strategic visionary who will thoughtfully guide the Young Center through the continued growth of the Child Advocate program and leading the movement to create a reimagined immigration system for children. With a track record of field and people leadership, the CEO will be able to build on the existing foundation of Young Center programs by creating a cohesive strategy for long-term impact. Their experience will include deep managerial and operational expertise with a deftness to guide an organization through change and uncertainty. The CEO will have the experience required to communicate clearly, act thoughtfully and lead effectively. They will have keen analytical skills and the ability to consider multiple perspectives, think critically, evaluate risk, identify potential answers to complex problems and explain and justify recommendations to diverse audiences. Unquestionably, they will have a demonstrated commitment to immigrant justice or pursuing justice for people harmed by legal systems.

Immigration Expertise & Passion for the Young Center's Mission

The CEO will be deeply committed to advancing child immigrant rights and have lived experience and/or a demonstrated commitment to work with children, immigrants and refugees, or other communities fighting for due process. They will bring a proven ability to present legal arguments to Representatives, Senators, and the Judiciary Committees of both the House and Senate. They will design and implement successful, innovative and bold strategies for sustainable and scalable reform. Ideal candidates will offer deep content knowledge around immigration and child welfare law, as well as an understanding of the immigration landscape and key players, including government stakeholders and policymakers. 

Champion for Racial Justice, Equity and Inclusion

The CEO will have a deep commitment to racial justice, equity and inclusion, and will be prepared to continue the Young Center’s work toward organizational change. Equipped with a multi-faceted understanding of the evolving racial justice landscape, the successful candidate will lead the organization’s efforts to develop shared language and strategies to challenge and dismantle oppressive systems, both externally and internally. The CEO will have a thoughtful, empathic approach to advancing racial justice and will be known as an active listener and responsive, justice-oriented leader throughout the organization and externally. Culturally humble, the successful candidate will have the character and integrity necessary to develop rapport with people of varying experiences, backgrounds and philosophies. Fundamentally, the right candidate will foster a culture where staff can bring their whole selves to work and thrive.

Effective and Inclusive  Manager and Leader

The CEO will be skilled at building effective relationships and fostering collaboration across the organization, ensuring programs, offices and teams are communicating, partnering and working in concert toward a broader vision and set of goals. They will be committed to guiding team members’ growth and development. Building effective relationships at multiple levels within a dynamic environment, the CEO will have demonstrated the ability to quickly build trust and credibility. An empathetic and humble leader, the CEO will understand the importance of collaborating with experts within the organization, and will have the ability to set priorities, delegate responsibilities, ensure accountability, make decisions, and allocate resources to ensure results. The CEO will inspire a staff with a diverse set of skills, providing a productive work environment and professional opportunities that will result in team cohesion and camaraderie.

Fundraiser & Relationship Builder

As an external voice of the organization, the CEO will bring an inspirational approach to building collaboration and buy-in and generating support for the organization. They will be an energetic fundraiser, partnering with and empowering the development team and Board of Directors to build strong relationships with current and potential major donors and play an active role in identifying, securing and maintaining a diversified group of donors. The CEO will have experience initiating funding opportunities with government, foundation, and corporate funders in order to enable execution and financial support of new programs and initiatives. Successful candidates will ideally have experience lobbying on budgetary and agency matters, and working with advocacy organizations and government officials at the state or local level and others to catalyze change.

Strong candidates will offer:

  • Bilingual English/Spanish
  • Experience applying a trauma informed lens to child advocacy, staff management, and organizational culture


  • Juris Doctorate (J.D.)

Compensation & Benefits

The Young Center offers excellent health insurance coverage for employee and dependents at no cost to the employee, a 401k plan with employer match, paid vacation time, and paid sick time, among other benefits. The salary range for this opportunity is $160,000 - $180,000.

The Young Center is an "at-will" and equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in and affirmatively factors diversity into its hiring practices. Young Center encourages applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, national origin, ancestry, marital or parental status, pregnancy, citizenship, non-disqualifying physical or mental disability, genetic information, or veterans’ status. Reasonable accommodation will be made so that qualified disabled applicants may participate in the application process. Applicants will not be penalized for requesting an accommodation. Please advise in writing of special needs at the time of application.


Marissa Delgado, Trisha Sutrisno, Ariella Pasackow, and Maureen Clancy of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a member of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law.

For more information about Koya Partners, visit