Advocate for innovations in adoption and child welfare, particularly for minority families
Helen Ramirez received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Fresno State in 1957, and her MSW from the University of Southern California in 1959. She started her career at the Fresno County Department of Public Welfare.
Ramirez served as Director of Department of Adoptions in Los Angeles County from 1978 to 1984, the first Latina child welfare department head in Los Angeles County. She developed the first social work unit specifically tasked to place children with developmental disabilities in permanent adoption homes; the first bilingual-bicultural unit to specialize in the recruitment of Latino children in need of permanent homes; and, organized major ethnic community-based events to raise awareness of the need for minority adoptive parents.
In 1984, Ramirez became Deputy Director of the newly-formed Department of Children’s Services (DCS) in Los Angeles County. Her impact and innovations in her work at DCS were exceptional and varied: she implemented, in partnership with private sector agencies, family preservation programs; developed a pro bono program in conjunction with a number of professional health groups, such as the Jules Stein Mobile Eye Clinic Program for Abused and Neglected children, to provide services to children in foster care; played a major role in raising money to pay for items needed by children not covered by public funds; developed an award winning bilingual-bicultural Hispanic Parenting Project; and, provided input in the development of the model legislation for use by states which became Public Law 95-266. She established a specialized unit to provide support and training to emancipated youth who had reached the age of majority and were required to leave foster care. She sought to raise public awareness of the needs of children and families in the foster care system and partnered with the media and entertainment industry, including local newspapers and television stations to accomplish this. She served on the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN).
Ramirez was a founding member of a number of organizations, including: El Centro Mental Health Services, Trabajadores de la Raza, Los Angeles County Hispanic Managers Association, Latino Social Work Network, MSW Comadres, and facilitated the organization of Hispanic Adoptive Parents of Los Angeles.
Ramirez received the Social Work Administrator of the Year Award from the California Chapter of NASW, was named Distinguished Contributor to Social Welfare by the USC School of Social Work, and Outstanding Administrator/Social Worker of the Year by Trabajadores de la Raza.
Throughout her career, Ramirez was a strong and persistent advocate for children and families. She provided exceptional leadership and advocacy in developing innovative policies and programs in the area of child welfare, particularly for minority children and families. Her programs and efforts became a model for practice and outreach in minority communities for child welfare and social service agencies.