School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

A six-member panel of distinguished VCU School of Social Work alumni will convene for discussion on our student experience, alumni engagement and support, and workforce development.

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6
Where: Family Insight PC, 2820 Waterford Lake Drive, #102, Midlothian, VA 23112 (Map)

Our alumni, students, friends of the school and anyone in the community or social work field are welcome to join us. Our panelists are:

Melissa Ackley, M.S.W. (’96/SW)

Mental Health Support Services, Prevention Services Manager, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Melissa Ackley is the Prevention Services Manager at Chesterfield Mental Health. In this role, she leads the implementation of individual, family and community-level strategies focused on topics including substance misuse, suicide, child abuse prevention, and school readiness. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 23 years of experience working in the areas of mental health, domestic violence and parent education. Melissa received her B.A. in Psychology from UVA in 1993 and M.S.W. from VCU in 1996.

In the community, she serves on several boards. Melissa serves on the Board of Directors for the Communities in Schools Organization in Chesterfield County. She also serves on the Board of Directors as the Secretary for the Substance Abuse Free Environment, Inc. (SAFE) in Chesterfield County.

Marilyn Brown, M.S.W. (’99/SW)

Juvenile Detention Home, Director, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Marilyn Brown currently serves as the Director of the Chesterfield Juvenile Detention Home, a 90-bed secure facility serving the courts in Chesterfield County and the City of Colonial Heights. She manages a budget of over $5 million and a full-time staff of 70. She was recently re-appointed by Governor McAuliffe to serve on the Department of Criminal Justice Services’ Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. She also serves as the President for the Virginia Juvenile Detention Association.

Prior to coming to Chesterfield in 2011, she served as the Detention Specialist for the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, where she provided oversight to the 24 juvenile detention facilities across the Commonwealth. In addition to her work in Virginia, she served as a member of the monitoring team for the Federal Department of Justice during its work with Maryland under the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). 

Mrs. Brown holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Mary Washington and an M.S.W. with a Policy and Planning Concentration from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also completed the LEAD Program (Leading Educating and Developing) through the University of Virginia.

Jackie Cowan, M.S.W. (’96/SW)

Social Services, Permanency Program Manager, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Jackie is a native of Omaha, Nebraska, and has been in Virginia since 1994. She has over 25 years of experience in child welfare and has built strong collaborative relationships in both the public and private sectors. Jackie has held various positions at the state level that include a Foster Care Policy Specialist with the Virginia Department of Social Services, in which she was responsible for the development and evaluation of program policies and procedures to improve services for children in Virginia’s foster care system. She also served as Program Director of United Methodist Family Services’ Project LIFE statewide program, which ensured the successful transition for older youth in foster care to adulthood.

On the local level, Jackie has served as the Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT) Manager with Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Office of Comprehensive Services and was responsible for managing state/local program requirements for compliance and quality assurance of the Children’s Services Act of Virginia. Currently, she is a Family Services Program Manager at Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Department of Social Services, where she is focused on quality assurance and accountability for the Foster Care and Adoptions program.

In addition, she is also a part-time adjunct faculty member at Virginia State University in the Department of Social Work. Jackie is an active member of the Association of Black Social Workers, Richmond Chapter and holds the positions of Fundraising Chairperson and Chaplain. For more than 15 years, she has volunteered as a mentor to middle and high school girls in various community and church-based organizations in the greater Richmond area. Jackie received a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska and a Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Karen Reilly-Jones, B.S.W. (’94/SW), M.S.W.

Comprehensive Services/Children Services Act Administrator, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Karen has worked in the field of children and families services for over 20 years in a variety of settings. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with clinical, program administration, and community organizing experience. Karen embraces using both social work clinical and organizational skills in her career. Her roles in direct service provision include work in both the private and public sectors such as outpatient therapy, therapeutic foster care, intensive in-home counseling, acute and residential treatment, and public child welfare.

She also brings in years of experience in program policy and administration. Karen is active in state and local government public policy to influence positive impacts on children and families in need of services in the community. She currently serves as the Chair on the State and Local Advisory Team and representative on the State Executive Council for Virginia’s Children’s Services Act.

Karen has worked in the Chesterfield County and City of Colonial Heights community for 18 years. The past 16 years, she has worked across children and family systems to lead a “systems of care” approach in coordinating partnerships for effective and quality services through the Children’s Services Act and leads the community’s System of Care Committee.

John Salay, LCSW, M.S.W. (’00/SW)

Chief Compliance Officer, Family Insight, P.C.

John is the Director of Advocacy and Development for Family Insight, PC. Family Insight is a community mental health agency serving 10 localities in Virginia. John is the Senior Clinical Advisor for the agency. He spends considerable time advocating to regulators and legislators on behalf of underserved populations and to help with the redesign process.

John also taught direct social work practice at VCU. He won the Overall Outstanding Field Instructor of the Year Award from VCU for his work with graduate interns and continues to be devoted to the development of professional social workers. John is the Chair of the Board of Social Work and serves on the Regulatory Committee. He also serves on the Board of the Virginia Association of Community Based Providers, the social work Advisory Council for Longwood College, and is active in the Trauma Informed Community Network (TICN) of Richmond.

Sarah Snead, M.S.W. (’83/SW)

Deputy County Administrator, Human Services Division, Chesterfield County, Virginia

Sarah C. Snead was appointed Deputy County Administrator for Human Services in July 2010. Prior to being appointed Deputy, she served as Director of Chesterfield/Colonial Heights Department of Social Services. As Deputy County Administrator, she oversees the operations of Community Corrections Services, Drug Courts, Juvenile Detention Home, Mental Health Support, Social Services, Citizen Information and Resources and serves as liaison to the Health Center Commission at Lucy Corr Nursing Facility, Health Department and county’s Victim Witness program.

Before coming to Chesterfield County in 1995, Ms. Snead served as Director of King George County Department of Social Services. She received her Master’s of Social Work with a concentration in Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University and her B.A. from Meredith College, Raleigh, North Carolina. Snead was a longtime member of the Virginia League of Social Services Executives, having served in numerous leadership capacities including President. She is also a member of the Blue Ridge Institute for Southern Community Service Executives, where she previously served as a board member and an officer.

She is active in the Virginia Local Human Services Officials (VALHSO), past president, and is a graduate of the Senior Executive Institute of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. Sarah is also a member of numerous boards, commissions and organizations including the following: Capital Area Workforce Partnership, Community Criminal Justice Board, Homeward Board, Virginia Local Government Management Association, Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) Board of Directors, and Senior Connections Board.


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