Specific Pioneering Contributions
Judy Webber, MSW, has left a lasting legacy of leadership, innovation and integration within California Social Services. She served the State of California Department of Child Welfare for 20 years as the longest tenured Child Welfare Director in the state. She is renowned for her commitment to authentic engagement, collaboration and change so that all families had equitable opportunities to live their best possible lives. This approach required a shift in the local child welfare system. Under Webber’s guidance, social workers changed from being mandated reporters of abuse/neglect and oversurveillance of poor families, to becoming mandated family supporters for child, family and community health.
A social worker to the core, Webber has been a fierce advocate for children and families, with a relentless pursuit for social justice and equity for vulnerable populations. She has been very active within the California Child Welfare Directors Association leading many committees and change efforts promoting policies, programs and practices to increase positive, micro child/family outcomes and to impact macro structures and practices to sustain such changes.
Webber has a deep understanding of the trauma and lifelong negative impacts that result when children are separated from their families and placed in foster care. She has elevated awareness locally and statewide about child welfare and the role it has historically played in promoting inequities, including disproportionate representation and disparate outcomes for children of color. In her career she has sought to move beyond reactive compliance to address root causes of child welfare involvement and promote healthy and nurturing environments for families.
Webber established a strong vision for Ventura County Child and Family Services (CFS): with community stakeholders, she determined that the first priority was to SAFELY engage and support families to avoid separation from children from their families and the subsequent trauma. Through an annual citizen review process, Webber was one of the first CW Directors to use data and geo-mapping to identify geographic regions that have disproportionate representation of Latinx families in the child welfare system. She shared this data with community and system partners, whose data showed similarly disproportionate disparity. Webber’s transparency and data-sharing was the catalyst for a number of unprecedented cross-system initiatives: for example, the Neighbors Together program and the expansion of the Healthy Start program, which places social workers in local schools, and her partnership with early childhood providers to support at risk families. Additionally, she championed the development of a robust family preservation program.
Webber’s community-building efforts were coupled with efforts to promote increased diversity, equity and inclusion within CFS. Her strategies increased personal awareness, understanding and humility; her activities promoted more culturally, responsive practice behaviors; and her equality-driven strategies helped identify and challenge policies and structures that promoted inequities.
For the state of California, she has been a leader in elevating diversity, equity and inclusion. She served as a successful developer and trainer in CA Child Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) for its DEI series for child welfare directors.
Under Webber's leadership for the state welfare programs, Ventura County had a 52% decrease in children placed in out-of-home care since 2014. Since 2020 there has been a further 20% decrease in families involved with CFS. In addition, Webber has been a part of the core group of counties that designed and established CWDA's Family Enrichment Cabinet, which has elevated the role of prevention, and has been instrumental in forming the design of the California Comprehensive Prevention Plan requirements.
Webber was a driving force and change agent for innovation in emerging cross-system, public private collaborations to support children and families. Given her leadership, Ventura County was selected as the beta test county for state sponsored Priority Access to Services and Supports (PASS) in 2016. It was her comprehensive approach that engaged all health and human service systems to ensure universal and expedited access to alcohol and drug services, specialty mental health services and primary care for parents whose children were removed and placed in the child welfare system.
Webber has also been instrumental at the state and local level in promoting quality practice within the child welfare system and within the organizational structures that support it. She has been a state leader in the implementation of the Child Welfare Core Practice Model (CPM) and the development of the child welfare directors CPM learning series. She has promoted Ventura County Children and Family Services as a “learning organization” and reinforced the key practice behaviors and drivers, using CPM and Safety Organized Practice as the foundation to best support families and healing, reunification and permanency. Critical to her success has been her emphasis on therapeutic relationship over mandated services, or how "relationships heal families.”
Webber engaged the Regional Training Academy (RTA) in the development of the quality supervision training and organizational structures to ensure effective frontline practice is supported and reinforced.
She brought the Integrated Core Practice Model (ICPM) to Ventura County System of Care partners and the county is rolling out county wide training to all community stakeholders and partners.
Webber has strongly promoted the “professionalization” of the child welfare workforce in Ventura County by intentional recruitment of social workers with graduate degrees, an organizational culture which supports staff pursuing graduate degrees and/or attaining clinical licensure. When she began, the percentage of social workers or supervisors with graduate degrees was quite low; now nearly half of social workers and 87.5% of their supervisors have graduate degrees in Ventura CFS.
Additionally, Webber brought a structured approach to supporting organizational health to the California Child Welfare Department. Developed in partnership with RTA, the program embraces psychological safety and accountability to promote quality trauma informed care by CFS and contracted agency staff.
Finally, Webber's greatest impact is her role as a catalyst to cross-sector approaches to supporting families and communities. She has been a driving force in Ventura County and state-wide promoting a child, youth and family wellness system that aligns government, community and family stakeholders to maximize wellness and quality of life so that all children and their families are safe and healthy, educated and well.
The sum of Webber’s accomplishments embodies the values of social work and has left a lasting legacy of leadership, innovation and integration within California Social Services.
Webber was born in Ventura County, California in October 1962. She received her BA from University of California at Santa Barbara in 1987 and her MSW from University of Southern California in 1993. She has been a NASW member for over 30 years. She lives in Oxnard, in Ventura County, California, with her husband.
Significant Recognition and Awards
Among Webber’s awards are: 2006 Ventura County Management Council Mentoring Award; 2016 Court Appointed Special Advocates Honoree; 2019 Ventura County Latino Leadership Award Honoree; 2023 California Welfare Director’s Association Executive Leadership Award.