GRACE’s Conway Collis Announces Shimica Gaskins of the Children Defense Fund Will Succeed Him as President and CEO

Founding President & CEO of GRACE and End Child Poverty CA Conway Collis announced today that Shimica Gaskins will serve as the organization’s next President and CEO. Gaskins currently serves as Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-California, She will assume her new role with GRACE on August 9th. 

“It has been an honor and a blessing to help found and lead GRACE and work with the Daughters of Charity for almost 20 years,” said Collis. “Hundreds of thousands of California children have been lifted from poverty because of the courage and dedication of the Daughters, the work of committed elected officials, and the advocates and providers who are part of the 173 End Child Poverty CA Coalition partner organizations.  We have achieved much together, and it is now the right time for me to continue this work in a new way. Therefore, it is with great pride that I welcome Shimica Gaskins as the next President and CEO of GRACE and End Child Poverty CA. Having worked with her through our End Child Poverty CA coalition and the State Lifting Children and Families from Poverty Task Force, I know firsthand just how impactful, committed and strategic Shimica is. Shimica is a blessing to GRACE, the End Child Poverty CA campaign and California’s families and children.”

“Child poverty is a human and fiscal crisis that requires moral, political and intellectual leadership to solve. We’ve been blessed to have had that leadership from Conway Collis for nearly two decades, and are doubly blessed to have found those same characteristics in Shimica Gaskins,” said Sister Julie Kubasak, D.C., Board Chair of GRACE and Provincial of the Daughters of Charity Province of Elizabeth Ann Seton.  “Shimica is the ideal leader for our advocacyon behalf of California’s children and families.”

“GRACE and End Child Poverty CA are all about impact, and so am I,” said Gaskins. “It’s not enough to develop the best policies – you have to organize, advocate and make change happen. That’s the ethos that Conway put into place at the End Child Poverty campaign, and it is my honor to take the reins from him. I am humbled by the faith put into me by the Daughters of Charity, who have been fighting for California’s poor since 1852. Carrying out the next chapter of their legacy will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of California families. That is our mission, and I cannot wait to get started.” 

In 2017, GRACE/End Child Poverty CA sponsored AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act, which formed a state Task Force, co-chaired by Collis, to create the End Child Poverty Plan released in 2018. Since then, GRACE/End Child Poverty CA has helped enact and secure funding for 33 of the 47 proposals in the Plan, representing $4.8 billion in new funding in each of the last three years to double the California Earned Income Tax Credit and the Young Child Tax Credit, expand health care, expand home visiting programs, create new subsidized childcare slots, and more. As a result of these investments, more than 290,000 California children and families moved out of poverty, and an additional 115,000 California children and families moved out of deep poverty, in 2020 alone. 

End Child Poverty CA is a coalition of 173 member organizations jointly sponsored by GRACE End Child Poverty Institute and GRACE (Gather, Respect, Advocate, Change, Engage). GRACEis an anti-poverty non-profit and is a ministry of the Daughters of Charity, who have been serving the poor in California since 1852.

“Conway Collis has been a tireless champion for the working families and children of California, and it is a testament to his leadership that GRACE and End Child Poverty CA have grown into strong forces for economic justice,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  “It has been a privilege to fight alongside Conway for decades — on Foster Youth, Head Start and most recently the Biden Child Tax Credit, which we celebrated together last week.  While we will dearly miss Conway as he embarks on his next adventure, I am looking forward to carrying on the fight for our children alongside Shimica Gaskins, who is an inspiring leader and a powerful agent of change.”

‘With Conway Collis at the helm, GRACE and End Child Poverty CA have created the policy and advocacy playbook needed to make a significant contribution toward ending child poverty,” said Rep. Karen Bass, whose work with Collis dates back to her time as CA Assembly Speaker and who reached out to him to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors when she founded the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI). “Shimica Gaskins has the policy expertise and determination needed to fulfill the mission of her new role: to end child poverty in California.”

“Shimica Gaskins is perfect for President of End Child Poverty CA with her vast experience at the Children’s Defense Fund. As a partner of the End Child Poverty CA Coalition, I have worked with Shimica Gaskins through our coalition, she is a wonderful choice and I cannot wait to see her in action as our leader,” said Dolores Huerta. “Conway is a true fighter for children everywhere. I know that his next mission will keep him arm in arm with us, continuing the fight against child poverty.” 

“Shimica Gaskins is a bold champion for ending child poverty and eradicating the racial inequities underlying this crisis and harming our children and their families,” said Michael Tubbs. “She is the right leader to build on Conway and GRACE’s work as the new leader for GRACE and End Child Poverty CA at this critical moment.  I am thrilled to partner with her in the fight for economic justice.”

Gaskins is a graduate of The Catholic University of America and Georgetown University Law Center. After working for Covington and Burling, she served as Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the US Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy under the Administration of President Barack Obama. She has led the Children’s Defense Fund-CA since 2017.  She is also a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission for Children and Families. Gaskins is a board member for Impact Justice and California Budget and Policy Center.

Collis’s previous experience includes serving as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare and as an elected member and Chair of the California State Board of Equalization. He is a graduate of Occidental College and Stanford Law School.