We’re excited to introduce Jan Stepto-Millett as our Interim Chief Operating Officer. Jan joined Children’s Home & Aid in 2011 as Vice President of Early Childhood Services. In September 2018, she was appointed Interim COO following the retirement of outgoing COO Arlene Happach.
“I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and for years, my parents were involved with Children’s Home & Aid,” Jan recalls. “From a young age, I can remember hearing about the work of the agency and now it’s the reason I wake up each morning—the idea that we’re truly making a difference in the lives of children and families.”
A graduate of Northwestern University and the Atlanta University School of Social Work, Jan’s professional career spans 30 years of committed service to improving the lives of children and families in the not-for-profit, public and private sectors.
Before returning to her native Chicago, Jan lived in Boston, Massachusetts and Kalamazoo, Michigan where she worked for Abt Associates as an Evaluation Assistant, Lena Park Community Development Corporation as the Deputy Director, Kalamazoo Public Schools as the Special Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools and Child Care Resources as the Executive Director. Upon returning to Chicago in 2003, Jan served as COO of Centers for New Horizons and District Director for Child Development at City Colleges of Chicago.
Under Jan’s leadership as Vice President for Early Childhood Services at Children’s Home & Aid, the Early Childhood program grew from serving 550 children to over 800, with increased federal and state support. As Interim COO, Jan provides leadership and support to drive the mission of Children’s Home & Aid forward.
“When I first came to Children’s Home & Aid in 2007, it was a time when organizations were first looking into how to use data to improve outcomes,” Jan reflected. “Children’s Home & Aid was committed to being a data-driven organization, not merely paying lip service. It was exciting to come to a place that was truly interested in moving the needle on children and families. And I’ve stayed because of the extremely talented team we’ve built here—from leadership to staff—who are committed to the work and taking on exciting, innovative challenges.”
“Each day, I’m motivated by a mantra that hangs in my office that reads, ‘Look outside the maze. Consider the unlikely, and explore the impossible,'” Jan remarks. “I believe it speaks to Children’s Home & Aid’s commitment to go where the need is greatest, and do whatever it takes so every child, every family is thriving.”
Now for a few fun facts about Jan:
- Jan attended Brandeis University for two years before completing her undergraduate studies at Northwestern. While at Brandeis, she met her future husband and only reconnected with him years later while in graduate school at Atlanta University. Jan and her husband are the parents of three adult children, who live in Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago. Their youngest and only daughter was just married this past September in Brooklyn.
- Most people are surprised to find that—with the exception of occasional use for work purposes—Jan is not on social media.
- Jan reads cookbooks like most people read a novel. At last count, Jan had filled the study of her Hyde Park home with 312 cookbooks.
- Growing up, Jan dreamed of a career in musical arts having studied piano, flute and modern dance. In college, she considered majoring in dance or even law, but got caught up in the times of the 1970s and was inspired to go into social work. These days, Jan finds her creative outlet through Vinyasa yoga.
- Jan and her husband enjoy going on travel adventures. Last year, they went to Surinam for the first time and took a side trip to a remote area that could only be accessed by boat. They took a 6-hour canoe trip to a small village that was settled in the 1800s by escaped African slaves, and for many years was isolated and untouched by the outside world. Jan and her husband spent four days at the settlement, which still today has no running water or electricity.