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Josephine Weil Gandelman, ACSW

In central Louisiana, Josephine Weil Gandelman is known to many as “the Pioneer” in child welfare services. Gandelman developed the first public child welfare programs in central Louisiana to offer child protection services to neglected children, services to unmarried mothers, foster home services for children, and adoption. Throughout her career, spanning more than 60 years, she made outstanding contributions to the development and improvement of child welfare services and to the field of social work.

Gandelman’s career began in 1933 when she was hired as an interviewer with the District Transient Bureau in Alexandria, La., and continued when she joined the staff of the Rapides Parish Department of Public Welfare in 1937, its first year of operation, as a fieldworker. From 1938-1939, Gandelman attended Tulane University School of Social Work, and, in 1939, became the first child welfare worker in Rapides Parish, as well as the first woman appointed as juvenile probation officer by the Ninth Judicial District Court. She was the only child welfare worker in Rapides Parish during the World War II era, when the sudden influx of construction and military personnel and their families in central Louisiana created serious problems of family disorganization, breakdown, and resulting child welfare issues.

In 1944, Gandelman became child welfare consultant in the Alexandria Regional Office. In addition to providing direct child welfare services to families and children in five parishes in the central Louisiana area, she also provided consultation on children’s problems to eight public assistance offices in the Alexandria area, where she literally built, home by home, the foundation for the foster care program. As child welfare consultant, Gandelman also established the first state-operated day care center, in Natchitoches, La.

After retiring from the Department of Public Welfare in 1966, Gandelman became adoption supervisor for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Alexandria-Shreveport—the first layperson to hold this position. She was soon promoted to director of casework services, and helped that agency establish and maintain exceptionally high standards in its services to unmarried mothers and its adoption program. Especially active in recruiting black adoptive homes, Gandelman made the first black adoption placement in the agency’s history in 1972.

A charter member of the American Association of Social Work, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Academy of Certified Social Workers, Gandelman remained a staunch advocate of high standards and dedicated performance throughout her career. Among her many honors are the Louisiana Chapter, NASW, Lifetime Achievement Award; Louisiana Chapter, NASW, Social Worker of the Year Award; and the Louisiana Conference of Social Welfare Hilda C. Simon and George Freeman Awards.

Josephine Weil Gandelman passed away on April 13, 2001.
Social Work Pioneer - 2003