Paul D’Agostino, ACSW, was the founder and first President of Children’s Advocates, Inc., a group of 23 hospitals and agencies in the Boston area. Created in 1970, the primary role of Children’s Advocates was to educate the public and to facilitate and coordinate the development of services for abused and neglected children and their families. Children’s Advocates served as a forum for professionals working in the protective services field to foster effective communication and to encourage interagency cooperation.
D’Agostino was hired to lead a new community-based agency, Champions for Children in Tampa, Florida. Champions for Children was among the first in the nation to be organized during a time when the needs of this population were becoming more visible because of the significant advocacy efforts that were organized by D’Agostino and others throughout the country. He served as the agency’s first Chief Executive Officer for 37 years. The agency had three main purposes: to provide community education regarding child abuse and neglect, to coordinate existing services, and to identify service gaps and work to fill them. Starting with one employee and a budget of $52,000, D’Agostino grew the agency to a staff of 150 employees and an annual budget of more than $7,000,000. The agency continues to serve approximately 40,000 individuals a year through nine individual programs offering clinical, preventative and educational services.
D’Agostino also served as a child abuse consultant and trainer for the Spanish government. Prior to consulting with D’Agostino, Spain had no formal, national protocols for the identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Representatives of the Spanish government identified D’Agostino’s program in Tampa as a positive example of a public/private interdisciplinary multifaceted approach to the identification, treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect. The Spanish government sent their representatives to observe D’Agostino’s training programs. In addition, D’Agostino presented six week-long training sessions in various Spanish cities and this involvement resulted in the Spanish government introducing a more multidisciplinary approach to its previously law enforcement orientation in its response to child abuse and neglect.
Community and interagency work have been an important component of D’Agostino’s professional career. Often, this has resulted in challenging long-standing practices. Champions for Children was the first private agency in the Tampa area to work directly with the public health department as a co-provider of services. This involved a program providing intensive, home-based services to parents of nonorganic failure to thrive infants thus integrating a social work approach within a medical model of intervention. His agency also developed a program of child abuse treatment services in a substance abuse residential setting which integrated a supportive social work intervention approach with the more confrontational model typical in addiction programs.
D'Agostino also led the first program nationally to have the Foster Grandparent program place foster grandparent volunteers in a non-school setting. The success of this program led to the national Foster Grandparent office revising its policies regarding placement.
D’Agostino has served in major leadership roles throughout his career including: President of the NASW Florida Chapter, 1994-1996; member of NASW’s National Board of Directors, 2003-2006; founding board member on NASW Assurance Services, Inc. (ASI) (incorporated 2007), NASW Insurance Company, Inc. (NASWIC) (incorporated 2008), and NASW Risk Retention Group, Inc. (RRG) (incorporated 2012) Boards of Directors, and he served on the Insurance Trust Board of Trustees prior to ASI’s incorporation in 2007; President of the Southeast Institute for Community Executives, 2011-2012; and became President of the Board of NASWIC in 2015. He also is one of the national trainers for NASW/ASI and provides risk management workshops at NASW Chapter conferences throughout the country.
D’Agostino was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is the oldest of his siblings, by only 10 minutes. His twin sister, Clare, was born just 10 minutes after her brother, Paul. In addition to his twin, he has two younger brothers, Lawrence, who has died, and John. When asked how he chose social work as his profession, D’Agostino has a fascinating story. While in college, he had a part-time job in an insurance company, and would take the streetcar into Boston to work. One day, he happened to sit by a neighbor on the ride into Boston. They struck up a conversation and the neighbor, who was a social worker, asked him what he was going to do after college, and said he thought that D’Agostino would find the social work profession interesting. D’Agostino describes that conversation as a changing point in his life. He gathered information on social work and decided to apply to the MSW program at Catholic University. The rest is history.
Significant Achievements and Awards
- 1977—Outstanding employee HRS/Department of Mental Health
- 1982—Social Worker of the Year, NASW, Tampa Bay Unit
- 1988—Outstanding Community Service Award, United Way of Tampa
- 1998—Child Abuse Prevention Award, The Family Source
- 2001—Award of Outstanding Service in Domestic Violence, Harrell Center, University of South Florida
- 2004—Who’s Who in Tampa Bay Business. Tampa Bay Business Journal
- 2008—Tampa Bay Not-for-Profit CEO of the Year
In addition to presenting numerous unpublished papers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Spain, D’Agostino contributed to some of the early work in the field of child abuse and neglect with the following publications.
- “Parents, Children and Abuse” – an agency pamphlet on child abuse.
- “Dysfunctioning Families and Child Abuse: The Need for an Interagency Effort,” Public Welfare, Fall, 1972, Vol. 30, No. 4.
- Contributing author – Child Abuse: Intervention and Treatment, N. Ebeling and D. Hill, eds., Publishing Sciences Group, Inc., 1975, “Strains and Stresses in Protective Services.”
- Norman, A., Coleman, L.A. and P. D’Agostino, P.A. – “Florida’s Child Behavior and Specialist Project.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 45, No. 2, March 1975. Digest of Papers.
- Contributing author – The Maltreatment of the School Age Child, R. Volpe, M. Breton and J. Mitton, eds., D.C. Heath and Company, 1980. R. Friedman, P. D’Agostino – “The Effects of Schools Upon Families: Toward a More Supportive Relationship.”
- Contributing author – II Congreso Estatal Sobre Infancia Maltratada, Servicio Central de Publicaciones del Gobierno Vasco Duque de Wellington, 1993. P. D’Agostino – “Una muestra de programas de tratamiento en el areadel abuso sexual y el abandono infantile”. P. D’Agostino – “Consideraciones practices en el desarrollo de programas de tratamiento y planes de tratamiento individual”. P. D’Agostino – “un debate sobre los pros y los contras de colocar al nino fuera del hogar en el tratamiento del abuso infantile”.