Divinely Ordered To Empower Communities: Meet Alice G. Thompson CEO, Black Family Development, Inc.
By Donald James
Prayer and unwavering faith in God, according to Alice G. Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. (BFDI), are essential to her leadership role with Detroit-based BFDI. Established in 1978 by the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, the mission of BFDI is “To strengthen and enhance the lives of children, youth, and families through partnerships that support safe, nurturing, vibrant homes, schools and communities.”
Thompson has served as BFDI’s top executive since 1994. She said her steps to BFDI were divinely ordered and affirmed by God through prayer.
“In 1994, I was Deputy Director of Diversified Youth Services, and had served on the Board of Directors of BFDI in the 1980s,” said Thompson. “However, during the first six months of 1994, I received a total of seven recruitment calls from organizations, all asking me to leave my position and take the top executive position at their organization. The first and the seventh calls were from Black Family Development, Inc.’s Board President.”
According to Thompson, she said “no” repeatedly, because she loved her work at Diversified Youth Services and its programs and services that were effectively serving young people in the juvenile justice and mental health systems.
“After receiving so many calls about taking the top level executive position, I thought that this may be something divinely ordered for me,” recalled Thompson. “I went into prayer because I wanted my steps to be ordered by God. During that prayer time, it was revealed to me at my church, through a visiting evangelist, that God was releasing me to go to the next level.”
Thompson then accepted the executive position at BFDI, vowing to build the agency’s capacity to serve more people and expand the scope of services. Since becoming CEO of BFDI, Thompson’s leadership has amassed $510 million to fund the mission and advance programs, services and initiatives throughout Wayne County.
BFDI’s programs address juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse and prevention, family preservation and support services, community development and engagement work, Parents as Teachers (PAT), early childhood development, and services to support boys and young men of color. Thompson has also established two L3C subsidiaries: BFDI Educational Services and BFDI Training Institute, both of which focus on improving academic outcomes for students. In 2018, BFDI served more than 7,000 children, youth, adults and families.
Thompson’s strong educational foundation has prepared her for the work she has been called to do. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and master’s degree in social work administration from Wayne State University in the early 1980s. While at Wayne State, she was president of the student chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW).
Twenty six years after joining BFDI, Thompson reflects on the organization’s impact throughout Wayne County.
“Over the years, we’ve touched the lives of many children and families to improve academic results, reduce delinquency, reduce the use of drugs, revitalize communities, and better address mental health issues,” said Thompson, the recipient of numerous awards and honors for stellar leadership, including the 2019 “Nia Award for Lifetime Achievement” presented by NABSW. “Our work continues to be anchored in advancing the mission of BFDI. However, our success in advancing the mission has been achieved through great teamwork and I give God all the glory!”
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