Stevevonna Evans of Haven’s Future: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit Organization
Know that you can’t do everything. I am blessed to have an ever growing team of people around me who all know how to stay in their lane. Without my team we would not be here today. Get a team and let them do what they do best.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stevevonna Evans.
Female entrepreneur, activist, politician and now nonprofit founder, Stevevonna Evans is the epitome of the statement, be the change you want to see. A 28 year resident the city of Adelanto, CA., mother of 4 who went through the loss of her daughter, the fight of her life and came out on the other side determined to change the way the CFS system currently operates. Stevevonna began her activism journey just months after her personal fight with CFS ended, knowing that what she went though nobody should have to go through. Pushed to win a seat on the city council in 2018, so she could have a seat at as many tables as possible and now is launching a never before seen nonprofit to change the way in which CFS removes children.
From a very young age, the vital importance of civic engagement was firmly instilled through the example and leadership of her grandmother, the late Marlene Brown. Watching her work diligently to improve multiple facets of her city showed Stevevonna that literally one person really could make an unparalleled impact in the lives of others, as well as the communities they serve. Now, in her adulthood she has fervently strived to impart those same critical and necessary values in her children. Stevevonna truly believe you have to be willing to be the change you want to see, because if not you, who?
Thank you so much for doing this with us. Before we begin our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
Of course. I am a single mother of 3 amazing boys. out of Adelanto, California. I also had a daughter that passed away in 2013 at just 5 weeks old. Her death forced my the 2 boys, husband and I into the crazy world that id CFS (Children and Family Services). That fight lasted for a total of about 6 years and cost me my marriage, some family members and my trust in our justice system. But I gained awareness and experience of what 3.5 million children and their families are put through yearly, I gain a voice I never had before and it lit afire in me that I would have never know was there if it wasn’t for losing my daughter.
Can you tell us the story behind why you decided to start or join your non nonprofit?
Sure. After our case was closed and my personal fight was over, I knew I had to do everything in my power to ensure what happened to my family didn’t happen to any other family. For me I knew the hardest part of our case was being away from my children and attending court dates where CFS continued to show up with no evidence of what they were accusing us of. So Haven’s Future is the solution to that gap in the CFS system.
Can you describe how you or your organization aims to make a significant social impact?
As we know CFS is an ‘act now, ask questions later’ agency. Which when it comes to abused children seems like the way it should be. Unfortunately, we are finding that they get these removals wrong far more times then they get them right. Proven by the Attorney General’s report that 2.7 million plus children of the 3.5 removed are wrongfully removed. So what Haven’s Future aims to do is close that gap. We will build state of the art facilities (that will resemble a hotel, because lets face it kids love staying in hotels) where an entire accused family can move into one of our suites and be monitored to ensure the safety of the children. Therefore, eliminating the trauma caused by the children being ripped from their family while CFS attempts to build a case against them. What this does is it frees up the foster system so CFS can do a better job at vetting the foster homes and providers to ensure those children that are in fact being abused by their parents are put into better situations. Because what we also know is that of those children that were actually being abused they have a higher chance of being put into a worse situation in foster care then they were with their abusive parent(s).
Without saying any names, can you share a story about an individual who was helped by your idea so far?
As we are just preparing to launch the 24th of this month I can give a story of anybody that has been helped yet. But I can tell you that we have spoken with many aged out adults, parents who have gone through the system and even CFS workers that have told us how our program would have been a blessing when they were going through their case and how much our organization is needed and would help them with their job.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Politicians can stop turning a blind eye to what is happening within the organization they have contracted with to protect our nation’s children, and hold these agencies accountable for the harm they are doing to children and families in the name of money. In California, they can make the necessary changes to AB300 (and politicians in other states equivalent bills in their state), to not leave so much gray area and force CFS to have actual proof of abuse before removing children. And the community and society need to do some research on these agencies and demand more from their elected officials. When somebody tells you their story, don’t just assume they did what they are being accused of because the statistics show that more times than not, they are in fact innocent. I guess that was 4 things, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership to me is doing what’s best for the majority of the people you lead. Cause lets face it, you can’t make everybody happy. But a true leader needs to listen to gain understanding of the folks who they claim to represent. Leadership sometimes means going against what’s best for self, if it means the betterment of those you lead. Leadership is getting in the trenches with your people and working together to solve the community’s needs. For example, When I learned of a discriminatory housing ordinance my city had on the books I worked for a year to convince my fellow Council Members to remove it. Or seeing that folks are dumping loads of trash in the desert and you get out there with a small group of community members and clean it up. That to me is leadership.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 things a person should know before they decide to start a non profit”. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Make sure it is your true passion. I have had many people come to me with amazing nonprofit ideas that they wanted me to be a part of, but those were their callings not mine. If your heart isn’t in it you won’t be successful.
2. Many wont see your vision. Be ok with that. The vision was given to you not to them. I have “family” members and “friends” that think what my team and I are building will never come to pass. But look at the support we have received from complete strangers and businesses.
3. There are a lot of forms and documents you need to be in compliance. Hire a trusted firm to help you with that. JCI has been a lifesaver for me in guiding us on the path of all things documentation. Every time I thought I was done their team sent me an email about what I still needed to do. Shameless plug for JCI and Dawud Akil.
4. Know that you can’t do everything. I am blessed to have an ever growing team of people around me who all know how to stay in their lane. Without my team we would not be here today. Get a team and let them do what they do best.
5. Find a mentor. Again I am blessed to have at least 1 mentor in every area of my life and running a nonprofit is no different. Value your mentors time, come prepared with your problems AND solutions, have your questions ready and pay for lunch. Trust me, when you value your mentors they will pour so much into you.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non profit? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh YEAH!! Tiffany Haddish is the one!! Her story is so motivating and the way she has persevered through it all is exactly the hope families going through this system need to see.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote? How is that relevant to you in your life?
Be the change you want to see. Far to often we sit back on social media and complain about the world around us without doing even the smallest things to change it. I used to be that person. But once I woke up, I jumped into action by first becoming an activist, which pushed me to become an elected official all in the name of being the change I wanted to see for other people that have gone through, are going through and will go through what my family and I went through.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!
Stevevonna Evans of Haven’s Future: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Lead A Nonprofit… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.