Highland Park agency leader is multi-faceted
Paul Dean's background in statistics, education and social work is put to good use in his position as executive director of Family Service: Prevention, Education and Counseling based in Highland Park. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Paul Dean
OCCUPATION: Executive director of Family Service: Prevention, Education and Counseling based in Highland Park
WORDS TO LIVE BY: “What brings me to the office every day is the 6,000-plus clients we serve every year,”
Updated: October 8, 2012 8:12AM
HIGHLAND PARK — Paul Dean’s career path has been anything but a straight trajectory. But each career turn, each new course of study, added a dimension to his background that fits his current job description as executive director of Family Service, an eclectic social service agency based in Highland Park.
“I’m a rare bird; people tell me that all the time,” said Dean, who has been a statistical consultant, a public school teacher, a clinical therapist and administrator at two agencies — one providing mental health services, the other serving Chicago’s most indigent seniors. He holds three master’s degrees — in statistics, education and social work.
In January of 2011, he assumed the helm at Family Service, a longtime agency based in Highland Park that was formerly known as Family Service of South Lake County.
The agency targets its services to senior citizens and caregivers, Latino youth and families, and clients who receive counseling services for a spectrum of issues.
Dean noted the issues that bring clients to the agency range from domestic violence, substance abuse and sexual abuse to the general hopelessness of an Alzheimer’s caregiver whose loved one has entered middle-stage dementia with no legal or medical power of attorney, or estate plan, in place.
The still-sputtering economy and the unrelenting pace of home foreclosures are deepening the strife within families, he said. Dean cited a case of a mother and father who both lost their jobs and are in foreclosure.
“As you can imagine, the kind of strain that places on the family is enormous,” said Dean. “Some of the problems happen when the economy is going great. We are in Year 4 now (of the economic downturn) and the severity of the problems just gets worse and worse and worse.”
In 1997, Family Service established the Nuestro Center in Highwood in response to the needs of the growing Latino community. Through partnerships with other organizations, the center offers an after-school homework club, English as a Second Language classes, health screenings and other programs. Residents also are linked up with other community resources.
One third of the families served by the center are living on $20,000 a year or less, and the average family size is five.
“How do you raise a family of five in Lake County on $20,000 a year or less?” he asked, adding that multiple families are sharing a dwelling and many rely on relatives’ help.
Dean thought he might follow the path of his father, a statistics professor. But unable to land a full-time job after college in a lousy economy, he took on two part-time jobs to pay the bills.
When he realized he was enjoying his teaching job more than statistics consulting, he enrolled in a graduate program in education. He was on his way to a doctorate in educational research, but became disillusioned when some research studies conducted with a prominent researcher failed to attract the interest of officials in the Chicago Public Schools.
He switched to social work, obtained a master’s degree and became licensed to practice in that field.
From 1998 to 2006, he was a therapist and program director at Turning Point, a Skokie-based mental health agency.
From 2006 to 2010, he was executive director of H.O.M.E, or Housing Opportunities and Maintenance of the Elderly based in Chicago.
Said Dean, “What brings me to the office every day is the 6,000-plus clients we serve every year,” he said, noting that many are strugglng and would have no other options for needed services within the area.
“These are our neighbors, our community members,” he said. “If we do not continue to survive and thrive as an organization, they will be hurt and many will be hurt badly.”