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2013 Black Excellence Awards Honoree Dawn Shelton-Williams

March 15, 2013
Dawn Shelton-Williams Aurora Family Service

Dawn Shelton-Williams
Aurora Family Service

Special Honorees: Child and Youth Advocates

Growing up, Dawn Shelton-Williams says the value of a solid work ethic and compassionate heart were instilled within her by her parents. As an adult, she has pursued a career focused on mental health and working to improve dynamics within families throughout the city.

“You always give back to your community. It’s very important,” Dawn says. “Using your strengths and talents is a way to address some of the social issues within Milwaukee. It’s a way of building the city and its people up.”

From a young age, Dawn says she pursued excellence. She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class at Christian Liberty Academy. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Dawn earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in social work.

Dawn, a state – licensed independent clinical social worker, is currently employed by Aurora Family Service, where she has worked in a variety of capacities since 2005. Her responsibilities include management of three visitation care programs through the organization, including one devoted to healthy families, another based on a wraparound concept, and a third centered on family enrichment.

The various programs, funded through United Way of Greater Milwaukee, are aimed at working with some of the city’s families in greatest need and staving off incidents of poverty. The healthy families program, for example, is designed to increase the economic security and financial stability of W-2 families as a preventative step toward keeping children and families out of the child welfare system.

More recently, Dawn also has been involved in other initiatives, including a pilot effort, “Well Mom, Well Baby,” that was launched last year through a partnership with Aurora Sinai Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In the past year, Dawn and other organizers have been working to ensure interconception care is available to mothers who have experienced adverse birth outcomes. The end goal, she says, is to lengthen the period of time between delivery and a woman’s next pregnancy to improve health and subsequent delivery outcomes.

Dawn’s career path began when she served at a residential treatment facility with St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a human services agency that provides family-centered care. She later was a psychotherapist and continues that role on a part-time basis. Dawn also has been involved with the Wisconsin Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and Milwaukee County’s Child Protective Services division.

“I decided I wanted to help children and families in different ways,” Dawn said of the professional path she has taken. “My entire career has been devoted to working with children and families who are under-served and underprivileged.”

Dawn, who attends Greater Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Sherman Boulevard, says faith has played a pivotal part in charting her career.

“I believe these are the gifts and strengths that God has given me – especially in the area of mental health,” Dawn said. “I am especially passionate when it comes to areas of cultural competence. It’s all been a very humbling experience, but a rewarding one at the same time.”

In addition to her professional endeavors, Dawn has long been involved in a number of organizations. She currently serves as a member of the Wisconsin Advisory Council for the United States Civil Rights Commission, Wisconsin chapter of the Association of Social Work, the National Association of Social Workers, and Milwaukee chapter of the Health Equity Council for the American Heart Association. Additionally, Dawn is involved with the Milwaukee affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute and the Wisconsin Clinicians of Color.

At Greater Mount Zion, Dawn teaches Sunday school and works with teen congregants. She also has played a role in starting up a mental wellness ministry that is designed to address a variety of issues and needs for people struggling in life.

Dawn was born in Chicago, but moved to Milwaukee as a young child. Today, she lives in Brown Deer with Claude Williams, Jr., her husband of 18 years. They have two cats and enjoy spending time with their numerous nieces, nephews and godchildren.