Roque Gerald has served as the acting director of the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) for less than a year. In that short time, however, he has learned an important lesson about management. Say nice things about your underlings, that is.

In a youth conference today at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Gerald said that his staff was “the wind beneath my wings.”

That wind, indeed, has generated some altitude for Gerald. Via the hard work of CFSA employees, Gerald cut the backlog of CFSA cases from 1,800 ten months ago to zero by December 2008. His agency also had a 25 percent staff vacancy rate, which he has slashed to four percent—-more wind beneath his wings!

Gerald made clear that his agency still has some tough numbers to fight. Sixty percent of the kids in CFSA’s care are 13 and up. Though clients have complex problems, Gerald insists they “have a right to a future.” One of his primary objectives is to reduce the amount of home-hopping that the kids do. “Too many children are shuffled around in too many placements,” he said. “Every time they move, we injure their future.”

Reporting by Jason Cherkis