2018 Executive Excellence Awards: Sharon Osborne, Children's Home Society of Washington

The recently retired president and CEO of the Seattle agency is one of this year's winners.

This article appears in print in the February 2018 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

It may be the heart that draws one to a social services career, but a head for managing serves people, too. Sharon Osborne has shown plenty of both in her 25-year tenure at Children’s Home Society.

Upon her retirement in December, 30,000 children and families in Washington relied on the agency each year to help build stable home environments. Osborne’s experience living with a family in Appalachia during high school spring break awakened her to how poverty isolates families.

“It really changed me, made me think about who I was,” she recalls. 

Working for public agencies, she sought more systemic change. She found that in Children’s Home Society, an agency then focused on adoptions. Osborne recognized that children need united families to succeed and shaped the organization into a social service agency aiming to help families function better.

“We needed to get in as early as we could,” she notes, “and change our whole service philosophy.”

Osborne leaves an agency whose $23 million budget makes it one of the largest service providers in the United States for children and families, with seven “hub” service sites that support early learning, child and family counseling, and adoption.

The agency also works with the academic community to seek new solutions, such as a Harvard-partnered initiative to reduce childhood trauma. Osborne still thinks grandly, leaving for her successor a five-year roadmap to double the agency’s budget and outreach.

“I love what I do,” she reflects. “I never had a second thought making this choice for my career.” 

See the full list of winners from the 2018 Executive Excellence Awards here.

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