Lorne Little (Edward De la Torre photo)

In 2018, St. Anne’s Family Services appointed Lorna Little, LCSW, as president/CEO making her the first African American woman and first woman to lead the non-profit in its century-long standing.

St. Anne’s is a social services agency that provides housing, early childhood education, mental health, and other services to current and former foster youth and families. It was founded in 1908 as a home for young pregnant women who had no place to turn to. St. Anne’s has grown into a social services agency that is committed to providing programs and support to young women, children, and families regardless of their race or religion. Their mission states, “Working together to build safe, nurturing and resilient families—from pregnancy to parenthood and childhood to adulthood—for generations to come.” Little wants to ensure that the non-profit sustains this mission with her years of experience in social services and her desire to help those in underserved communities.

Little’s passion for youth and family development stems from caring about humanity and her desire to see people live up to their full potential – mind, body, and spirit.

“A lot of the inequities I saw as a young woman and I wanted to work to really counter some of those things that people come up against.”

She describes being the first African American woman at St. Anne’s as a “wonderful” feeling that comes with a lot of responsibility.

“I know that my success will help others in terms of opening the doors for those that will come behind me and I often feel like being the first Black person in this role in over 100 years, but I wanted to ensure that I’m not the last,” she emphasized. She went on to say that, “People talk about breaking glass ceilings, but I think Black women often have to break brick ceilings.”

Little takes pride in leading non-profits over the years and takes pride in empowering her team to be at their best in order to provide their clients and program participants with high quality support and guidance. Leading programs for her is about working on behalf of improving client outcomes, but it is also important for her to have a staffing relationship that nurtures and supports them. She explains that two in a half of the four years in her position has been pandemic years, which has been very different than anything else.

“I’ve learned that you have to make sure that you provide authentic and consistent leadership through it all,” she explained. “During these last two in a half years I had to be flexible enough to lead the team through a pivot, being able to give them a level of security and certainty that everything was going to be okay.”

She told the Sentinel that she would tell people that one of the hardest parts about leading during this time was the intense responsibility of trying to keep everyone safe.

“This was a time, as a leader, this impacted our employees, clients, and program participants,” she expressed. “It was important as a leader that the team knew we were still doing what we had to get done, but that we weren’t going to brush over and not talk about what was happening in the community.”

During her time at St. Anne’s, Little has put her years of experience to use. In her second year, she worked on changing the name from “St. Anne’s” to “St. Anne’s Family Services” to reflect the change of who they are at this time in their evolution. The focus on fatherhood programs has been enhanced, as well as the wellness initiatives for staff and residents of the program with their new wellness center. She’s worked on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Two new centers has also been opened in Lynwood.

“One of the things I’ve done is we’ve developed a diverse in dynamic female executive leadership team which is pretty exciting,” she said proudly. “You don’t find that very often where all the executive leaders are women and it’s a diverse group of women.”

Little expressed how she loves working to help support and equip young families with what they need to be successful. She wants to see people live out their optimal potential. She is often asked to speak at events and provide motivational speeches, which she uses as a platform to utilize her voice for good and guide people to the next level. Her company, “A Little Guidance,” focus has always been to shine a light to guide people and give them direction.

“I am a very faithful person and I know that God has a plan for my life, and that’s how I came to St. Anne’s Family Services so I believe I will still have that guide,” she said. “I’ll always use the creative side of my brain to benefit and impact the work with children and families who have been underserved in communities of color.”

Little has faced and overcame many obstacles throughout her life starting in high school, which further validates why she was the perfect candidate for the President/CEO position; she is relatable to many of the women who are in the program. She has a bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University, a master’s degree in social work from Springfield College, and a post-master’s certificate in foster and adoption studies from the University of Connecticut (UConn). She is also a renowned keynote speaker, author, and media producer. Her debut memoir, Mum’s The Word! tells the shocking story of her discovery that she was adopted in her 30’s.

For more information on Little, visit: https://www.alittleguidance.com or www.instagram.com/lornascorner

For more information on St. Anne’s, visit: https://www.stannes.org