After more than 21 years of leadership for nonprofits around the country, David Chayer is stepping in as the new executive director of Missouri KidsFirst.
“I think all the experience I’ve had gives me a really good perspective on non-profit leadership and being a part of large operations like that,” Chayer told The Missouri Times. “From my background, both with the American Red Cross and the ALS Association, I’ve spent the better part of my career in organizations that are helping children respond to emergencies but also working to prevent them. Having that background in response and prevention as well as government relations and policy, those are the things that have appealed to me in terms of this position.”
Chayer worked with the American Red Cross for more than 14 years, serving in leadership positions in four states and Washington, D.C., during his time there. He said he was drawn to this new position by the far-reaching effects of the group’s work in Missouri.
“I think the impact of Missouri KidsFirst goes throughout the entire state,” he said. “There are thousands of kids every year that go through substantiated cases of child abuse, and so we want to make sure we’re providing that support to direct service providers so they are able to offer consistent and quality services across the state of Missouri.”
Chayer was selected after a nationwide search, according to the group. He said he was honored to be chosen and looked forward to leading the organization in its work as the legislative session begins next month.
“I have a really deep passion for this mission. I’m a father of two young children, so it’s a very personal mission for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t want my daughter or any other child to be one of the statistics. I also believe the scope of work Missouri KidsFirst does and the impact it has across the state and the relationships it makes. There is tremendous trust with folks around the state, and that’s exciting to get to work with.”
Chayer praised the staff and leadership at Missouri KidsFirst, touting their work in fostering relationships and spreading awareness of the issues that impact Missouri’s youth. He also thanked outgoing Executive Director Joy Oesterly for her leadership in the position.
“I’m flattered to be in this position, but it’s not all about me,” he said. “Joy has been with the organization for over 14 years, and it’s a tremendous honor for me to follow her. There’s a lot of great work to do, and it’s an awesome responsibility, one that I embrace and look forward to. We have tremendous opportunities for more people to learn about the organization and how we advocate for children in Missouri.”
Missouri KidsFirst advocates for policies focused on the safety of children. The group supported HB 1414 in the statehouse during this year’s abbreviated session. The bill — which was signed into law earlier this year — modified several provisions relating to child protection, and its implementation was the subject of a recent House committee hearing.