Lenette Azzi-Lessing career began in hands-on casework with pregnant, at-risk mothers. In the early 1990s, Ms. Azzi-Lessing established the Rhode Island Center for Children At-Risk. Successful fundraising efforts enabled this new agency to build a Family Support Center in Central Falls, which pulled together a wide variety of child-centered prevention, child care, education, and intervention programs.
In 1994, Ms. Azzi-Lessing accepted a new challenge - assuming the Directorship of Children's Friend and Service (CF&S), one of the nation's oldest private, nonprofit child welfare organizations. With a new facility built in the heart of the population it was designed to serve, CF&S has grown rapidly, incorporating the Center for Children At-Risk into its structure.
Ms. Azzi-Lessing's ability to research and reflect changing needs in the field of child welfare has made CF&S a major provider in Rhode Island. In the six years since Ms. Azzi-Lessing assumed leadership, CF&S has won three major Federal Grants for programs to deliver hands-on services to substance abusing mothers, post-adoption services, and concurrent planning. CF&S community-based programs have also expanded under Ms. Azzi-Lessing's leadership, with the establishment of a second Family Support Center and the development and expansion of Early Headstart and other primary and secondary prevention programs that improve the lives of children and families in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in Providence.
Ms. Azzi-Lessing is recognized for the intense, highly supportive, and culturally relevant services to families. Among the groups that have benefited from her active involvement are the Governor's Task Force on the Placement of Children for Adoption and Foster Care, the Mayor's Task Force on Early Childhood, the National Advisory Committee on Family Support and Family Preservation, the Child Welfare League of America, the Advisory Board of Harvard Center of Children's Health, the RI Public Health Foundation Board of Directors, the United Way Community Services Board, the Project Connect Coordinating Committee, the RI Department of Education Family Focus and Integrated Social Services Teams, the RI Families First Initiative, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Children and Their Families, the RI Protection and Advocacy System Board of Directors, the RI College School of Social Work Field Education Committee, the RI Children's Cabinet Task Force on HomeVisiting, the Attorney General's Commission on the Enforcement of Child Abuse Laws, and the RI KidsCount Board of Directors.