David Tobis has worked to reform child welfare in New York, the United States and internationally for more than three decades. He was executive director of the Child Welfare Fund and founded the Fund for Social Change. Beginning in 1991 he worked as a consultant to UNICEF and the World Bank to prevent children, the disabled and the elderly from being placed in long-term residential institutions in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is a founder and senior associate of Maestral International (www.maestralintl.com), that works to promote the well-being of vulnerable children and families. He currently works with UNICEF to assess and strengthen child welfare systems throughout Africa.
He began his social activism in Mississippi in 1965 rebuilding a burned church and then returning as a civil rights worker. He spent the next decade as an anti-war activist, traveling to North Vietnam in 1968 as part of the first student delegation to visit that country. He was a Fulbright Scholar to Guatemala in 1966-67 and co-edited the book published by NACLA, Guatemala: And So Victory is Born, Even in the Bitterest Hour. He was a Revson Fellow at Columbia University in 1987-88 given to individuals who have worked to improve New York City.
His recent book, From Pariahs to Partners: How Parents and Their Allies Changed New York City’s Child Welfare System, was published by Oxford Press in 2013.
He graduated from Williams College and received a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. He has been on the board of UJC since its founding as was chairman of the board from 1987-1999.