Established in 1979 as part of the University of Chicago, CSSP's primary goal was to influence public policy affecting poor children and families, the elderly and the disabled. Founder Tom Joe, blind from early childhood, was a staunch advocate for federal and state policies that leveled the playing field for the disenfranchised and addressed the injustices that affected people's lives. He envisioned CSSP as a place where policy analysis would reflect real-world knowledge of the intricacies of public sector governance and finance. That concept was further realized by the academic rigor and commitment to nurturing the skills of young people that co-founder Harold Richman brought to CSSP. The former dean of the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and founder of Chapin Hall Center for Children joined Joe to launch CSSP as an organization committed to developing and recommending innovative policy solutions. Their vision was rooted in impatience with the status quo but realism about implementation. Above all, their idea of what CSSP was, and is, was based on a solid understanding of what families and communities actually experience and need.
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