Child advocate Tom Vitaglione retires, News and Observer Under the Dome

July 2011

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Child advocate Tom Vitaglione retires, News and Observer Under the Dome (07.20.2011)

Longtime child advocate Tom Vitaglione is leaving his position with the nonprofit N.C. Action for Children next week.

Vitaglione went to work at the nonprofit 11 years ago as senior fellow after 30 years in the state Division of Public Health.

“We talked about my coming for a year or two, and it turned out to be 11,” said Vitaglione, 69. ‘”I felt like this last decade has been a blessing and one that I didn’t expect.”

Next month, Vitaglione and his wife, Eve, will head to Malawi for a six weeks, where they’ll work with an orphan-care program that’s located in 37 villages.  The Vitagliones met in Malawi as Peace Corps volunteers in the mid-1960s. They have returned the southeast African country over the years to work with the orphan-care program they helped set up in the mid-1990s.

Malawi, a country of about 13 million people, has more than 750,000 orphans, many of whom lost their parents to AIDS.

The typical practice of having extended family members take in orphans was breaking down because of the numbers, Vitaglione said. The orphan-care program helps look for more families to take children and provides them with support.

Vitaglione said he will be back in North Carolina to work on children’s issues, probably on his own.

A former chairman of the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, Vitaglione said it was “heartwarming” to see the declines in the infant mortality and youth death rates. The task force also worked hard to extend health insurance for children.

An opponent of corporal punishment in schools, Vitaglione said he’ll keep working to end it in the 38 districts that still allow it.