Ms. Toni Reynolds-Criner aligns policy, best practices, advocacy, and community resources to empower the lives of children, transition-aged youth, and families. Ms. Reynolds-Criner combines her expertise and lived experiences in the child welfare system, education, and youth development to build a more equitable world where every child in every community thrives and is connected to accessible resources and tools.
Currently, Ms. Reynolds-Criner serves as the Assistant Ombudsman for The Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education within the D.C. State Board of Education. In this role, Ms. Reynolds-Criner serves as an impartial, independent, and neutral government employee that uses mediation and conflict resolution to resolve complaints and concerns for parents and families regarding public education in the District of Columbia. The DC Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education (Office) seeks to provide equitable access to education for all students within the District of Columbia's traditional public and public charter schools and to support student achievement and educational outcomes.
Ms. Reynolds-Criner has experience in direct youth services, youth mental health, child welfare, and education policy, advocacy campaigning, and program development. She has advocated for youth and their families at the local, state, and national levels. She has served in various roles with D.C Public Schools where she provided direct support services to court-appointed youth, foster youth, school leaders, and special educators. Ms. Reynolds-Criner was invited by DC School Chancellor Antwan Wilson to accompany him to facilitate floor speeches regarding Students in Foster Care. Her work included: Districtwide Professional Developments, Facilitation and development of the Turnkey Toolkit for D.C. Public Schools Secondary Transition: Policy and Compliance, the development of recommendations for changes to policies and practices for the District Of Columbia ETV Program for Foster Youth, the identification of opportunities and challenges for system improvement, the development and implementation of school-wide mentoring programs, and the analysis of school data and assessments within the Multi-Tiered System of Student Support where she provided multiple layers of supports for Ballou STAY and Roosevelt STAY Opportunity Academy students in efforts to educate and nurture the whole child.
In 2019, Ms. Reynolds-Criner was appointed by the National Foster Youth Institute in partnership with the Congressional Caucus on Foster youth to serve as the District of Columbia Congressional Foster Care Delegate. In this role, she was paired with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congresswoman Karen Bass. She spent a week gaining a better understanding of the role Congress plays in child welfare policy. During her week-long collaboration with other delegates and members of Congress, she focused on five important policy topics: Education, Mental Health, Siblings, Preventative Services, and TAY Services. Ms. Reynolds-Criner represented over 400,000 children and advocated for those who are currently in care and the young adults who are transitioning out. During Ms. Reynolds-Criner's appointment, she partnered with D.C Child and Family Services Recruitment Team to speak at Fireside Chats and served as a panelist multiple times with The Barker Adoption Foundation. She also held advocacy training workshops, drafted legislative language, informed Congresswoman Norton on upcoming Foster Care initiatives, provided policy change recommendations, and connected youth to local and statewide resources.
Ms. Reynolds-Criner also works with the DC Juvenile Courts Division by mentoring youth who are re-entering society
In addition to Ms. Reynolds-Criner's work in child welfare and education, she serves her community in her personal capacity. She has served as Chair of Programming for the Metropolitan Women's Democratic Club, Think Tank Member for Martha's Table where her "Transitions to Adulthood" plan was implemented within the organization 5 Year Strategic Plan Education Pillar, Think Tank Member for the Mayor's Office on Returning Citizens Affairs, Co-Chair for Community Day with The Federal City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc.
Ms. Reynolds-Criner graduated as a Vice-Presidential Scholar from Tougaloo College with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Pre-Law where she completed her thesis entitled, The Discrimination Against African-American Men in the US Criminal Justice System. In 2014, she graduated with honors from Howard University Graduate School with a Master's degree in Public Administration where she completed her thesis entitled, China's One-Child Policy and its Nexus to Human Trafficking.
While completing her Master at Howard University, Toni had the opportunity to work in the office of Congresswoman Karen Bass where she would experience child welfare and foster care policy issues from a different viewpoint. Toni participated in the Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day for two consecutive years with the expectation that she would assist in amplifying the voices of foster youth by having them share their stories with their designated Congress member. During her time on Capitol Hill Congresswoman Karen Bass highlighted Toni's foster care success story which gained her the exposure to work with other foster and adoption agencies in the District of Columbia and Maryland area. After Toni's time on Capitol Hill, she then went on to pioneer a White House Initiative where she was given the opportunity to work with some of Washington DC's most vulnerable youth and young adults.
"I truly believe in the power of connecting, networking, and education, which are essential components for building the foundation and are the ultimate key to a person's success."
-Ms. Toni Reynolds-Criner, Founder/The Connector