Sister Anne M. Francioni heads Whole Kids Outreach, a nonprofit organization in south central Missouri that serves six rural counties. Her staff works with families facing poverty, neglect and abuse, helping all the parties involved, including the courts, improve the lives of children.
What are some of your proudest career accomplishments? Finishing my degrees in Nursing, Special Ed, and Management. Watching children with special needs at St. Mary’s Special School become more successful as a result of a program that I created. When I became a head nurse in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. When WKO received a large grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health last year to expand its Healthy Families America program.
My heart soars with grateful pride when I see the children, their families and youth volunteers happy and growing at the Whole Kids Outreach Center. Those moments are, for me, tangible expressions that all of the hard work it took to build the programs, facilities and relationships that unite people around the mission was worth it.
What inspired you to get involved in the justice system? My desire for children to be able to feel safe and loved during their childhood inspires me to do most of what I do, including being involved in the justice system. Many of the families that I work with have open cases with Children’s Division because of problems with child abuse and/or neglect. Working with Guardians ad litem, CASA workers, parents, foster parents, forensic interviewers, juvenile officers and social service caseworkers helps to ensure that the children experience the least amount of trauma possible.
What has been your favorite part of the job? Although my job allows me a lot of diversity in day-to-day roles and tasks that I do as executive director, my favorite times are when I am creatively involved with the staff, partnering universities and other community service providers to develop new programs and activities that promise to improve the lives of children and their families.
What is something that would surprise people about you? Many people are surprised when they find out that I am a nun, probably because people often have a preconceived concept of what a nun should look and act like — and I don’t fit that mold!
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received? Let your actions show that you believe even when believing is hard.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be? I wanted to be someone who would make a big impact on the world — like the president or a Jesuit missionary. I was appalled when I found out that I couldn’t become either because I was a girl!