Meet Sondera Malry — a longtime public servant with the Department of Family and Protective Services who has dedicated decades of her career to supporting Texas children. Sondera started her journey in child welfare 36 years ago as an investigator with DFPS and has also worked in DFPS’s training department and family-based services department.
Sondera identifies three significant figures who have helped pave the way for her career and respective milestones: Leallia Kong, the “Investigative Guru” at DFPS; Odessa Sales, the Program Manager for Foster Care; and her mentor, Dr. Thomas Franklin Freeman, the former head debate coach at Texas Southern University.
As Sondera’s hiring manager, Leallia Kong shared a wealth of invaluable knowledge to case management at the very start of her career. Her work with her next manager, Odessa Sales, was instrumental in planting seeds for growth in the adolescent unit, as an advocate for continuation of services for children aging out of the foster care system. Together, Sondera and Odessa created the original model of DFPS’s Preparation for Adult Living Program (PAL), a well-known support system for adolescents aging out of the foster care system in Texas.
Ever since joining the Forensic and Dialectic Debate team in 1982, Sondera has looked up to her friend and role model, Dr. Freeman, who mentored her for many years and exemplified an extraordinary work ethic that led him to retire at age 100, the same year of his passing.
Overall, Sondera is most grateful that she was able to unite sibling groups who have been separated as a result of abuse and neglect. Now that she is in retirement, her commitment has not waned. Her current project, “Preservation for Black Families,” focuses on connecting and building Black families who feel “stuck” in the foster care system.
With an African-centered spirit, Sondera prides herself for “standing on the shoulders of her ancestors” as she advises Black leaders to:
“Always provide mental health moments for yourself before serving others, learn how to communicate appropriately and effectively, and find a way to give back to the community.”Sondera Malry