After Two Years, Health & Human Services Close to Having Leader at ACYF

Bryan Samuels, the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Famlies (ACYF) during Obama’s first term, left the administration in August of 2013 and joined research and advocacy outfit Chapin Hall in Chicago.

A year later, in August 2014, Obama nominated Rafael Lopez to succeed Samuels. By August of 2015, he might actually have the job.

In May, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda made his nomination “a top priority.” After more than 120 days, the Senate Finance Committee moved Lopez’ nomination to the Senate with a 26-0 vote of approval on June 10.

If the Senate can get to and approve his nomination before the scheduled mid-August recess, Lopez will have a year and half on the job.  His wait has been easier than others in the nomination grind, because he already works for the administration as a senior advisor at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Before that, Lopez spent three years as an associate director at Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a grant maker with long ties to both the child welfare and juvenile justice system.

ACYF is a division of the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services. The division oversees two key bureaus: the Children’s Bureau, which manages the large Title IV-E and IV-B federal child welfare programs; and the Family and Youth Services Bureau, which manages smaller discretionary accounts related to homeless and runaway youth services.

The Obama administration’s initial selections for ACF leadership came to Washington from jobs in government. ACF’s previous leader, George Sheldon, came from Florida’s child welfare agency and left to run the child welfare system in Illinois. Samuels, the former ACYF commissioner, has already run Illinois’ system.

Lopez, assuming he is confirmed, fits into a new cast at ACF mostly drawn from the world of advocacy and philanthropy. Among the other leaders appointed recently at ACF:

Mark Greenberg, acting head of ACF: former director of the Georgetown University Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy, and senior fellow at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

William Bentley, head of the Family and Youth Services Bureau: CEO of the now-defunct Voices for America’s Children and former leader at the Points of Light Foundation.

JooYeun Chang, head of the Children’s Bureau: Senior Director of Public Policy at the Seattle-based Casey Family Programs, and a former attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at