New Jersey Governor-Elect Taps Christine Norbut Beyer to Head Child Welfare Agency

New Jersey Governor-Elect Phil Murphy (D) has nominated Christine Norbut Beyer, a senior director for Casey Family Programs, to lead the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF). Beyer was an assistant child welfare commissioner in New Jersey when the agency was called the Division of Youth and Family Services, and joined Casey’s consulting team in 2012.

“Strong families and supportive communities are the key to keeping children safe and stable. I look forward to working toward these goals as commissioner,” said Norbut Beyer, at an event introducing her and former Obama appointee Carole Johnson, who has been tapped to lead the New Jersey Department of Human Services. “My heart calls me to this work and continues to push me forward, striving for excellence for children and families. I thank Governor-elect Murphy for this honor and look forward to working with him on his vision of a stronger New Jersey.”

Norbut Beyer returns to an agency that has made progress, but remains under federal oversight that stems from a class action lawsuit filed in 1999. As the lawsuit exposed egregious cases where investigations and basic monitoring weren’t conducted, former Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) settled the state into a consent decree.

The lawsuit was brought by Marcia Lowry when she headed the nonprofit litigation firm Children’s Rights, and traveled with her when she left to start a new organization called A Better Childhood. The settlement has been updated twice, in 2006 and 2015, as the state eases toward an eventual exit.

“The state agency continues to improve its compliance with court-ordered reforms,” according to A Better Childhood’s web page about the lawsuit. “Nonetheless, the agency is still not meeting court-ordered goals in several areas, including holding regular family-team meetings for certain children and improving the quality of case plans and ongoing evaluations.”

There were 9,056 youth in foster care in 2007, according to the federal Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). The total had steadily fallen to 6,527 in 2016, according to the most recent AFCARS report.

DCF’s budget for 2018 is $1.138 billion. Beyer will succeed Allison Blake, who has led DCF throughout the tenure of Gov. Chris Christie.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.