HHS Will Not Discuss New Personnel

Filling the Senate-confirmed spots in the federal government is a time-consuming process. It is understandable that, as that process slowly grinds forward, cabinet leaders would bring in some short-term advisors to help shape early policy on issues.

Less understandable: An attempt to conceal those advisors from the public. But based on a recent interaction with the Department of Health and Human Services, that appears to be its strategy.

Youth Services Insider had heard from a few folks close to the federal policy world that Wade Horn – who ran the child welfare wing of HHS under George W. Bush – had been brought in to consult for HHS Secretary Tom Price. Horn continues to be a director at the consulting firm Deloitte, where he leads the firm’s “Health and Human Services Marketplace.”

This is, in YSI‘s opinion, a significant piece of news. Horn is well-respected in the field of child welfare and family services, and recently served on the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

He’s also a proponent of significant reform of the federal foster care IV-E entitlement. Horn has long favored a move away from entitlement structure toward a capped allocation that states would have the ability to spend on things other than foster care. And under Bush, he was a major proponent of the expanded federal investment in abstinence-only education programs.

Wherever you land on these issues, it would be significant news that Horn is possibly helping to shape child welfare policy for the Trump Administration.

So … is Horn helping out at HHS? The department won’t say, and that appears to be their formal position on discussing anyone who is working for them.

“We are not commenting on personnel at this time,” said Alleigh Marre, national spokesperson for HHS, in an email to YSI after we twice requested confirmation of Horn’s role.

Horn himself did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking confirmation. That is his right, as a private citizen.

But where does HHS get off obfuscating the public about who is helping to shape federal policy? Not commenting on personnel at this time? What time, then? And does that mean Horn is “personnel”?

Marre’s response suggests that HHS does not feel compelled to discuss the federal tax dollars paid to “personnel” to help advise on policies that will influence how federal tax dollars are spent.

As mentioned, the confirmation process takes a while. President Obama did not have a confirmed leader at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) until September of 2009. When Horn had the job for Bush, he was confirmed in July.

Horn is a completely valid choice to help out with policy in the meantime. But not in secret.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1094 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.

1 Comment

  1. Mr. Horn wrote an excellent piece for the Chronicle in January, called Three Ways Trump Can Make Children Safer. The three ways were: provide flexible federal funding for child welfare, invest appropriate resources (because child welfare is underfunded), and support data sharing for child protection. I’m afraid his new boss will go for the flexible funding without the increased resources, and that would be a disaster.

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