Lawler, CEO of Youth Villages, Helped Trump Transition at HHS

With the notable exception of the fate of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, there’s nothing doing yet on youth-related issues and the White House. Jeff Sessions and Tom Price, President Trump’s respective nominees to lead the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, have yet to receive confirmation votes by the full Senate.

It could be a year or more until the administration puts forward nominees to lead the Administration on Children and Families, the wing of HHS that oversees child welfare, or the Office of Juvenile and Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which manages grants for preventing juvenile victimization and delinquency and oversees compliance with federal juvenile justice standards.

But Youth Services Insider did recently notice that Trump’s transition team for HHS did have one youth services vet on it: Patrick Lawler, who has served as CEO of the Tennessee-based nonprofit Youth Villages since it was founded in 1986.

Lawler was not on the ground with the so-called “beachhead teams” that Trump sent to take control at various agencies after Inauguration Day, according to Connie Mills, communications director for Youth Villages. “He was on one of the early landing transition teams with work done through telephone calls and e-mail exchanges. It’s concluded.”

Mills said Lawler’s role was “to make recommendations for positions at HHS, ACF and the Children’s Bureau.”

For the uninitiated, here is the hierarchy on child welfare at HHS:

ACF: led by an assistant secretary who reports directly to the Secretary of HHS, who will be Tom Price if he gets Senate approval.

Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF): Division of ACF that manages the Children’s Bureau (CB) and the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB)

CB: Manages the IV-E entitlement spending on foster care, guardianship and adoption, as well as the state data reporting and review process.

FYSB: Manages smaller grants portfolio focused on serving runaway and homeless youth, teen pregnancy prevention and family violence issues.

There are plenty of other big areas of ACF: Head Start and the Office of Child Support Enforcement, to name two national divisions, and there are ten regional ACF offices around the country. But Lawler was likely focused on those jobs we mentioned.

Lawler himself fits the description for what YSI thought this administration might look for in terms of child welfare leadership: executives who have run big, private-side organizations. Youth Villages began as a residential services provider for both child welfare and juvenile justice, but has greatly revamped its model. Its residential portfolio mostly serves as a complement to a wider array of community- and home-based services.

If Team Trump is looking for veteran executives to put in at ACF, Lawler would surely be on the list. Also on that list might be

  • David Dennis, CEO of Eckerd Kids
  • Jeremy Kohomban, CEO of The Children’s Village
  • Susan Dreyfus, CEO of The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (not a provider; but it represents a lot of them, and Dreyfus has public-side leadership on the county and state level)
  • William Bell, CEO, and David Sanders, vice president, both of Casey Family Programs

To be clear: ZERO idea if these people would be interested, if asked. These are just people with a lot of multi-state and national management experience in child welfare.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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