President-Elect Joe Biden has kicked off what might be a bit of a fraught transition by naming hundreds of people to his agency review teams, which are generally responsible for getting a bead on operations across the sprawling federal bureaucracy and developing a “Day One” agenda for the administration.
Not surprisingly, the list is filled with officials from the last presidential administration that Biden was a part of. Following are a few names that jumped out to Youth Services Insider as being likely to help shape an early message on youth and family services.
Council of Economic Advisers
Damon Jones, University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, is a renowned economist whose most recent work has focused on studying why the coronavirus has so disproportionately impacted communities of color. But Jones’ broader focus has also been on a field of economics that will be front and center as America pivots toward an economic rebuild: household finance. Decisions on saving and borrowing, and insurance, and the ways in which policy levers like tax credits can impact this realm, will be key to ensuring that low-income families are served and not left behind by the coronavirus response.
Health and Human Services (HHS)
The transition team at HHS is co-led by Obama-era official Robert Gordon, the head of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, an agency that includes the state’s child welfare division (which is also run by a former Obama official, JooYeun Chang). Gordon worked in the Department of Education and for the Office of Management and Budget under Obama.
One child welfare observer described Gordon as “brilliant” and a person who could be considered for HHS secretary.
Also from the ranks of child welfare agencies: Anna Martinez, who leads the Division on Women at the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. Martinez was an adviser on violence against women at the Department of Justice and in Biden’s office as vice president, and she helped former Attorney General Eric Holder launch the Defending Childhood initiative.
Other names of note on the HHS team:
Sharon Parrott, senior vice president for federal policy and development at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who advised Obama-era HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on child welfare, welfare and teen pregnancy, and then oversaw health and education budgeting policy at the Office of Management and Budget.
Edwin Park, a professor at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and an expert on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act.
Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy at Families USA, who like Park is an expert on Medicaid and CHIP policy. Fishman worked on health policy in Obama’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and before that led policy for the New Jersey Department of Health.
Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Meaghan McCarthy, vice president of affordable housing and consumer empowerment at Housing Partnership Network, got her career started at the Children’s Defense Fund before spending more than a decade working on housing issues for the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
McCarthy helped create a demonstration program in 2015 that would combine special vouchers with HUD’s self-sufficiency program to help eligible youth on their own obtain and keep public housing. That demonstration program helped set the stage for the Foster Youth to Independence initiative, which provides recyclable housing vouchers to youth who are aging out of foster care between the ages of 18 and 21.
That initiative was announced last year by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and legislation to enshrine it in law has been introduced in both chambers.
Peggy Bailey, vice president of housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, has spent her career at policy shops like the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. Her focus has been on linking housing help to the services necessary to actually stay in housing.
The work of these two women touches on what might emerge as the next big issue in child welfare: how housing stability plays into child welfare involvement for parents who are either experiencing or are on the brink of homelessness, and how housing stability can help deter the worst outcomes for youth entering adulthood directly from foster care.
Department of Justice
Roy Austin, a partner at Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis, LLP, served on the White House Domestic Policy Council as Deputy Assistant to Obama for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity. He was also a member of Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, an effort to increase awareness and consequently public/private funding for programs serving boys and young men of color.
A week before the election, Austin appeared on a Biden campaign Facebook Live event to discuss foster care policy under the Obama administration and what the Biden-Harris administration might do on the issue.
James Cadogan, vice president of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures, was a counselor to the attorney general during the Obama era and helped oversee the Access to Justice initiative, which focused on youth violence prevention. Cadogan, like Austin, assisted on My Brother’s Keeper and led the administration’s changes to federal policy on the use of solitary confinement.
Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
This office has a tiny budget, so ultimately its influence is defined by how much the president seeks its input or is willing to let the “drug czar” be a public figure. The latter path has not been true for some time.
This is perhaps over-reading the tea leaves, but given the team tasked with prepping this office, we could see a focal point of it in the Biden administration being access to treatment for mothers struggling with addiction. Obviously, this is of tremendous interest in the child welfare space.
Rahul Gupta, who leads the ONDCP team, is the chief medical health officer for March of Dimes, and is an expert on mother and baby wellness. Kimberlyn Leary, on loan from the Urban Institute, and Regina Labelle of Georgetown University, have both focused on issues related to access to recovery and support. Both women worked at ONDCP during the Obama administration.