Gov. Greg Abbott rolled out the newest appointments to leadership in the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in a press release Monday.
Kezeli Wold, the department’s associate commissioner for Adult Protective Services will now assume the role of interim commissioner until Stephanie Muth takes over on Jan. 2, 2023.
Muth will be helping the agency navigate its commitment to providing statewide community-based care services, and increasing agency compliance with the court orders that arise from foster care litigation. The essence of a community-based approach is that foster care services can be improved if states allow local communities to “find innovative ways” to meet the needs of Texas children and families, the release said.
“As a recognized administrator and organizational leader, Stephanie will contribute her deep understanding of agency operations and increased accountability to strengthen the efforts of this critical agency,” Abbott stated in the release.
With 26 years of experience in state government and health services, Muth has seen the modernization of Texas’ eligibility system and supervised an overhaul to the health and human service programs. Before establishing a consulting practice in 2020, Muth worked for 20 years in the Texas legislative and executive branches, including 15 years serving as senior positions at the Health and Human Services commission.
Kate Murphy, director of Child Protection Policy at the nonprofit Texans Care for Children, said in a statement to The Imprint that “the truth is, safely keeping families together and supporting kids in foster care is bigger than just one person.”
Wold is at the helm of the nationally recognized Adult Protective Services, a program “known for its innovation and client services,” the release stated. Wold previously worked as a regional director and program administrator, beginning his career as a frontline supervisor and a child and adult protective services caseworker.
Former deputy executive commissioner for the state Health and Human Services Anne Heiligenstein is returning to the family and protective services department to serve as a senior advisor at the head of several key projects.
Previously overseeing programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Heiligenstein is now working with Casey Family Programs as the Texas Strategic Consultant, the release said.
“This is an extremely difficult job, and getting it right depends a lot on the policy decisions that the Legislature and other state leaders make,” Murphy said. “To help the new commissioner succeed, state leaders must do their part to invest in programs that help keep families together, place more kids with families instead of in facilities if they do enter foster care, make DFPS a place where Texans want to come to work, and much more.”
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