Aysha Schomburg will oversee the U.S. Children’s Bureau at Department of Health and Human Services
While nominees for the top Senate-confirmed jobs in child welfare have yet to be unveiled, the Biden administration continues to fill in key appointees on the issue at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Biden has appointed Aysha Schomburg, a senior official for New York City’s child welfare and juvenile justice agency, to lead the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Schomburg was added to the bureau’s staff list today.
Schomburg is pretty much unknown on the national child welfare scene, based on what Youth Services Insider can glean from sources today. She joined ACS in 2017 as the director of parent recruitment, focused on bringing in new foster and adoptive parents and supporting them, and became the senior administrator for program oversight for ACS in New York, involved in the agency’s overarching strategic plans and operational infrastructure.
Before that, Schomburg spent nine years working for the New York City Council, rising to assistant deputy director before leaving to join ACS.
She received kudos on the way out from her old boss in New York City – David Hansell, commissioner of the city’s Administration for Children’s Services, who quickly issued a statement of congratulations today.
Schomburg “has distinguished herself in a range of roles … and has made enormous contributions to our progressive reforms that have positioned ACS as a national leader in child welfare,” said Hansell, who was a top child official in the Obama administration. “ACS’s loss is the nation’s gain, and I am confident that Aysha’s many accomplishments at ACS will help her lead the national effort to strengthen supports and services for families across the country.”
She takes the helm at a federal agency that serves as ground zero for child welfare policy and funding within HHS, administering, among other things, the Title IV-E entitlement for child welfare services, and the Title IV-B funds for family preservation and reunification.
Both funding streams got a major overhaul in 2018 when President Trump signed the Family First Prevention Services Act into law. The bill for the first time enables states to use the IV-E entitlement to fund services aimed at preventing the use of foster care in some child welfare cases. It also clamps down on federal funding for group homes and institutions, and lengthens the amount of time that IV-B funds can be used to support family reunification.
Schomburg comes to Washington at a critical time in regard to the Family First Act. States were given the option of taking a two-year delay on implementing the law, mainly to help them adjust state policy and law if needed, ready a prevention services plan for approval and prepare for the cutback in federal money for group settings. Most states elected to take the delay, and the law will fully take effect for them in October.
She succeeds Jerry Milner, Trump’s associate commissioner for the Children’s Bureau, who remained in that administration from the summer of 2017 until the week before Biden was inaugurated. In an administration whose family policy will forever be tied to the separation of children from parents at the Southern border, Milner used his position to call for the reduced use of foster care and child welfare services, and expanded federal resources to support legal counsel for system-involved parents and children.
Some child welfare advocates and practitioners had lobbied the Biden transition team to consider bringing back Milner, who in an op-ed for The Imprint last month excoriated Trump for his family separation policy and the administration’s actions to protect faith-based child welfare providers that wished to select who they worked with based on religious ideology.
The hierarchy of child welfare leadership is comparable to Russian nesting dolls. The Children’s Bureau is one of two agencies housed at the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF). And this resides within the similarly named but much larger Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the arm of Health and Human Services that handles much of the federal support for low-income families and child protection.
Both the ACYF and ACF jobs are what’s called “senate confirmable,” so Biden must put forth a candidate and the Senate must ultimately vote on that person’s candidacy. Biden recently named JooYeun Chang to be the number two at ACF, and serve as the interim leader of the agency until the Senate confirms whoever he nominates for that job.
Amanda Barlow, a career official who directs the ACF Office of Legislative Affairs and Budget, is currently serving as the acting commissioner of ACYF.