President Joe Biden has nominated Rebecca Jones Gaston, the child welfare director for the Oregon Department of Human Services, to serve as his commissioner for the Administration for Children, Youth and Families.
Gaston, who was born in Minnesota and was adopted from foster care, has led two state child welfare agencies over the past six years: Maryland for four years, then Oregon for two. She joined the latter just a few months after a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against the state over its use of institutional foster care settings.
During her time in Oregon, the state’s foster care rolls plummeted: from 6,647 in 2019 down to 5,561 in March of this year, according to data shared with The Imprint by the state. The department also became one of the first state agencies to gain approval for new foster care prevention funding under the Family First Prevention Services Act, which became law in 2018 and took full effect around the country this October.
Before she joined Maryland’s child welfare agency, Gaston served as director of technical assistance for Casey Family Programs, one of the largest philanthropic forces in the field of child welfare. She also previously served as a national campaign director for AdoptUSKids, which promotes adoptions from foster care.
If confirmed, she will assume the position filled by Elizabeth Darling in the Trump administration, and by Bryan Samuels (current executive director of Chapin Hall) during Obama’s tenure. The commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families oversees two agencies: the Children’s Bureau, which manages most federal child welfare spending and oversight, and the Family and Youth Services Bureau, a much smaller division that manages runaway and homeless youth programs, family violence prevention and adolescent sexual health.
The Children’s Bureau is led by Aysha Schomburg, who was appointed last winter by Biden. The Family and Youth Services Bureau is led for the time being by veteran career staffer Debbie Powell.
The White House announced Gaston in a press release late this evening along with five other nominees for various positions in the executive branch.