The Trump administration has hired William Wubbenhorst, whose career has focused on calculating returns on investment for social ventures and research, to lead the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), a small youth-oriented division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Wubbenhorst spent 13 years with ICF International, a major beltway consulting firm based in Annapolis, Md. He left in 2013 to join Social Capital Valuations, a Reston, Va.-based firm that conducts return-on-investment assessments of social initiatives and programs.
Among the firm’s listed clients: TimeBanks USA, a peer court model for juvenile diversion; the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a violence prevention organization led by Bob Woodson; and the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University (ISR).
For the uninitiated, the child welfare hierarchy at HHS is a big bowl of alphabet soup. The parent agency for child and family services at HHS is the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Trump has nominated Lynn Johnson, a county child welfare director in Colorado, to serve as assistant secretary of ACF; currently, the acting assistant secretary is Steven Wagner.
Within ACF is the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), which oversees most federal assistance to state and local child welfare systems. FYSB is the smaller of two agencies within ACYF. The other, the Children’s Bureau, has a budget of more than $7 billion and is responsible for distributing federal child welfare funds and evaluating state child welfare systems.
FYSB’s budget hovers between $300 million and $400 million. It funds programs that provide pregnancy prevention and serve victims of domestic violence. It also manages the three-tiered federal program for homeless and runaway youth: street outreach, basic centers, and transitional living.
FYSB’s pregnancy prevention portfolio has always been a bit of a political football, steering toward abstinence education during Republican administrations and toward safe sex approaches under Democrats. Wubbenhorst, who was also an ISR scholar, co-authored a report with ISR endorsing the Ohio Adolescent Health Centers abstinence model in 2015, citing pre- and post-test surveys in which 34 percent more students said they would remain abstinent after taking the class.
Wubbenhorst was also co-author on an ISR case study about Serve West Dallas, a faith-based coalition targeting community development in one Dallas ZIP code (75212).
Former President Barack Obama went five years without naming political appointees to lead FYSB and the Children’s Bureau. In September of 2013, he tapped Bill Bentley (former CEO of the now-defunct Voices for America’s Children) to head up FYSB, and JooYeun Chang to lead the Children’s Bureau. Chang worked for Casey Family Programs before the hire, and returned to Casey after her tenure.
The Children’s Bureau is currently lead by Jerry Milner, who is also the acting commissioner for the parent agency, ACYF. Wubbenhorst succeeds Debbie Powell, a longtime ACF career staffer who has served as acting head of FYSB on multiple occasions in the past 15 years.
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