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Taking the Helm at the Administration for Children and Families

July 15, 2009 - 6:45am

New leaders are coming aboard at the Administration for Children and Families, the part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that deals with Head Start and child care programs.

Carmen Nazario was nominated by President Obama in May to be the assistant secretary for children and families. She is awaiting confirmation by the Senate. Nazario knows ACF from her days as an associate commissioner during the Clinton Administration and has led Delaware's health and human services department as well as the children and families administration within Puerto Rico's health and human services department. A former social worker, she most recently taught social policy at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

Joan Lombardi, a nationally recognized early childhood researcher, was recently appointed to deputy assistant secretary for ACF. We ruminated last year over whether she might take a post at ACF, since she previously served as deputy assistant secretary for ACF and associate commissioner of the Child Care Bureau during the Clinton administration.

Other appointments, noted in a recent email update from the National Head Start Association, include David A. Hansell, principal deputy assistant secretary for ACF, and Shannon Rudisill, associate commissioner of the Child Care Bureau.

Lombardi will oversee the Head Start and child care programs and will serve as an inter-departmental liaison for early childhood development. We hope she will use her position to strengthen coordination between HHS-run early childhood programs and the Department of Education, and to help to connect childcare and preschool providers at the local level to the K-12 system.

For hints on how Lombardi will approach her new job, see a chapter she co-authored last fall with Olivia Golden of the Urban Institute on how HHS could improve the lives of children and families. The chapter is part of Change for America, a book project intended to guide the Obama administration and published by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the New Democracy Project.

"Priority attention," she wrote, "should be given to agency staffing, the role of ACF’s discretionary research findings in advancing new goals, and a new approach to early childhood leadership."

Lombardi is also the author of the 2003 book, Time to Care: Redesigning Child Care to Promote Education, Support Families, and Build Communities.

At least a few more positions at HHS lay vacant, as shown by The Washington Post's online "Head Count."  And still no word on who will direct the Office of Head Start. Stay tuned.