Bush League

Print More

 In late June Wade Horn, President Bush's nominee to be assistant secretary for children and families in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), sailed through a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing. The committee ignored a letter to the Senate circulated by the New York-based NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund opposing Horn's confirmation. Almost 100 mostly liberal women's groups wrote, "Wade Horn wants the government to promote marriage by penalizing families where the parents divorce, separate, or do not marry. He also wants the government to tell unmarried mothers to surrender their children for adoption. There is very little 'support' for families in these sentiments." Noting that "more than half the children growing up today will spend some of their childhood in a single-parent family," the signatories - which include the D.C.-based Center for Community Change, the Brooklyn youth activist group Make the Road by Walking, the Cambridge, Mass.-based Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and the Madison, Wis.-based Center on Fathers, Families and Public Policy - wrote that "President Bush's campaign call to 'Leave No Child Behind' rings hollow" because of his nomination of Horn. Reached in Madison, David Pate, director of the  only national fatherhood group opposing Horn, refused to comment on why his organization signed the letter. Even with the security of  recent $700,000 grant from the Ford Foundation's Fragile Families initiative, he stayed mum.

Horn's farewell as president of the National Fatherhood Initiative was a grand affair at the group's annual meeting last month. Topping the speaker's list was President Bush, who vigorously endorsed Horn's work at the NFI and reiterated his support for $64 million in "responsible fatherhood" spending in FY '02 and a total of $315 million over the next five years - all to be administered from Horn's new HHS office.

With Horn's confirmation almost a done deal, lower-level political appointees are appearing within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), part of the HHS. New associate commissioner designee of the Children's Bureau is Susan Orr. Until recently she was the senior director for marriage and family care at the D.C.-based Family Research Council. The conservative group was headed by Gary Bauer prior to his bid for the 2000 GOP presidential nomination. Orr joined ACYF in 1992 when Horn held the ACYF commissioner job, one bureaucratic rung down from his new assignment. After George Bush Sr.'s re-election defeat, Orr burrowed in at ACYF and became a child-welfare program specialist in National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, administered by the Children's Bureau.

In October 1999 Orr authored "Child Protection at the Crossroads" for the Reason Public Policy Institute (www.RPPI.org), where she spent two years as director of its Center for Social Policy. In the article, Orr makes five recommendations: 1) Narrow the scope of child abuse and neglect definitions; 2) Repeal the investigative power of the police; 3) Re-criminalize child abuse and neglect; 4) Repeal mandatory reporting laws that are in effect in all states; and 5) Make child and family services voluntary. In other words, repeal the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act authored by Sen. Walter Mondale (D-Minn.). Said one national child abuse advocate when told of Orr's new job, "I've never heard of her." Informed of her FRC connection, he replied: "That's kind of scary." Those who know Orr describe her as thoughtful and pleasant to work with. But given Orr's very conservative views on child welfare issues, expect major policy shifts at the Children's Bureau. Contact: Children's Bureau (202) 205-8618. 

Not scary is the new associate commissioner for the Family and Youth Service Bureau (FYSB). He's Harry Wilson, former principal of the Montcalm School in Albion, Mich.,  part of the highly regarded Starr Commonwealth Schools, a $34 million- per year child welfare agency operating in Michigan and Ohio. He'll be responsible for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, Transitional Living, two smaller programs and the new $33 million Second Chance Homes for teen moms, program championed by President Bush.

Wilson worked at Starr Commonwealth for the past 22 years, rising from the ranks to become assistant director of the agency's 200-bed residential treatment program. Wilson's rŽsumŽ describes him as an "effective servant-leader with a belief that team work is the highest administrative priority." Says his long-time boss, Starr Commonwealth President Arlin Ness, "He always was a tremendous, exciting advocate for kids."

No stranger to FYSB and its runaway youth programs, Wilson has reviewed grants and helped develop FYSB's grant review system. On his watch, runaways from the rural child welfare campers dropped from 168 "events" in 1979 to five in 1999. Working as a trainer for the Michigan Association of Children's Alliance, Wilson was part of an effort that yielded 500 certified youth workers.

It didn't hurt that he's been close to Horn since the two went to school together in Michigan. Contact: (202) 205-8102.

Tapped to be assistant secretary of labor for Employment and Training (ETA) is Emily Stover DeRocco.

ETA manages most of the Labor Department's programs dealing with youth, including Job Corps ($1.4 billion in 2001), Youth Opportunity Grants ($275 million), One-Stop Career Centers ($150 million), Youth Offender Grants, ($12.5 million for job training and education programs for adjudicated youth), and what's left of the winding down School-to-Work program.

Since 1989 DeRocco has served as executive director of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies. The group represents 53 usually gubernatorially   appointed directors of state labor departments that oversee employment and job training programs (largely federally funded through the 1998 Workforce Investment Act) and welfare-to-work services (federally funded under the Personal Responsibilities and Work Opportunities Act of 1996). An attorney, DeRocco spent most of her early career in administrative posts at federal agencies, including the Interior and Energy Departments. Contact: ETA (202) 693-3900, www.doleta.gov.