State launches nationwide hunt for new DFYS director

Posted: Sunday, December 29, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Murkowski administration has launched a nationwide search for someone to fill what some call the hardest job in state government: director of the Division of Family and Youth Services.

Joel Gilbertson, Alaska's new health and social services commissioner, said the agency needs a new perspective.

''It will take an individual who is energetic and talented with the desire and experience to lead a division that has faced challenges as of late,'' Gilbertson told the Anchorage Daily News.

The department also is looking for two deputy commissioners, but its top priority is finding a DFYS director, Gilbertson said. That's the direction from Gov. Frank Murkowski, he said.

DFYS is the state's lead agency in protecting children from abuse and neglect with 387 workers, 29 field offices and a budget of $93.5 million.

''It's a tough deal when you are dealing with these intensely human responsibilities,'' said state Rep. Fred Dyson, who is moving to the state Senate in January where he will chair the Health, Education and Social Services Committee.

DFYS desperately needs a strong leader, said Dyson, an Eagle River Republican. The agency has a history of promoting social workers into management jobs they are ill-equipped for, he said.

According to a federal review in September, too many children are hurt repeatedly despite reports to DFYS that they are in danger; parents aren't getting the counseling and other services needed to keep children at home; and children don't get permanent families quickly enough.

Alaska's plan for fixing its child protection system was due to the federal government Dec. 18. Gilbertson asked for a three-month delay, so the new DFYS director can be involved in shaping the changes. If the state doesn't improve, it faces the loss of almost $190,000 in federal funds.

Theresa Tanoury served as DFYS director during the last five years of the Knowles administration. She resigned as of Dec. 3 and is opening a Juneau office for Casey Family Programs, a private Seattle-based foundation that provides services for children in foster care and their families.

The Department of Health and Social Services, which includes DFYS, is posting job notices on the Web sites of the Child Welfare League of America and the American Public Human Services Association, as well as the state's Workplace Alaska site. The department also plans to send e-mails to the heads of child protection agencies around the country, said Elmer Lindstrom, special assistant to Gilbertson.

The job pays from $73,752 to $87,852 a year, depending on credentials. Tanoury made $84,816.

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