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Human Services Program hosts Lynn Johnson, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services assistant secretary

Human Services

The Human Services Program at The Kresge Foundation hosted a briefing and Q&A session with Lynn Johnson, the newest assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF). In 2017, ACF’s budget was roughly $63 billion, making it a hugely significant government actor in the human services sector.

Assistant Secretary Johnson shared insights from her personal and professional experience in public service and what it will take to innovate the human services sector. She discussed how her work at the local level in Colorado’s Jefferson County informed her current role in the federal government, how to co-create solutions with communities using a whole-family approach and how to change both private and public human services providers to ensure the best outcomes for those being served.

HHS Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson talks about the human services sector during a visit to The Kresge Foundation
HHS Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson talks about her experience in and vision for the human services sector during her visit to The Kresge Foundation. 

“Progress takes time; and it takes substantial culture change,” Johnson said. “We all need to learn how to better serve the children and families we’re trying to help. We should let families lead and refrain from dictating to them what’s best. We have to be role models, and model what we expect others to do.”

Johnson also said that philanthropy is critical to the human services sector innovation as philanthropy can act more efficient than the federal government to spur change. She also noted that philanthropy joins government, faith-based organizations and private business as part of the four-legged stool that composes human services delivery in the United States.

Johnson also focused on her vision for ACF and areas for greater integration and reimagination such as:

  • better involvement of fathers into whole-family approach programs;
  • promoting generative models of the Human Services Values Curve;
  • better coordination with Housing and Urban Development; and
  • a rethinking around jobs and workforce development.

She’s also working on revisioning ACF’s various welfare programs including training for foster care; mental health options for youths and children; and dealing with family and childhood trauma.

“We need to move beyond just getting people a job,” said Johnson. “People need the dignity of work to begin the sequence of success to better equip their families to get out of poverty,” she added.

Johnson’s full bio can be read here.