Jerry Foxhoven charged with fixing the mess at Iowa DHS

The rumors were true: Drake University Law Professor Jerry Foxhoven will be the new Iowa Department of Human Services director, effective tomorrow.

The May 31 press release announcing Chuck Palmer’s retirement linked to a job listing for the DHS director position, to close on June 11. I would be surprised if Governor Kim Reynolds interviewed or seriously considered anyone else for this job, given the rapid turnaround. I never heard a rumor about any candidate other than Foxhoven.

I enclose below the full text of today’s announcement, including background on the new director. Foxhoven has a lot of relevant experience for the job, and I wish him the best of luck as he attempts to lead a department where big mid-year spending cuts will give way to even lower funding levels for the next fiscal year. Morale is reportedly poor among DHS workers, in part because of too-large caseloads. Medicaid privatization has proved disastrous for many vulnerable Iowans and service providers.

Speaking of which, Disability Rights Iowa filed suit yesterday against Reynolds and former DHS Director Palmer, seeking “to halt discriminatory cuts in services to 15,000 Iowans with serious disabilities,” Tony Leys and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register. Roxanne Conlin is helping the plaintiffs, who will seek certification for a class action.

UPDATE: Lee Rood and Tony Leys interviewed Foxhoven for the Des Moines Register. I posted excerpts below, but you should click through to read the whole thing.

June 14 press release:

Gov. Reynolds appoints Jerry Foxhoven as director of Iowa Department of Human Services

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that she will appoint Jerry Foxhoven, a well-known and highly respected leader in child protection and family law, to serve as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services. Foxhoven will begin his new position Thursday.

“Jerry Foxhoven is the compassionate, thoughtful leader we need serving in this important role,” Gov. Reynolds said. “DHS is on the front lines, working in all Iowa’s communities to ensure our state’s families are able to access the service and protection they expect and deserve. Jerry has the experience, qualification, respect and passion to excel in this demanding role.”

Foxhoven, 64, began practicing law in 1977 with a strong emphasis on trial practice in criminal and civil law. He was also extensively involved in juvenile and family law cases until 2000 when he began as administrator for the Iowa Child Advocacy Board. In this role, he was responsible for developing and implementing personnel policies, strategic planning and public policy advocacy. While in this position, he was also director of two separate child welfare advocacy programs: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Iowa Citizen Foster Care Review Board programs.

“I have spent my life defending and protecting the rights of others,” Foxhoven said. “To do so in this elevated position is a challenge I humbly accept. I look forward to building trust and relationships in all 99 counties, working on behalf of all Iowans as we work together to solve the challenges many Iowa families are facing each day.”

In 2006, Foxhoven became director of the Joan & Lyle Middleton Center for Children’s Rights, a state and national advocacy center focusing on children’s rights issues. Around the same time, he joined Drake Law School as a clinical professor. He instructed juvenile law for third-year law students in a clinical setting, supervising students in juvenile court proceedings and in the Legislative Practice Program as they drafted bills and lobbied for passage of bills pertaining to issues involving youth.

“I’ve known Jerry Foxhoven since my time as a student at Drake Law School,” Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg said. As State Public Defender, I was honored to work with him while he led the Drake Legal Clinic. Jerry has a servant’s heart and has worked to protect children his entire career. I am thankful he has chosen to use his time and talents in this position, and I am excited to partner with him to serve the needs of Iowans.”

Most recently, Foxhoven served as executive director of Clinical Programs and Professor of Law at Drake University’s School of Law. There, he supervised a number of administrative responsibilities relating to the school.

Foxhoven’s child protection leadership experience includes:

· Co-Chair, Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being Workgroup, 2015-16

· Chair, Iowa Juvenile Home Protection Task Force (appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad), 2013

· Member, Children Disabilities Services Workgroup, Mental Health and Disabilities Redesign Project, 2011-13

· Facilitator, Iowa Child Abuse Registry Revision Workgroup

· Chair, Iowa Child Welfare Advisory Committee, 2008-16 (appointed by Gov. Chet Culver and confirmed by the Iowa Senate)

· Board of Directors, National CASA, 2006-09

· Board of Directors, Iowa Child Abuse Prevention Council, 2010-2015

· Member, Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee, Iowa Juvenile Justice Advisory Council, 2005-2012

· Member, Iowa Children’s Justice State Council, 2007-2014

· Member, Iowa Child Policy Coalition, 2007-present

· Member, Iowa Child Protection Council, 2003-2019 (Chair, 2004-2016)

· Member, National Advisory Board, Fostering Families Today magazine, 2001-present

· Member, Diversity Committee, Iowa Supreme Court Select Committee to Review State Court Practices in Child Welfare Matters, 2000-2007

· Senior Fellow, Center for Adoption Research, University of Massachusetts, 2002-2004

· Board of Directors, Iowa Friends of Foster Children Foundation, 1989-2002 (President, 1997, 1999-2002)

· Governing Board Member, Kidsake, Iowa’s Special Needs Adoption Project, 2000-2002

· Member, National Foster Care Advisory Committee, Child Welfare League of America, 1998-2000

· Chair, Oversight Committee and Chair, Advisory Committee, Enhanced Quality Improvement Project (EQUIO). A three

Foxhoven has earned a number of state and national awards for his work on behalf of children and efforts to bolster diversity:

· “Friend of Children” award from The Coalition for Family and Children Services in Iowa, 2016

· “Outstanding Contribution to the Well-Being of Children and Youth” award from YESS in Ames, 2013

· “Friend of BLSA” award from the Black Law Student Association at Drake University

· “Margaret Hess Leadership in Family Empowerment (LIVE)” award from Youth and Shelter Services, 2013

· “American Dreams” award from the Iowa Friends of Foster Children Foundation, 2008

· “Champion for Children award from Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, 2007

· “Friend to Iowa’s Foster/Adopted Youth and Alumni” award, Elevate to Inspire, Children & Families of Iowa, 2007

· “Angel in Adoption” award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, 2004

· “Leader of the Year” award from Gov. Thomas Vilsack, 2002

· Served on many committees and workgroups on racial disparity issues, including the Legal Redress Committee of the Des Moines Branch of the NAACP, the Diversity Committee of National CASA and the Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee of the Iowa Juvenile Justice Advisory Council (a program of the Iowa Department of Human Rights)

· Served as a consultant to the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, and as faculty for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges on the issue of disproportionate treatment based on race and ethnicity

· Lectured on racial and ethnic over-representation issues in Portland (Ore.), New Orleans, Louisiana, Newark (N.J.), Philadelphia, Louisville and across the state of Iowa

Foxhoven has authored a number of articles and given hundreds of presentations throughout Iowa and the country. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Morningside College in 1974 and earned his Juris Doctor from Drake University Law School in 1977. He lives in Clive with his wife, Julie.

Foxhoven replaces Chuck Palmer, who retires as DHS director Friday.

UPDATE: Foxhoven spoke to the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood and Tony Leys. When he talked to Reynolds about the job,

“What she did not say is ‘Get us out of the paper,’” Jerry Foxhoven told The Des Moines Register Thursday, a few hours into the job. “What she did say is, ‘Help me make this system safer for kids.’”

He said he hopes to raise morale at the agency.

“They’ve had a tough time,” Foxhoven, a former director of the Drake University legal clinic, said of state social workers. “People don’t come to work for DHS because they think, ‘Gee, this is a cush job and it pays a lot of money.’ They come to DHS because they really feel like they can make a difference in people’s lives.

“I think part of my job will be to say, ‘If you want to beat somebody up, here I am.’”

From where I’m sitting, the smartest thing Reynolds could do would be to reverse Medicaid privatization. But Democrats should not get their hopes up that Foxhoven will advocate for that. He told Rood and Leys,

“I don’t see it going away, to be honest with you.”

He noted that the federal government is encouraging states to use private managers, and most states are doing so for at least part of their Medicaid programs.

He expressed optimism some problems with the privately run system will soon be smoothed out.

“It’s a huge program, and so there are going to be bumps,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of work going on to try to see if they can resolve those bumps. I’ll have to take a look to see what’s being done, does it make sense, and are we doing the right things with the managed-care organizations?”

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