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'Upstream' Mission for NYC's New Juvenile Justice Chief

Incoming New York City Mayor Eric Adams named the former CEO of a major child-welfare provider to serve as his commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services, which oversees the city's child welfare and juvenile justice systems, The Imprint reports. Jess Dannhauser, who in October left the helm of Graham Windham, a nonprofit provider of foster care and family services, will succeed David Hansell, a former child welfare official in the Obama administration who led ACS through most of the tenure of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Hansell now is on deck to serve in a top child-welfare post in the Biden administration.

“For too long, we have taken a downstream approach to children’s welfare, setting up too many kids — particularly in Black and Brown communities — for a lifetime of challenges,” Adams said in a December 30 tweet. “Under Jess Dannhauser’ leadership, [ACS] will take an upstream approach for young New Yorkers at risk.” Dannhauser assumes the top job at ACS amid growing calls for the city to dramatically change the front end of the system. The city council received a bill that would guarantee Miranda-style warnings and the offer of legal counsel for parents, which the current administration pushed back on; the legislation failed to receive a vote. During Hansell’s tenure, ACS established three family enrichment centers, meant to be a voluntary, drop-in approach to helping families without the involvement of hotline reports and investigations. Graham Windham housed one of the original three centers. In May, the de Blasio administration announced plans to expand the network of these centers from three to 33 sites. The plan has received pushback from some advocates who believe that such programs cannot be led by an agency with the power to investigate and separate families.


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