Still a long way to go on DHS fix

We’ve advocated for some time now that with all the enormous and costly problems that exist within this state’s largest agency, known as the Department of Human Services, it came as no real surprise when its director John Selig said he was stepping down, and now we learn that Cecile Blucker, director of the troubled DHS Division of Children and Family Services is also jumping ship. While Gov. Asa Hutchinson has publicly come out and said Blucker’s departure announcement came as a surprise he knows very well the mess these DHS leaders have failed to clean up and that their jobs were in jeopardy as well as possibly other management positions. We know there is a lot of effort being put into locating Selig’s replacement, even to the point of spending tax dollars to hire a private firm to seek out qualified candidates on a national level. So far, we’re told, Hutchinson has interviewed three candidates and has completed the interview process. We are sure the governor is making it vividly clear to all these candidates that they will have their work cut out for them and the tasks at hand are enormous and very challenging. We’re talking about a multibillion-dollar state agency that has been plagued with serious and costly mistakes involving the implementation of the state’s controversial version of Obamacare as well as serious issues involving this agency’s handling of its Children and Family Services Division, which just so happens to have been under the direct leadership of Blucker. From what we can gather, Blucker, 54, has been on the job since March 2009, and has had somewhat of a sweet and sour relationship with elected lawmakers. While Blucker, who has been receiving an annual salary of over $113,000 plus state benefits, has gotten high praise from Selig, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, and who is co-chairman of the Joint Performance Review committee, said “There are many legislators who behind the scenes have let me know they don’t like Blucker…” And, Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, the other committee co-chair, said he believed Blucker’s resignation would help the division move forward. And, in a December Joint Performance Review committee, Sen. Kinda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, told Blucker that the director didn’t have the best interest of children at heart. We have to agree with Rep. Hammer who said, “There is a changing in culture that is occurring within DHS. There area lot of good workers within DHS. I believed that sometimes change in leadership can help open the door to the culture to evolve.” But, in Blucker’s defense, Rich Huddleston, director of Arkansas Advocates for Children, said it was his opinion that she has turned the division around in the right direction. It must also be pointed out that when Blucker took over the DHS division it was an agency in crisis, according to Huddleston, who went on to say, “I think she brought more accountability to a management perspective to that agency.” The point to all this is that the DHS agency, as massive as it is and with over 7,000 well-paid state employees, will definitely require new leadership and a positive change in direction that just may result in more personnel changes that just these two well-paid directors.

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