UPDATED: Arkansas Children And Family Services Director To Resign

Jan 27, 2016

Cecile Blucker Director of Children and Family Services at the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
Credit arktimes.com

Cecile Blucker, director of Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services, is resigning effective March 31. She has served in the role since 2009.

In an e-mail to staff, she said she wants to spend more time with family.

"As change is inevitable in all phases of our life, it is time for me to focus more and spend more time with those I love."

Her resignation letter to staff said despite "adverse situations - lack of funding, staff, etc." she is proud of the division's accomplishments.

She didn't delve into the specifics of a beleaguered foster care system but noted there is much more DCFS needs to do.

"These are the beginning programs to help address the generational issues we so often see in the child welfare system."

DHS spokesperson Amy Webb told KUAR it was solely Blucker's choice, "this was her decision, and she was not asked to leave."

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday afternoon Governor Asa Hutchinson said he wasn't expecting her to step down and had supported her work.

"Cecile Blucker surprised us and submitted her resignation but she was so gracious to be able to stay on through any transition. Cecile's been an extraordinary public servant," said Hutchinson.

In a press release from the department, DHS Director John Selig also praised Blucker's work.

“Cecile had done a phenomenal job in turning DCFS around, from an agency in crisis to one that the federal government and other states often cite as a 'best practice' model,” DHS Director John Selig said. “She has dedicated her time as director to strengthening the child welfare system and the families it serves, and I appreciate all that she has done.”

Director Selig announced his plans to step down last year. The governor said on Wednesday that he has completed an interview process with three candidates to replace Selig. Hutchinson said he'll soon release his selection "in the near future."

"Blucker's e-mail to staff on Wednesday morning:

After a lot of thought, I have resigned as the Director of Children and Family Services effective March 31, 2016.  This is not a decision that I have made lightly as child welfare has captured my heart.

I am very proud of the Division and the accomplishments that have been made even under some of the most adverse situations – lack of funding, staff, etc.  However the state has continued to exceed a number of national standards and continues to receive national recognition.

In looking back over the years, the state’s child welfare system has implemented a number of innovative and evidence-based programs designed to strengthen how we assess and deliver services to the children and families we are charged with serving.  Through these programs, the state should see healthier families who are not as apt to abuse and neglect their children.  These are the beginning programs to help address the generational issues we so often see in the child welfare system.

There will continue to be many more accomplishments due to the very committed child welfare staff in the state.  It is my hope that more individuals will come to realize the dedication and commitment of the staff here.  I have said a number of times that many staff sacrifice or neglect their own children/family because they are taking care of the children and families as an agency we are to serve.

The experiences and the people I have met, while serving in this role, will stay with me for a lifetime.  In child welfare we see the worst of human kind however we see the rewards of individuals getting their lives back together and the smiles of the children who get to go back home with their families.  We also see the smiles of those children who have gotten that second chance at a new family.

We do make a difference in the life of children and families every day – never lose sight of that and always remember it is always easier to have people look in and tell you how they think you should have done your job vs. doing the job.

As change is inevitable in all phases of our life, it is time for me to focus more and spend more time with those I love.

I appreciate each of you and appreciate the opportunity to have served you and the state in this role.  I appreciate all of the support I have received.  I wish only the best for the Division and for the children and families we are charged with protecting and serving.

Again, thank you so much for your dedication and commitment.

Cecile Blucker

Director 

Division of Children and Family Services  

Press Release from DHS:

Cecile Blucker, Director of the Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS), announced Wednesday that she plans to leave her position at the end of March.

Blucker has served as the DCFS Director since March 2009. Prior to holding that position, she served as the chief financial officer and as an assistant director for the division. Under her leadership, the Division has undergone major reforms that allowed more families to stay together and ultimately stay out of the child welfare system. The Division also increased its use of evidence-based practices when working with children and families and began collecting extensive data about child welfare on which better decisions could be made.

“Cecile had done a phenomenal job in turning DCFS around, from an agency in crisis to one that the federal government and other states often cite as a 'best practice' model,” DHS Director John Selig said. “She has dedicated her time as director to strengthening the child welfare system and the families it serves, and I appreciate all that she has done.”

Blucker said Friday that she plans to stay through March to allow time for the Governor to find her replacement and to help the division complete several projects that are ongoing.

In an email to her staff sent Wednesday morning, Blucker said, “I am very proud of the Division and the accomplishments that have been made even under some of the most adverse situations – lack of funding, staff, etc. However, the state has continued to exceed a number of national standards and continues to receive national recognition.”

The state’s child welfare system meets or exceeds national standards in several areas, including the percentage of children who have permanent placement within 12 months at 62.3 percent (national standard is 40.5 percent), the percentage of children who re-enter the foster care system within 12 months at 6.3 percent (national standard is 8.3 percent), and recurrence of maltreatment within 12 months at 5.4 percent (national standard is 9.1 percent).

Blucker credited a hard-working and dedicated staff across the state for the strides that have been made, but she also acknowledged that the high number of children coming into care and the increased number of investigations have put a strain on the system.