Arkansas Children

Harrisburg Treatment Center

The Arkansas Division of Youth Services is planning to stop using its Arkansas-based providers in all but one of the state's juvenile treatment centers and correctional facilities, in favor of a single company from Indiana.

At a meeting of the Children and Youth Committee on Monday, Interim Director Betty Guhman said the state will also boost its per-bed, per-day rate for juvenile offenders by 58 percent – from $147 a day to $232. State Senator Linda Chesterfield said she wants to know from where the additional funds come.

The new Interim Director of the Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services Betty Guhman.
The Arkansas Governor's Office.

The Division of Youth Services at the Arkansas Department of Human Services has a new interim director. DHS announced on Tuesday that Betty Guhman, a long-time advisor to Governor Asa Hutchinson, will serve in the role.

She’s worked with Hutchinson since his days in Congress but began her career at DHS in 1973 as a protective service worker. Spokeswoman Amy Webb says Guhman was involved with the division’s inception.

Cindy Gillespie DHS director
Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas Department of Human Services director Cindy Gillespie is moving quickly to implement reforms in the state’s largest agency, and she anticipates the foundation for many policy changes to be laid prior to the 2017 legislative session.

Cindy Gillespie

Cindy Gillespie heads the Arkansas Department of Human Services, a sprawling agency in charge of traditional Medicaid; Arkansas Works; and the state’s 4,900 foster children, among other areas. The Georgia native began working at DHS March 1 and will be paid a salary of $280,000, which is $119,000 more than her predecessor, John Selig.

As a senior adviser to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, she played a leading role in the development of that state’s health reforms. She earlier helped plan the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games.

The director of the state agency responsible for housing and treating Arkansas' youth offenders has announced his resignation.

The Department of Human Services announced Thursday that its Division of Youth Services director, Marcus Devine, had resigned. Spokeswoman Amy Webb says Devine met with staff Thursday to announce he was leaving immediately for a position in the private sector.

Senator Jeremy Hutchinson

State Republican Senator Jeremy Hutchinson says appointed attorneys for indigent parents in child custody cases can’t afford expert witnesses, and are at a disadvantage to counter arguments made by the Department of Human Services.

Hutchinson also said he thinks it is a conflict of interest that attorneys representing parents and children in custody cases work under the same agency, the Administrative Office of the Courts.

"There is an inherent conflict in having what's often times antagonistic parties represented by individuals who work for the same entity," he said.

Arkansas Department of Human Services

The head of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Juvenile Justice Reform Board is disputing an advocacy group’s characterization of the state’s oldest youth facility as “notorious.”

Youth First, a criminal justice reform group, ranked the state’s Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander as one of the nation’s 80 worst.

Marcus Devine, Director of Youth Services at the Department of Human Services, said that’s hyperbole.  

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

A non-profit is forming between Arkansas prison officials, community members, religious leaders, and the Department of Human Services, to address high recidivism rates, and overcrowding in the state’s foster care system.

Arkansas Department of Community Correction Chief Deputy Director Kevin Murphy said the effort is an extension of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s “restore hope” initiative.

Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Members of the Arkansas Judiciary say inefficiencies, lack of information and inadequate staffing are the main hurdles to deciding where to place neglected and abused children in the state.

A round of hearings on child welfare reform was held Tuesday. The meeting was conducted jointly by the state Senate Committee on Children and Youth and the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs.

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

Foster care officials are pointing to a shortage of caseworkers as numbers of children in the state's system steadily increase.

Division of Children and Family Services director, Cecile Blucker, and staff from the Department of Human Services, spoke to lawmakers Wednesday.

They said the number of foster kids has grown by about 700 in the last few months to 4,600. According to Blucker, 7,600 children are protective service cases and are living at home.