Gov. Nathan Deal’s choice to head the Department of Human Services would take over an agency that has been under considerable pressure in recent years.
Robyn Crittenden, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Georgia Student Finance Commission, would replace Keith Horton as commissioner of Human Services, the governor’s office announced last week.
Crittenden’s appointment must be approved by the agency’s board and would take effect July 1.
Much of the turbulence buffeting Human Services has involved DFCS supervision of child welfare services for the state, especially in the wake of gruesome child deaths.
Fallout from the deaths helped spark state hiring of more caseworkers and Deal’s creation of a council to review the child welfare system. For a long time, the twin burdens of high caseloads and stagnant pay had led to low morale among DFCS employees.
The General Assembly recently approved reforms that include making the director of DFCS directly report to the governor. The new law creates a state DFCS advisory board and a centralized child abuse registry.
Human Services also oversees aging services for Georgia, and that became a political issue this year. The General Assembly passed a bill to move the current Division of Aging Services out of Human Services, but Gov. Deal vetoed it.
Proponents of the legislation noted that more than 1 million Georgians — or roughly 1 out of 10 people in the state — are 65 or older. And over the next 30 years, Georgia is facing an estimated 143 percent increase in its senior population. A separate agency would give more visibility and funding to issues involving seniors, the bill’s supporters said.
“This legislation attempts to merge two agencies with diverse missions and methods of service delivery while failing to align elderly services to the agency whose mission and scope is to deliver human services throughout the state,’’ Deal said in his veto statement.
With Crittenden’s appointment, Horton, the current Human Services commissioner, will assume the role of assistant commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, the governor’s statement said Friday.
“The Department of Human Services has remained vital to the health and well-being of thousands of Georgia families for decades,” said Deal. “Robyn brings with her years of experience that will allow her to confidently and effectively lead the department in its mission to empower Georgians through its services. I appreciate her willingness to take on this new, exciting challenge, and I thank Commissioner Horton for his leadership as he continues to serve our state.”
Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, said Monday, “I wish Commissioner Horton well in his future endeavors and look forward to working with the new commissioner to improve services for Georgia’s aging population.”
Crittenden could not be reached for comment Monday.
Prior to her current position, Crittenden worked as the general counsel at Morehouse College, as executive vice president and general counsel at the Georgia Student Finance Commission, and as assistant vice chancellor of legal affairs-contracts for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
She was also an assistant county attorney in DeKalb County and an associate at the law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy.
Crittenden received a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a law degree from the University of Michigan. She has one child and resides in Tucker.