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Susan N. Dreyfus-Washington Champion for Change

Susan N. Dreyfus
Secretary, State of Washington
Department of Social and Health Services

When she wasappointed Secretary of Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services, Susan Dreyfus had a plan for improving how systems and communities could work together efficiently and effectively to deliver services to our most vulnerable youth. Groundwork laid by Washington Models for Change leaders quickly became a central part of that plan.

Within months of taking her post in May of 2009, Secretary Dreyfus worked with the Center for Children & Youth Justice to create a Special Assistant on Juvenile Justice, a position that reports directly to her. With the support of this new assistant, Secretary Dreyfus has embraced Washington’s Models for Change work plan and integrated it into Department policy and practice reforms targeting status offenders, disproportionate minority contact, mental health and integrated case management. That is hitting the ground running.

“Susan is an energetic leader who brings keen insight and creativity to the job. Her experience in the public and private sectors on the variety of issues confronting the secretary provides a welcome perspective in these challenging times,” said Justice Bobbe J. Bridge (ret.).

Experienced she is. Before coming to Washington State, Secretary Dreyfus worked at the local, state and national levels in behavioral health care, national non-profit management and human services advocacy, as well as holding executive positions in state and county government. She serves on several national advisory boards and is a member of the Chapin Hall Center for Children Board of Directors at the University of Chicago and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) Board of Directors. Throughout her career, she has been committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children and adults, and their families.

With an ambitious, multi-faceted Models for Change work plan for DSHS in place, Secretary Dreyfus gave top priority to the reconfiguration of the state advisory group. She recognized the need for strong collaborative partnership from both state and community leaders and knew it needed to be institutionalized for reform efforts to continue beyond the life of the Models for Change initiative. The new State Partnership Council on Juvenile Justice was officially created by executive order of Governor Christine Gregoire on September 13, 2010.

“This is what a collaborative partnership for juvenile justice reform looks like,” said Bridge. “Susan has included Models for Change leaders and National Resource Bank consultants in executive leadership meetings to help hammer out plans for system improvements. She is offering open access to her office and isn’t holding back.”

Secretary Dreyfus is also moving, through the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA), to act on the Models for Change work plan for disproportionate minority contact reduction. Through the leadership of JRA Assistant Secretary John Clayton, the plan calls for increasing utilization of suspended disposition options, resulting in fewer youth committed to JRA institutions; developing a media campaign increasing public knowledge of Disproportionate Minority Contact; and reviewing/ revising parole revocation policy and procedure, reducing the number of parole violators returning to JRA institutions.

While her budget is tightening and her tenure in the post still short, the early reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Community leaders have praised her efforts to restart the state advisory group and for increased outreach. She strives to include youth voices and spends time visiting youth conferences and facilities. Her staff is inspired by her positive and tireless work ethic and willingness to push hard for change.