Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the United States

Brief History

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) was established on April 15, 1991, under the authority granted by section 6 of the Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1953. This plan authorized the merger of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Human Development Services with the Family Support Administration, as well as the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant Program. This amalgamation resulted in the birth of the organization known as the Administration for Children and Families. ACF stands as the largest human services administration in the United States. This reorganization placed a heightened focus on addressing the needs of American children and families. You can view the press release for the HHS reorganization that occurred on April 15, 1991 for more information.

The mission of the Administration for Children and Families is to advance the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. This mission is achieved through a diverse range of educational and support programs, often in collaboration with states, tribes, and community organizations. ACF also provides guidance to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on matters related to children, youth, and families, which encompass areas such as child support enforcement, child welfare, child care, family assistance, Native American assistance, refugee resettlement, and more.

Today, ACF operates as one of the 11 divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It commands a budget that ranks as the second largest within HHS, with a funding allocation exceeding $62 billion in FY 2021. To offer perspective, ACF’s budget surpasses those of entire cabinet agencies like the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the Treasury Department.

ACF maintains a workforce of approximately 1,700 personnel, comprising 1,200 federal employees and 500 contractors. A significant portion of ACF staff, totaling 60%, is situated at the central office located in the Mary E. Switzer Building in Washington, D.C. The remaining 40% work in regional offices situated in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and a satellite office in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Julia Clifford Lathrop played a prominent role in ACF’s history. Some of the programs administered by ACF existed prior to the agency’s establishment. The oldest of these is the Children’s Bureau, founded in 1912, which became the world’s first agency dedicated to child welfare. Notably, President William Howard Taft appointed Julia Clifford Lathrop as its inaugural leader, marking a historic moment as she became the first woman ever to head a government agency. Miss Lathrop was an American social reformer with expertise in education, social policy, and children’s welfare, and she served as the agency’s director from 1912 to 1922.

Throughout the 20th Century, additional anti-poverty programs were introduced, and many of them eventually found their home under the purview of ACF. Currently, ACF is responsible for overseeing a variety of programs, including the Administration for Native Americans (established in 1974), Administration on Children, Youth and Families (created in 1977), the Children’s Bureau (founded in 1912), Early Childhood Development (initiated in 2010), Family and Youth Services Bureau (established in 1962), Office of Child Care (inaugurated in 1990), Office of Child Support Enforcement (commenced in 1975), Office of Community Services (created in 1964), Office of Head Start (established in 1964), Office of Family Assistance (originally founded in 1934 as Aid to Families with Dependent Children under the Social Security Act), Office of Human Services and Emergency Preparedness and Response (established in 2006), Office of Refugee Resettlement (initiated in 1980 under The Refugee Act of 1980), and the Office on Trafficking in Persons (created in 2015).

Leadership at ACF Throughout the Years

Since its establishment, the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families role has been filled by the following individuals (* denotes Acting):

1. Jo Anne B. Barnhart (1991-1992)
2. Laurence J. Love* (1993)
3. Mary Jo Bane (1993-1996)
4. Olivia Golden (1997-2000)
5. Diann Dawson* (2001)
6. Wade Horn (2001-2007)
7. Daniel Schneider* (2007-2008)
8. Curtis Coy* (2009)
9. David Hansell* (2009)
10. Carmen Nazario (2009-2010)
11. David Hansell* (2010-2011)
12. George Sheldon* (2011-2013)
13. Mark Greenberg* (2014-2017)
14. Naomi Goldstein* (2017)
15. Amanda Barlow* (2017)
16. Steven Wagner* (2017-2018)
17. Lynn Johnson (2018-2020)
18. Ben Goldhaber* (2021)
19. JooYeun Chang* (2021-2022)
20. Jennifer Cannistra* (2022)
21. January Contreras (2022-2023)
22. Jeff Hild* (2023-Present)

Our Aims and Objectives

The Administration for Children & Families (ACF), a division of the Department of Health & Human Services, is dedicated to advancing the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

ACF programs are designed to achieve the following goals:

1. Empower families and individuals, enabling them to enhance their economic self-sufficiency and productivity.

2. Foster resilient, healthy, and supportive communities that positively impact the quality of life and the growth of children.

3. Forge partnerships with frontline service providers, states, localities, and tribal communities to identify and implement solutions that go beyond traditional program boundaries.

4. Enhance access to services through careful planning, reform, and integration.

5. Address the needs, strengths, and capabilities of vulnerable populations, including refugees and migrants.

ACF Vision, Mission, and Core Values


Our vision is to see children, youth, families, individuals, and communities who demonstrate resilience, safety, well-being, and economic security.


We are committed to promoting health and well-being by offering federal leadership, forming partnerships, and allocating resources to deliver compassionate and effective human services.

Core Values

Our core values guide our actions and include:

1. Dedication: We are dedicated to instilling hope and providing opportunities for those in need of human services.

2. Excellence: We strive for excellence in our performance, seeking innovative solutions grounded in available evidence that expand our knowledge and transcend conventional boundaries.

3. Professionalism: We conduct ourselves with professionalism in the services we provide, our approach, the relationships we cultivate, and our unwavering commitment to the Administration for Children and Families’ mission.

4. Integrity: The Administration for Children and Families, as an organization, upholds the highest standards of integrity, with each of us embodying ethical conduct.

5. Stewardship: We are responsible stewards of the resources entrusted to us by the people of the United States. We uphold accountability and transparency in our actions as public servants.

6. Respect: We hold deep respect for those we serve, those we collaborate with, and those who partner with us in our mission.

Website link:

Phone number: 1-202-401-9200

See also:

U. S Access Board | Equality for individuals with disabilities in the USA

AbilityOne Program, United States | History, Employment Opportunities & FAQ

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