by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Monday that Interim Division of Youth Services (DYS) Director Betty Guhman will take on the role permanently. Guhman has served as interim director of DYS since late July.
“I am pleased by today’s announcement naming Betty Guhman as permanent director of DHS Division of Youth Services. Betty, whom I’ve known for many years, has done a phenomenal job since stepping in to the interim role earlier this summer and has proven to be the best person for the job,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “Her years and breadth of experience in child welfare and human services have equipped her with an invaluable set of skills, and while she will certainly be missed in her role as my senior advisor, I know the state and our children are better served with Betty at the helm at DYS.”
DHS Director Cindy Gillespie said Guhman is the right person to lead the division as the agency moves forward.
“She’s already started taking an in-depth look at the division and is willing to put in the hard work necessary to ensure are juvenile justice system is more robust and better serves youth,” Gillespie said.
Guhman began her career as a protective service worker for what is now the DHS Division of Children and Family Services in 1973. In 1977, she was named deputy commissioner of the newly formed Division of Youth Services.
These positions were the beginning of a long career in public service, including time as a tenured professor at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Social Work and the director of the Fulbright School of Public Affairs. She also served as a Chief of Staff when Hutchinson was a Congressman and as Chief of Staff and advisor when he served as first Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Guhman had served since 2014 as a senior advisor to Hutchinson, where her primary duty was to remain cognizant of developments that impacted DHS in general and child welfare.
“I look forward to meeting with everyone involved in the system, especially judges as I work to ensure that the services we are buying are meeting the needs of our youth and the courts, “ Guhman said. “I’m also putting a greater emphasis on using data to drive decisions and providing more alternatives to commitment.”
Guhman has a bachelor’s in social work from the University of Arkansas and a master’s in social work administration from University of Arkansas at Little Rock.