March 30,2022

Press Contact:

Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515 

Wyden Delivers Floor Remarks on the Nomination of January Contreras to Serve as HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families

As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. President, the Senate will soon vote on an important nomination to the Department of Health and Human Services. January Contreras is President Biden’s choice to serve as Assistant Secretary for Children and Families. 

When she’s confirmed and sworn in, Ms. Contreras will oversee programs that are all about caring for some of the most vulnerable people in the country — particularly young people in the child welfare system. 

One of the big challenges in the last few years for the Administration for Children and Families has been the implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act. The Finance Committee wrote that law on a bipartisan basis, and it’s a once in a generation overhaul of how child welfare works in America. 

Under the old system, families were broken apart by default. The Finance Committee recognized that young people grow better at home, and families have incredible capacity to heal with the proper support. 

We designed the Family First Prevention Services Act to help families stay together whenever it’s safe and possible. Maybe a parent needs substance abuse or mental health treatment, and getting clean would make the home safe. Maybe a grandparent is able to step in as caretaker for their grandkids. 

This new approach built that smart flexibility into the system so that kids and families get the support they need. And in my view, it’s especially important right now to help address mental health and substance abuse and strengthen families at the same time. Family First can and should be doing that.

Implementing that law has required a lot of close collaboration between the federal government and the states. It hasn’t been easy. The previous administration made it especially challenging. But this is a bipartisan priority for the Finance Committee, and I’m looking forward to working with Ms. Contreras on that task. 

Ms. Contreras and I also have some work experience in common. Most recently she’s led Arizona Legal Women and Youth Services, a legal aid organization for children and young adults who have experienced abuse, neglect, family separation, homelessness, and human trafficking. Before my time in Congress, I was the co-director of the Oregon Gray Panthers, a legal aid organization for elderly people in my home state who were getting clobbered by insurance scams and bill collectors and who needed help getting from day to day. 

I’m always happy to see a nominee come through with experience in legal aid. That’s especially valuable for nominees up for positions like the head of the Administration for Children and Families. I’m pleased to support Ms. Contreras’ nomination. She had bipartisan support in the Finance Committee. I urge all my colleagues to vote to confirm her nomination today.