Allison Blake, PhD, LSW
Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families
Dr. Allison Blake was appointed Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families by Governor Chris Christie and was confirmed with a unanimous vote by the Senate on June 21, 2010.
As Commissioner, she has emphasized an integrated and strategic approach to serving children and families in the State. To that end, Dr. Blake has focused on a community-based, family-centered approach to service delivery throughout the work of the entire Department, ensured the inclusion of the parent and youth voice in the Department's planning and quality improvement work, and fostered a significant expansion of partnerships with the community to help enhance child abuse prevention and family strengthening efforts across the state.
With a vision to promote sustainable growth and identify areas of improvement, as one of her first initiatives, Dr. Blake elevated the status of the child protection division's office on adolescents to a Department-level office with an emphasis on more strategic approach to serving youth transitioning to adulthood. By partnering with youth, parents, stakeholders, and service providers, and other state agencies to determine the current strengths of the system and the opportunities for improvement, a formal strategic plan was launched in 2011. Early achievements include the expansion of transitional housing, internships, and financial literacy programs, as well as practice improvements across the system.
This work prepared New Jersey well for the response needed to the growing human trafficking challenge faced by many states. Dr. Blake's commitment to these youth has allowed the department to take a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, intervention and treatment strategies to help victims become survivors.
Dr. Blake has placed a strong emphasis on continuous quality improvement, first by creating a department level office focused on performance management and accountability to help the department become a self-correcting, transparent organization; and later supporting a statewide leadership development plan to teach mid level staff how to manage by data in order to address problems and trends as they are identified. This work has included studying and understanding practice with children and families, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data, and including input from external stakeholders as well as internal staff.
Since Superstorm Sandy touched down in New Jersey in October 2012 causing unprecedented damage, Dr. Blake has provided leadership to the state's recovery efforts for women, children, and families. She has also spearheaded efforts to better prepare child serving organizations for natural disasters and improve sheltering strategies for children and their families. Dr. Blake has been committed to building partnerships and enhancing collaborative efforts through a public health approach with an emphasis on trauma-informed care in the aftermath of the storm. In recognition of these contributions, Commissioner Blake was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in 2014.
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Allison Blake has been working on behalf of children and families, and the social workers who serve them. Prior to rejoining state service, she served as the Director of the Institute for Families at the Rutgers School of Social Work, where she oversaw a portfolio of grants and contracts aimed at strengthening families by building the capacity of the individuals and organizations that serve them. She also served as Vice President of Accreditation Operations at the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international organization that develops best practice standards for public and private organizations that provide services across the continuum of care. Her focus while at COA was on helping agencies build their capacity to improve service delivery. Previously, she spent 18 years at the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, where she worked in various direct service and administrative positions. This commitment coupled with her extensive experience and leadership dovetails with the mission, vision and focus of the Child Welfare League of America to which she has become a board member.
Dr. Blake earned her BS in Social Work from University of Dayton, an MS in Social Work from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in Social Work from Fordham University.
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