HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra – Photo courtesy of HHS


Special to The Dallas Examiner


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new office Monday that reflects the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to prioritizing domestic violence prevention and addressing the intersections of domestic violence prevention work across the federal government. The new Office of Family Violence Prevention and Services is under the Administration for Children and Families.

“Following the historic investments from the American Rescue Plan for supportive services for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, this new office is the next step in HHS’ continued efforts to help families live the safe and stable life that we all deserve,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

ACF has identified preventing and addressing domestic violence, intimate partner violence and dating violence as a key priority. ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau has been doing this work alongside states, tribes and territories through its OFVPS for many years. With this office realignment, the Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services will move out of ACF’s FYSB and into the Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary as the new OFVPS, allowing ACF to continue this work in partnership with health and social service agencies to improve support for families experiencing violence and trauma as Congress intended when it first authorized the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. Creating a separate office and establishing this new office in the Assistant Secretary’s Office will better position OFVPS to support a comprehensive approach to domestic violence prevention across ACF, HHS and the federal government.

“This new office underlines ACF’s commitment to prevention programs, survivor services, and a whole family approach to serving families when they need it most,” ACF Assistant Secretary January Contreras said. “ACF will continue to implement a comprehensive strategy to promote violence prevention through programs and resources that impact survivors’ physical and behavioral health, safety, well-being, housing, economic mobility and family stability.”

Shawndell Dawson, will serve as the director of OFVPS. Dawson has an extraordinary record of federal service and national advocacy experience on the issues of domestic and dating violence prevention, including leading ACF’s domestic violence services and interagency partnerships as the director of the Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services, within ACF’s FYSB.

“Establishing a new office for FVPSA grant programs in ACF will better position the voices of survivors as leaders of comprehensive domestic violence prevention across the federal government,” Director Shawndell Dawson said. “I – along with advocates, survivors and FVPSA team members – am truly honored that OFVPS has been positioned by ACF to stand alongside the Office of Trafficking in Persons to serve as a senior advisor to all ACF leaders, divisions and programs as we work to provide equitable trauma-informed assistance for adults, children and youth.”

Three of the priority goals of the new OFVPS will be to:

  • Develop an ACF-wide strategy and action plan for preventing and responding to domestic violence across social service programs. This ACF-wide strategy will better leverage existing services available for survivors of domestic violence, intimate partner violence and dating violence; maximize public-private partnerships; and strengthen coordination with other federal and state government funding mechanisms for survivors.
  • Maintain and lead coordination and collaboration efforts across agency partners, including continued and strengthened partnerships with the new HHS Office of Assistant Secretary for Health’s Director of Sexual & Gender-Based Violence, the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and more.
  • Prioritize the continued implementation appropriations to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

An established office within ACF with a singular focus on domestic violence and intimate partner violence reflects the administration’s priorities and demonstrates a deep understanding of the scale of domestic violence in this country and the needs of all families accessing ACF services.

Mollie Finch Belt is the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Dallas Examiner. She attended elementary school in Tuskegee, Ala.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Dallas, Texas. In 1961, she graduated from...

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