Greetings from “The Family Room”

George Sheldon Sharing Dinner with a Child
In one of our nation's many family rooms, Sheldon shares some of an ample dinner served up by the D.A.D.S. fatherhood program in Seattle.

Greetings from “The Family Room,” ACF’s new blog.  I’m George Sheldon, the acting assistant secretary of ACF.

I will have many stories to share with you from the nation’s family room in the coming months, stories of the abiding strength of the human spirit.  My job gives me the privilege to see up close how ACF helps people overcome adversity.  Every day I work with leaders who make our 60-plus programs something to be proud of, offering the best possible social and economic services to millions of Americans.

It is my hope that, in this blog, I can impart just a fraction of the inspiration I feel as I visit these  programs and meet those associated with them.  I’m equally touched by those who extend a helping hand as by those who take that hand as they strive for a better life. I hope to convey the stories behind the statistics, so you’ll see how ACF is making a palpable difference in the lives of children and families.

In this first blog, though, I want to do something a little less poignant but just as important-- introduce you to ACF’s newly redesigned website. Throughout my career as a legislator and a state official, I have been committed to open and transparent government. The more citizens know about their government, the better government they are going to have.  With the right information, taxpayers can hold public officials accountable and make public agencies work better.

That’s why we’ve been working so hard on this redesign-- not only to better tell the story of ACF’s work and the people that it touches, but also to give you greater access to information.

Why do you need this kind of information? Here are a few examples:

  • The government can do a great job inspecting the quality of the facilities that it pays for—from nursing homes to Head Start centers--but it’s only meaningful if you can find the reports easily. Armed with that information, you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
  • Federal agencies issue many grants. In ACF, these grants could include training and technical assistance for child care providers, case management for human trafficking victims, or fatherhood support programs. A well designed website – with clearly written Funding Opportunity Announcements – will let more people know about and compete for these grants, ultimately resulting in stronger services for the American people.
  • Many locally provided services are funded through the federal government. If the information on those services is clear and easy to find—say, for example, in a clearly marked interactive map--those who most need the services will be more likely to receive them.

These are some of the many things we kept in mind as we re-designed this site. What you see now is only the first phase; we plan to complete the redesign by September 2012.  This phase highlights the design change and a re-writing of our key program pages. Each of our program offices has been taking a surgical knife to bureaucratic government language that too often fills our documents and web pages. Our goal is to write in plain language.

These new pages —the home pages for ACF and each of the program offices-- look very different from the old site. For now, though, you’ll notice that as you click further into the site you’ll be back in the older pages. Over the coming months, we’ll be updating and redesigning all of these pages. You’ll also find a much-improved search function, allowing you to more easily locate the information you need.

So, please pay me the ultimate blogger compliment and bookmark this home page. I hope you’ll come into ACF’s family room and pull up a chair--there are lots of stories to share.