Currents Fall 2016 Issue

Image of the masthead for the e-newsletter Currents, which shows the ocean with an island in the background and seagulls in the

In this fall issue:

Message from Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg

ACF Supports the Territories

Last July, I visited the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico (PR), along with Joyce Thomas, Nicole Meyers, and Bronia Ashford from Region II. During the visits, we met with their Governors and government officials, met with researchers that ACF has funded for territory-specific research and held listening sessions on homelessness and the impacts of economic conditions on human services. Both USVI and PR are facing significant stresses from high unemployment and population losses, and we focused on ways in which ACF programs and technical assistance can be supportive.

In the past, I have asked ACF leadership to take action to strengthen our efforts to ensure that ACF programs are being responsive to the needs of insular areas.

I have urged our principals to:

  • Strengthen communications and coordination with our territorial counterparts;
  • Ensure important documents and guidance are translated in Spanish, when appropriate;
  • Work closely with territorial officials to address existing compliance and audit issues; and
  • Expand and coordinate culturally and linguistically responsive training and technical assistance.

Our programs have heeded this call to action. For example, the Children’s Bureau is working closely with its Commonwealth counterparts to maximize funding under Title IV-E, currently capped under Section 1108. The Administration for Native Americans recently launched its Pacific Regional Compendium, a resource guide intended to provide comprehensive information on ANA’s grants and services in the Pacific. ACF is actively participating in HHS-wide efforts to ensure the effective use of federal resource and attend the territories’ needs.

This year, the United States, particularly Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and now Florida are being threatened by the Zika virus. Given the serious health risks to pregnant women, newborns, as well as other vulnerable populations, we have been reaching out to our grantees and stakeholders to explore possible collaborations to help fight Zika. Check out how Puerto Rico is using LIHEAP funds to prevent the spread of Zika.

You can count on ACF to continue supporting efforts to ensure families and children in American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands are resilient, safe, healthy and economically secure.

View the Spanish version.


Mark Greenberg at sit down meeting with Governor Alejandro García PadillaActing Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg and Regional Administrator Joyce A. Thomas meet with Governor Alejandro García Padilla and Secretary Idalia Colón Rondón of the Department of the Family at La FortalezaPuerto Rico and The Spirit of Partnership – Puerto Rico y El Espíritu de Colaboración

By Joyce A. Thomas

I’m a big believer in the power of partnership. There is no doubt about it—partnerships are valuable because working together, we can accomplish more for children and families than any of us can do alone.

Whenever I work with my colleagues from Puerto Rico, I am always impressed by their knowledge, energy, commitment, creativity and partnership.

After our visit with the US Virgin Islands, I flew to Puerto Rico with Mark Greenberg, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, and staff from my office, where we had several opportunities to learn more about and witness how partnerships are enhancing Puerto Rico’s capacity to improve outcomes for children and families.

Partnership was the theme of discussions among Governor Alejandro García Padilla, Puerto Rico Department of the Family Secretary Idalia Colón Rondón, Department of the Family Administrators and ACF officials. Partnerships are key to ensure that services in Puerto Rico will not only continue during the current fiscal crisis, but remain a priority to guarantee the delivery of comprehensive services to individuals, children, families and communities. Governor Padilla expressed strong interest in expanding services for the health, safety, and well-being of children and families.

We would learn more about the economic and community impact of human services programs from more than thirty stakeholders who participated in a listening session focused on the debt crisis in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. At a focus group about family and youth homelessness and human trafficking we heard directly from forty community stakeholders. One Head Start representative described the importance of partnership among non-profits on behalf of children and Families stating “Not all Superheroes wear capes.” Several stakeholders indicated they would partner to help eradicate homelessness and human trafficking. We will be following up with DOF, community partners and our federal partners about resources and programs to support their focus on multiple generations and vulnerable populations.

As part of efforts to promote the most promising and effective programs and policies to serve low income children and families, ACF funded the Puerto Rico Human Service Research Partnership. During our visit, we met with thirty members of the team, led by the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico Metropolitan Campus (IAUPR-MC) and principal investigator, Carmen R. Nazario. It was exciting to hear how this project has brought together key stakeholders from government, non-profit and private sectors, including academia and philanthropy, to advance research and knowledge about low income families and children. The research partnership is a critical component for improving the well-being of families and children in Puerto Rico.

No doubt you have heard the saying “success breeds success.” Truly, an effective partnership for one issue can be the key to developing other effective collaborations. In the past, ACF Region 2 has worked with the Ricky Martin Foundation (RMF) to combat human trafficking. Now, the US Department of Health and Human Services is starting to build a new partnership with RMF, one that will help to meet Puerto Rico’s most recent public health challenge—the Zika virus.

Our visit would not be complete without meeting with our ACF staff located in the San Juan Satellite office. This small team provides on-site fiscal, technical assistance and programmatic oversight for and ….partner with our programs in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Creating and sustaining effective partnerships takes time, work and commitment. I was thrilled to see Puerto Rico in action, continuing to come together to best serve children and families.

Listening Session: The economic and community impact of human service programs resulting from the debt crisis in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Mark Greenberg and Joyce A. Thomas attend a listening sessionActing Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg and Regional Administrator Joyce A. Thomas (Center)

Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg with RA Joyce ThomasActing Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg with Regional Administrator Joyce A.Thomas meet with the Honorable Kenneth E. Mapp, Governor of the USVIBusy Times in the US Virgin Islands

By Joyce A. Thomas

Whenever I visit the US Virgin Islands (USVI), I am, of course, struck by the beauty of the

islands. Moreover, I am impressed by the dedication and commitment of the staff as they tackle a variety of significant challenges.

“Resiliency” is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity.

“Resiliency” is the capacity to become strong or successful again after something bad happens.

“Resiliency” is a word that describes the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In July 2016, I had the opportunity to see resiliency in action when I traveled to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) with Mark Greenberg, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, and staff from the Region 2 office for the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Region 2 jurisdiction includes the US Virgin Islands, New Jersey, New York and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Our visit was brief and busy as we traveled to St. Thomas and St. Croix. We met with The Honorable Kenneth E. Mapp, Governor of the USVI; former Commissioner Vivian Ebbesen-Fludd of the USVI Department of Human Services; Attorney General Claude E. Walker of the USVI Department of Justice and community members. The Department of Human Services (DHS) serves as the “state agency” for programs that address the needs of low income, disabled and aged people. DHS is also responsible for TANF, Head Start, child care, foster care, child abuse and neglect, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), juvenile justice and delinquency prevention programs, as well as Medicaid and senior citizen residential services. In addition, DHS also has oversight for ending homelessness in the territory. The Department of Justice manages the Paternity and Child Support Division.

The USVI faces many challenges. In recent years, one of the most formidable issues the USVI has had to deal with was the closing of the Hovensa oil refinery. During our visit, we met with community representatives to learn more about the economic and community impact on human services programs resulting from the closing of Hovensa.

When the refinery closed in 2012, it had a dominant role in the territory’s economy. Employing more than 2,000 people, Hovensa was the largest private employer and taxpayer in the territory. The facility, which occupied more than 1,500 acres, had a significant physical presence on St. Croix, the largest of the islands comprising the USVI. Although the refinery was converted to an oil storage terminal, many jobs were lost. The work force fell to 100 and staff left St. Croix; people and the local economy suffered. Financial support that Hovensa provided to local businesses and non-profit organizations also vanished. Not surprisingly, the financial, health and human services infrastructure became strained. As jobs were lost, banks and hotels closed; tourism suffered; foster care placements increased and child support payments decreased. It was a difficult and stressful time. However, there is good news. In January 2016, a portion of the Hovensa refinery was sold, which provided an influx of cash and the deeds to former refinery property. In June, Governor Mapp announced plans that will transform the economy of St. Croix in the coming years by bringing hundreds of jobs to the island through major investments, including a substantial increase in oil storage and refining. This will generate additional revenue, vocational training and employment opportunities for US Virgin Islanders.

While in St. Croix, we had the opportunity to attend a listening session with community stakeholders about family and youth homelessness. The USVI has an active Interagency Council on Homelessness. Not surprisingly, homelessness is, in part, linked to economic conditions, however, mental health issues and lack of social supports for families and youth aging out of foster care are also contributing factors. We also met with Dr. Noreen Michaels, principal investigator for the Human Services Research Partnership Project on the U.S. Virgin Islands. This partnership, among researchers, local governments and community-based organizations, is exploring issues concerning social service needs and public welfare systems in the territory, particularly as it relates to the Head Start and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

Yes, there is good news and reason for optimism. Although challenges still remain, the USVI is expecting some economic improvement. The VI is making progress with the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and has also launched a new campaign, “Fatherhood Buzz,” to support dads. Under the Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Michelle Davis, the USVI is mustering its resources as it grapples with the Zika virus and sharing what is learned with others.

I am pleased that ACF as a whole and ACF Region 02, in particular is continuing to work with the USVI to marshal resources to move ahead and realize our mutual mission of children, youth, families, individuals, and communities who are resilient, safe, healthy, and economically secure.

Resources for Zika

How can we protect our children and ourselves from Zika?

By Katherine A. Beckmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Health, Office of Early Childhood Development

With more than 1,300 pregnant women with any laboratory evidence of Zika virus infection Visit disclaimer page in the United States, it’s understandable that many families are concerned about becoming infected. However, it’s important to know as much as you can about transmission so that you can protect yourself.

Zika virus is primarily spread by infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread similar viral diseases, chikungunya and dengue. These mosquitoes are aggressive biters during the daytime, but also bite at night. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a person who is already infected with Zika. Infected mosquitoes can then give the virus to humans through their bites. Zika can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her fetus during pregnancy or around the time of birth, through sex between a person who has Zika and his or her partners, and by blood transfusion.

About 80% of adults and children who are infected with Zika do not experience symptoms. Even for those who have symptoms, they are usually mild. The most common symptoms Visit disclaimer page of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. Other symptoms include muscle pain and headache. There is currently no evidence that Zika infection during early childhood is linked to developmental delays or impaired growth. If someone develops symptoms, a healthcare provider may order blood or urine tests to look for Zika or other similar viral diseases. No vaccine currently exists to prevent Zika virus infection. If you have recently traveled to areas with local Zika transmission, it’s important to tell your healthcare provider.

What can you do to prevent exposure to Zika in children?

  • Make sure there is no standing water near your home or play areas. It’s important to check inside tire swings, gutters, and anywhere water may collect. Other places to look include buckets, trash cans, planters, tires, tall grasses, and nearby playground equipment. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water because young mosquitoes need water to survive.
  • Dress children in clothes that cover arms and legs when they're going outside.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning.
  • Use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents.
  • Follow label instructions
  • Re-apply as directed
  • If you are using sunscreen, apply that first then put on the insect repellent. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months.
  • Spray insect repellent on your hands then put it on a child's face.
  • Do not put insect repellent onto a child's hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.

Read about the latest information on Zika Visit disclaimer page .

Partnerships Matter: Building the Right Team to #ZAPZika

By Amy Pope is Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Heather Anne Higginbottom is the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resource

Here's how the Administration is working with private sector partners to fight the spread of Zika virus.

With tens of thousands of confirmed cases in the Americas, Zika is a growing public health emergency Visit disclaimer page in the Western Hemisphere and beyond. While we are harnessing all of our available resources to fight Zika here at home and abroad, we are also calling on communities, companies, and civil society to act now to build the global coalition required to beat Zika and the devastating birth defects it causes.

Why has the Administration placed such a high priority on acting as quickly as possible, even before local mosquitos begin to spread the virus in the Continental U.S. and Hawaii? Because any delay in action places more families at risk of Zika Visit disclaimer page and increases the cost to our economy and our healthcare system. Read the blog here Visit disclaimer page .

ACF has developed and distributed the following fact sheets and materials on Zika:

CDC Content

Elmo and Raya Learn About ZikaElmo and Raya Learn About Zika







Click on the link to listen to the video: Elmo and Raya Learn About Zika Visit disclaimer page

Picture of a mosquito carrying Zika with an x across itPlaza Sésamo: Elmo y Raya saben sobre el zikaPlaza Sésamo: Elmo y Raya saben sobre el Zika

News Briefs

Feds Feed Families Food Drive

Administration for Native Americans at Full Speed Heading into Fall

The summer proved a busy one for the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). On June 21-23, ANA helped lead the 2016 ACF Native American Grantee Meeting in Marksville, LA. The theme of the meeting was Native Empowerment – Pathways to the Future. Each morning began with Native Empowerment Dialogues (“NED Talks” similar to the TED Talks), in which speakers addressed topics such as human trafficking, resiliency, epigenetics, economic development, safe and healthy communities, ensuring the inclusion of the LBGTQ communities, and culture and language. Participating ACF offices offered several workshops that addressed the collection and use of data, along with how to record storytelling to capture the stories of our past history.

ANA's Rosia Curry

Staff also held three listening sessions to seek input from attendees in the areas of human trafficking, Native languages, and homelessness. The meeting was a success, with approximately 475 grantees in attendance.

On top of this, staff managed ANA’s annual new award cycle, including the successful launch of ANA’s first demonstration projects: Native Language Community Coordination (NLCC) and the Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (Native Youth I-LEAD), both of which will get underway in the fall.

ANA also recently participated in the Feds Feed Families Food Drive. The staff pooled donation funds and several members traveled together to the nearby Safeway to pick up non-perishable items. The donations allowed for the purchase of 50 cans of beans, veggies, and tuna as well as a 20lb bag of rice. This food donation was made in addition to individual contributions by staff. The passion to serve Native communities does not end with Feds Feed Families. ANA employees are known to share charitable events as they occur, such as recent school supply and backpack drives for Native youth.

Members of ANA’s staff, including Rosia Curry (pictured above), gave their final Ignite project presentation recently on the ANA Grant Application Toolkit. The toolkit, proposed by the Division of Program Operations, focused on helping new and small Native American tribes and organizations successfully compete for grant funds to improve their communities’ conditions. The initial project by DPO focused on publishing a Unified FOA for applicants. However, through their research and discussions with previous applicants, the team realized that applying organizations had various levels of capacity, challenges, and resources that impacted their ability to develop a competitive grant application. The toolkit lays the groundwork to submit successful and competitive proposals by listing the steps necessary to obtain funds along with resources such as templates and models. Having given their final Ignite presentation, the toolkit team hopes to continue moving forward with a launch for Fiscal Year 2018.



Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership

Puerto Rico’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grantees in Region 2 collaborated to become the pioneers in a joint Professional Development endeavor. The 1st Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Convention was held on July 6-8, 2016 and hosted by: PR EHS-CCP Directors (sitting center) and Federal and TTA staff

Municipality of Caguas - Mrs. Margot Vélez Meléndez – EHS Director

Centro de Desarrollo Familiar SHS Diocesis de Mayaguez - Mrs. Myrna Carrero Vélez, EHS Director

Municipality of San Sebastian - Ms. Veronica Velez, EHS Director

Quintana Baptist Church Head Start Program - Mrs. Lilliam Rivera, EHS Director

During the month of June 2016, Puerto Rico’s four grantees embarked on a collaborative mission to develop a comprehensive professional development experience for their EHS-CC Partnership staff. Their objective was to bring the required knowledge the staff would need to earn a Child Development Associate Certificate and also comply with the Early Head Start and Child Care regulations. The grantees worked diligently day and night for thirty days to develop a robust training agenda that would meet the training needs of the attendees.

The professional development meeting was attended by over 300 EHS –CCP grantee and partner staff. The entire staff of each EHS-CCP partner attended the training and included directors, managers, teachers, family workers, and most unusual the maintenance and janitorial employees. Other participants included the: Administration for Integral Child Care and Development (ACUDEN) Administrator, the Child Care Director, and the ACUDEN Regional Field Office staff; the Region 2 Regional Program Managers of the Office of Head Start and the Office of Child Care; Program and Fiscal specialists from the Office of Head Start and the Office of Grants Management; the Child Care Infant/Toddler Specialist; and the Head Start Technical Assistance Coordinator, System Specialist, and the Early Childhood Specialists.

EHS-CCP Grantee and Partner Participants

The professional development meeting was a huge success. The participants were provided training on a variety of EHS and OCC standards; early childhood development; fiscal management; and leadership topics which included resources developed by our Early Childhood National Centers for Training and Technical Assistance. The collaborative effort displayed by the grantees and partners transcended throughout the meeting and by the end of the first day, teachers from one program were sitting with maintenance men, directors, and PR Commonwealth officials sharing their best practices, strategies, challenges and visions. The commitment to children and families was a priority for all of the attendees and it generated an aura of comradery from us all.

The outcome of such a huge effort and commitment to the implementation of Early Head Start –Child Care Partnerships is that all of the staff: received training to assist in the completion of their CDA course work and the participants were able to develop relationships with each other in order to provide high quality care to the children and families in Puerto Rico. The training also reinforced the importance of a well prepared and educated workforce. Most importantly, the staff walked away feeling empowered and valued by their peers and their leadership.

The beneficiaries of this endeavor are:

  • All participants – They are prepared to deliver high quality services to the families and children in Puerto Rico
  • The child care partners – They are better aligned with the EHS and OCC quality standards
  • The parents and children - They are receiving enhanced and comprehensive EHS services
  • An improved Early Childhood Education delivery system led by Head start and Child Care management teams and their commitment to the principles of school readiness, comprehensive services, family supports and ultimately, a stronger community

Congratulations to Puerto Rico’s grantees and staff for paving the way and sharing the experiences they’ve encountered during their trajectory in the Early Head Start-Child Care Program.

EHS-CCP Grantee and Partner ParticipantsEHS-CCP Grantee and Partner Participants








Here is a partial list of ACF programs and ways to connect. For a complete overview of all ACF programs, visit our ACF Directory, which is also available in Spanish.


ACF programs have a variety of funding opportunities available to support social service programming at the state, local and tribal levels. Our grantees include:

  • Nonprofit Organizations
  • For-profit Organizations
  • Government
  • Educational Organizations
  • Public Housing Groups

ACF funds an array of activities that support the economic and social well-being of people throughout the country. Find out which ACF grants are available today: Funding Opportunities. To learn how to apply for a grant, view this guide to resources for community and faith-based organizations. To learn how to become a grant reviewer, view the ACF Grant Review Guide (also available in Spanish). To learn more about grant and funding opportunities within the individual ACF programs:


Interested in Working with ACF?

ACF is working hard to increase diversity within its workforce and to enhance the cultural competency of the agency, its employees and its contractors. One sure way to reach its goal is to hire more people from diverse backgrounds. Please visit Visit disclaimer page and search for vacancies in the Administration for Children and Families within the Department of Health and Human Services. Keep up to date on recent federal job openings by following the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's job site on social media: Facebook, Twitter Visit disclaimer page , and YouTube.

ACF Job Openings (partial list, for complete list visit

  • Supervisory Program Specialist; Office of Head Start; GS-13;


  • San Francisco, CA $100,246 - $130,325
  • Dallas, TX - $89,383-116,203

Deadline: Wednesday, September 14, 2016. Apply here: U.S. Citizens Visit disclaimer page .

HHS Job Openings. Apply here:

Are you a Federal Employee with Status? Apply here:

Are You a Student or Recent Graduate Who Wants to Work in the White House?

Interested in Student or Summer Internships in the Federal Government?

ACF Peace Corps Recruitment Initiative

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) and Peace Corps Staff may be granted one year of noncompetitive eligibility for federal appointments.

Check the Peace Corps Virtual Portal Visit disclaimer page for jobs opportunities at ACF and other federal agencies!

What Is Noncompetitive Eligibility?

Noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) is a special hiring mechanism through which RPCVs and Peace Corps staff can be appointed to certain federal positions without competing with the general public in order to be hired. Federal agencies can hire an RPCV or former Peace Corps employee without posting a vacancy announcement, screening or interviewing candidates, or going through the others steps that are involved in the standard recruitment process.

All that is required is that the agencies have a classified position, an available opening, and that the candidate meets the minimum qualifications for that position.

Noncompetitive eligibility may be extended for up to three years. Reasons for extension include: service in the military; attendance as a full-time student at a recognized institution of higher learning; engagement in an activity that makes the RPCV more qualified for the position or for any reason the hiring agency thinks warrants an extension.

Who Has Non-competitive Eligibility?

Noncompetitive eligibility is extended to two groups of individuals:

  • Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, who have successfully completed their service.
  • Peace Corps Staff, who have successfully completed 36 months of continuous service without a break in service of three days or more.

Uncover the Secrets of Finding and Applying to Jobs in the Federal Government and at ACF

1:00pm to 3:00pm (EDT), Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Join us via: Adobe Connect Link: Visit disclaimer page

Audio only Dial In: 1-888-455-1746, Participant Code: 1093131

For more information about this event, contact Laura Irizarry.

Have you ever wondered why anyone would want a career in public service? Are you trying to figure how you can obtain federal work experience while still a student, or what career path is best suited to your major? In this session, you will learn about the various internship, fellowship, career and training opportunities available at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and its operating divisions, including the three distinct areas of the federal Student Pathways program. Additionally, you will learn how to:

  • Navigate the USAJOBS Web site—the official job search portal for the federal government—and search for HHS jobs;
  • Create a USAJOBS profile;
  • Post résumés, CVs, transcripts, and other supplemental documents to USAJOBS and apply for vacancies without leaving the site;
  • Tailor job searches to particular types of jobs, education and salary levels, and specific geographic areas;
  • Read and understand a federal vacancy (job) announcement;
  • Differentiate between the special hiring programs in the federal government, such as Schedule A and veterans preference;
  • Gain a better understanding of your options by broadening your job search to include all Department of Health and Human Services agencies internship/fellowship/public health training programs;
  • And more!

In addition, you will learn to write a résumé/CV that highlights your strengths and accomplishments, including what information to keep or add to your résumé/CV, tips to describe work experience, and how to communicate veteran-specific information. “Insider tips” also will be provided, including how to search for series classification flysheets and how to use them to search for federal key word equivalents to describe current work experience.

You will also learn more about the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) —from where we are to what we do and who we hire to do it!

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