AUSTIN — Stephanie Muth has been named commissioner for the Department of Family and Protective Services, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday. She takes over Jan. 2, 2023.
“As a recognized administrator and organizational leader, Stephanie will contribute her deep understanding of agency operations and increased accountability to strengthen the efforts of this critical agency,” Abbott said in a statement.
In the interim, DFPS will be led by Kezeli “Kez” Wold, the DFPS associate commissioner for Adult Protective Services. He takes on the interim role immediately, a news release said.
During Masters’ tenure, several scandals broke out including when it was revealed that foster kids were sleeping in CPS offices and hotels.
Earlier this year, it also was alleged that caretakers at a facility in Bastrop County for trafficked victims had solicited and sold nude photos of children who lived there. Employees also allegedly subjected the children in their care to physical abuse, neglectful supervision and medical neglect.
Additionally, the agency became the center of widespread negative attention after Abbott directed DFPS to investigate families with transgender children for potential child abuse. Those investigations have led to several lawsuits still going through the court system.
Muth will be responsible for guiding the agency as it continues rolling out Community-Based Care services statewide, as well as furthering the agency’s compliance with the remedial orders in the foster care litigation, a news release said. CBC is designed to provide improved foster care services for children by giving local communities the flexibility to find innovative ways to meet the unique and individual needs of children and their families in communities across Texas.
Muth specializes in health and human services policy, design and operations. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in June 2020, she worked in Texas state government for 20 years, including working in the Texas legislature and executive branch and holding senior executive level positions at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission for more than 15 years.
In addition to Muth’s appointment, Abbott also announced that former DFPS commissioner Anne Heiligenstein will return to the agency as a senior adviser where she will lead a number of key projects at the agency.
“Children and families across Texas will benefit greatly from the expertise and deep understanding of child welfare that this new leadership team brings to DFPS,” Abbott said.
Kate Murphy, director of Child Protection Policy at Texans Care for Children, said in a statement that she supports the selection of Muth, adding that Muth has a track record of leadership in the midst of crisis.
“The truth is, safely keeping families together and supporting kids in foster care is bigger than just one person,” Murphy said. “This is an extremely difficult job, and getting it right depends a lot on the policy decisions that the Legislature and other state leaders make. To help the new commissioner succeed, state leaders must do their part to invest in programs that help keep families together, place more kids with families instead of in facilities if they do enter foster care, make DFPS a place where Texans want to come to work and much more.”