Bryan Samuels is the Executive Director of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. He has spent his career building the capacity of child welfare systems to produce positive outcomes for children, integrating empirical evidence into public policy and service delivery, and streamlining management and operations in government agencies.
Before coming to Chapin Hall, Samuels was the commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Samuels administered federal programs addressing child abuse and neglect, runaway and homeless youth, domestic and intimate partner violence, and teen pregnancy. His top priority at ACYF included capacity building of the child welfare system to effectively address complex trauma and toxic stress among vulnerable children, youth, and families. As a result of his collaboration with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), addressing child trauma is officially a high priority goal for HHS. He influenced the establishment of federal law requiring state child welfare agencies to screen for trauma and provide appropriate treatments.
At ACYF, he issued a series of informational memoranda to state child welfare directors calling for a new approach in child welfare. This approach elevated the role of academic research and repositioned well-being as a primary outcome of concern for child welfare practice with children in out-of-home care. The intent was to address the long-term impact of maltreatment rooted in the poor outcomes commonly reported in research involving former foster youth. The memoranda called for child welfare systems to be proactive in using research to enhance their capacities for making informed assessments and to anticipate needed services. His work emphasized the emergence of a cutting-edge body of scholarship in neuroscience and the potential for innovative contributions to understanding the effects of maltreatment on child development.
Prior to his work at ACYF, Samuels served as chief of staff at Chicago Public Schools. He managed the day-to-day operations of the nation’s third-largest school system, reviewed all proposed policy changes recommended to the Chicago Board of Education, and monitored implementation of new initiatives. Previously, Samuels served as the director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the nation’s third-largest child welfare agency. He set policies and procedures that ensured effective service delivery to children. As a result of his efforts, DCFS established the lowest caseload ratios for case managers in the nation, significantly reduced the number of youth “on run” and the number of days they were “on run,” and decreased the use of residential treatment or group homes and the size of the Illinois child welfare population.
Samuels has testified before Congress about the well-being of children in foster care. He has also presented and written on topics including the impact of trauma on child outcomes and using evidence-based interventions to address maltreatment. He has lectured at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.
Samuels holds a Masters of Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago and a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.