CJCA Welcomes New Directors in Three States: Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee

Posted by Darlene Conroy
November 18, 2016

Betty Guhman was appointed Director of the Arkansas Division of Youth Services in October 2016.  Guhman, a native Arkansan, most recently served as a senior advisor to Governor Asa Hutchinson since his election in 2014 with a particular focus on the Department of Human Services, specifically children and family services.  

Guhman began her career as a child protective service worker for what is now the DHS Division of Children and Family Services.  In 1977, she was named Deputy Commissioner of the newly formed Division of Youth Services and helped deinstitutionalize status offenders by creating a statewide network of community based service providers.  These positions were the beginning of a long career in public service, including time as a tenured professor at the University of Arkansas’s Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Social Work and the Director of the Fullbright School of Public Affairs. She also spent 15 years in Washington DC, serving as Chief of Staff for then Congressman Asa Hutchinson, as senior advisor to the Administrator of US Drug Enforcement Agency, and as Chief of Staff to the first Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Betty returned to Arkansas in 2014 and became senior advisor to newly elected Governor Hutchinson.  Betty has a Bachelor’s in Social Work from the University of Arkansas and a Master’s of Social Work Administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

As Director Betty is leading significant reform initiatives to rebalance residential and community based funding, to increase focus on engaging families, schools and communities in aftercare/transition services, to restructure community based service contracts to improve outcomes for youth and families, and to enhance the collaboration among Juvenile Judges, service providers and DYS.  


Carey D. Cockerell, the former head of family and child protection in Texas, has been named commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice.

Cockerell is taking the department’s helm after more than 40 years of experience in youth programs. As commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, he implemented one of the largest reforms in Texas history, overhauling practices in child and adult services, expanding staff and establishing a first-ever health care project in child protection.

Prior to that, he worked for 20 years as director of juvenile services in Tarrant County – part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area – where he managed probation, court and detention services, along with treatment and post-adjudication programs.

“Juvenile justice is undergoing a top-to-bottom transformation in Kentucky, and Mr. Cockerell brings the knowledge and expertise to shepherd reforms with transparency and accountability,” said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley. “We were impressed by his commitment to public safety and his compassion for our youth.”

Cockerell earned his master’s degree in social work at the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville.  During his career, he has held high-ranking positions with the Texas Youth Commission, including serving as superintendent of a 240-bed youth institution. He served as director of Tarrant County Juvenile Services from 1984 to 2004.

As commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, he oversaw all areas of the organization, including child and adult protective services, residential and childcare licensing, prevention and early intervention programs.

Debbie Miller was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Juvenile Justice in Tennessee in February 2016. Prior, she was Assistant Commissioner for Quality Control and in this capacity she oversaw policy development, accreditation and quality service reviews.

Before joining DCS, Ms. Miller served as the Director of the Child and Family Policy Center at Vanderbilt University for 11 years. The mission of this Center was to develop, promote and implement public policy and community strategies that strengthen children and families through research, advocacy and education.

Prior to her work at Vanderbilt, Ms. Miller worked in the areas of foster care, residential treatment and child advocacy for more than 20 years. She also served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Board of Parole for six years.

Active in her community, Ms. Miller was a Girl Scout Troup leader for 12 years, served on two Foster Care Review Boards and was on the Board of Directors of Bethlehem Centers of Nashville and the Exchange Club Family Programs. She and her husband, former Mayor Bill Purcell, live in East Nashville and are members of East End United Methodist Church.