Today I am announcing additional changes to some of the agency’s divisions and departments that I mentioned would be forthcoming in my January announcement. These changes will help the agency better meet the needs of those we serve. There is much work to be done and I am excited to work with all of you to get it done. Please join me in welcoming new faces to our DFPS family and congratulating others on their new roles.

Demetrie Mitchell will serve as Chief of Staff. Mitchell previously served as the Director of Special Investigations/Human Trafficking.  He brings a wealth of law enforcement experience to DFPS, previously working for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of major crimes including child abuse, family violence, and homicide. Mitchell’s leadership roles within law enforcement required a strategic, collaborative approach to work effectively with numerous state, federal, public and private entities to oversee criminal investigations, high-profile incidents and events, and engagement with community partners to identify and prevent major crimes and human trafficking.

His experience working with DFPS as an agency partner, and for DFPS directing agency programs offers the agency a valuable resource with programmatic and technical knowledge and proven leadership experience. DFPS will benefit from his broad experience working with and for DFPS from law enforcement, investigative, social services and management perspective.

Deneen Dryden will join the DFPS family as CPS Associate Commissioner. (effective 5/4) Dryden received her bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Friends University in Wichita. She is a licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a Certified National Peer Specialist. She has 20 years of experience leading a residential facility and helping individuals cope with and overcome crises, trauma, and difficult life situations.

Dryden previously served as the Director of Prevention and Protective Services for the Kansas Department for Children and Families where she oversaw the state’s child and adult welfare system.

Dryden has always had a passion for foster care and adoption. Throughout her many years of being a foster and adoptive parent, she and her family have embraced open adoptions. Dryden and her family continue to advocate and network for involvement in the foster care system by sharing their personal experiences at speaking engagements and seminars.

Kaysie Taccetta will serve as CPS Deputy Associate Commissioner. Taccetta most recently served as the Director of Conservatorship Services where she oversaw the division responsible for permanency, kinship, adoption, foster care, placement, youth, and transitional services, ICPC, capacity building and the implementation of Community Based Care across the state.

Taccetta has 20 years of experience with CPS in Texas. She started serving the El Paso community as a caseworker, investigator, and then as a manager for the CPS Family Drug Court unit.  Since joining State Office in 2007, a substantial portion of her work has been devoted to systems reform and redesigning foster care in Texas.  She supported agency leadership and worked with the child welfare stakeholder community in the creation of the DFPS Public-Private Partnership, and previously served in the role of Project Manager and subsequently Director of Community-Based Care (formerly Foster Care Redesign).  Taccetta is a native of Clint, Texas and a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso.

Erica Banuelos will serve as CPS Director of Field. Banuelos was previously serving as the CPS Regional Director for Region 8/San Antonio.  She has held various positions in her 23 years of tenure with the Department to include working for programs such as Investigations, Conservatorship, and Family-Based Safety Services.

Erica has transitioned her region into Community-Based Care Stage 1 in Region 8a/Bexar County. She has a long-standing commitment to advocating for children and families.  She is willing to implement change, when necessary, to improve outcomes for families.  Her vision is that the services provided by DFPS will increase family self-sufficiency, empower families and most importantly, enhance child safety.

Hector Ortiz will serve as Director of Conservatorship Services. Ortiz previously served as the CPS Regional Director for Regions 1 and 2/Panhandle-Northwest Texas.  During his tenure as Regional Director, he has led the development and implementation of Community-Based Care in two very diverse regions and built strong partnerships with the Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCCs).

Ortiz brings 20 years of experience with CPS in Texas, where he started as a caseworker in Edinburg, a supervisor in Weslaco and then as a program director where he managed Family-Based Safety Services and Investigations. In 2015, Ortiz managed the Master Investigator/Master Conservatorship program. He is committed to the work we do and the children and families we serve. Ortiz has both a Bachelor and Master of Social Work from the University of Texas-Pan American.

Anna Blake will join the DFPS family as Director of the new Faith-Based and Community Engagement Division (FBCE).(effective 4/6) The Volunteer and Community Engagement Unit will merge with Faith-Based Programs to streamline stakeholder, faith-based and community partner engagement and program support, to improve outcomes for our children, families and vulnerable adults.

Blake joins our team with more than 15 years of child welfare experience working in both rural and urban community-based settings. She is originally from Brownwood, Texas and has experience in the nonprofit and private business sectors. Her background includes serving as executive director for both crisis services and trauma training services for organizations.

Lesley Guthrie will serve as Deputy Director of Faith-Based and Community Engagement(FBCE). Guthrie previously managed the Office of Volunteer and Community Engagement at DFPS. She has an extensive background building programs from the ground up and establishing strategic partnerships with foundations, non-profits, faith-based organizations, and legislative offices.

Previously, Lesley served as executive director in the Office of the Governor, managed a corporate community relations program, and worked as a congressional staffer on Capitol Hill. She is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin.

Patrick Crimmins will lead the new Communications Division. The Media Relations Division and Communications will merge to create a new Communications Division. This merger will improve strategic coordination and responsiveness, unify messaging and deliver superior service and communications products, both internal and external.

Crimmins previously worked as the Media Relations Director and State Public Information Officer at DFPS, specializing in strategy, messaging and crisis management. Prior to that, he worked as a speechwriter and chief spokesman at the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. He joined state government after reporting/editing jobs at newspapers in San Antonio, Midland, and Huntsville. He is a Fort Worth native and graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.


Previous leadership changes included the following:

Rand Harris serves as Associate Commissioner for the new Compliance, Coordination and Strategy Division. The new Foster Care Lawsuit Division is responsible for coordinating the agency’s efforts in complying with the court’s orders. This division works with DFPS General Counsel and Associate Commissioners to oversee the day-to-day efforts and interaction with the court’s monitors. This division allows the General Counsel to focus on legal strategy with the Attorney General’s office and the other defendants and help Child Protective Investigations and Child Protective Services focus on implementation.

Prior to leading this division, Harris served as Chief of Staff, Director of External Relations and Deputy Chief Financial Officer at DFPS. Before coming to work at DFPS, he worked at the Health and Human Services Commission, Comptroller’s Office and the Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. He also has taught at Austin Community College for nearly 30 years. Harris is a graduate of Texas State University with a B.A. in Anthropology and a Master’s in Sociology.

Tara Olah serves as the Director of Implementation and Strategy for the new Compliance Coordination and Strategy Division.Olah will continue her efforts in coordinating the agency’s efforts to implement the requirements of the court’s orders and assist in responding to requests made by the court’s monitors. I know this change goes without saying as she is critical to this process.

Olah previously worked as the Litigation and Transformation Director at DFPS. Prior to that, she worked as an advisor for other state health and human services agencies and for State Sen. Jane Nelson. Olah has been working in state government since 2008, is a licensed attorney and has roots in Memphis.

Dan Whiddon serves as the Deputy Chief Operating Officer. I asked Dan to step into the vacant Deputy COO position. I am confident his leadership skills will serve him well as he takes on this new assignment.

Whiddon previously worked as Director of Workforce Development.  Prior to that, he served as Sr. Director of Talent Acquisition for MAXIMUS, Inc. leading the U.S. Health Services Segment, Bids & Proposals, and Large Projects.   He holds a BA with a concentration in Business Administration from Austin College at Sherman and earned a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Development Leadership from the McCombs Graduate School of Business.

Mathis Hale will lead the new Human Resources Division. In order to address the importance of recruitment and retention – as well as having consistent HR practices – across the state, Mathis will report to the Chief of Staff. In his new role, he will oversee the Wellness/EAP Coordinator, Organizational Development Consultant and Director of Talent Acquisition reports to the Human Resources Director.

Hale previously worked as the Health and Human Services Commission, Civil Rights Office, Compliance Director and then as the Deputy Director of HR.  He considers himself a Texan even though he has only lived in Texas for 30 years.  He graduated from the University of North Texas and is a Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) Senior Certified Professional.


Jaime Masters MS, MFT



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