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Leadership & Staff

MaryLee Allen

MaryLee Allen
Director of Child Welfare & Mental Health


MaryLee Allen is Director of Child Welfare and Mental Health at the Children's Defense Fund. Ms. Allen is responsible for defining and advancing CDF's agenda to keep children safe in nurturing families and communities. Her work focuses on improving policies and practices to better support families in order to prevent problems from occurring and family crises from intensifying and to promote permanent families for children. Her work addresses child abuse and neglect, substance abuse, mental health, domestic violence, foster care and adoption.

Ms. Allen has played a leadership role in the development, passage and implementation of major child welfare and children's mental health reforms over the past two decades. She co-chairs, with the Child Welfare League of America, a coalition of national child welfare and mental health organizations and works closely with advocates and service providers across the country. She testifies frequently before Congress.

Ms. Allen has authored and co-authored many articles and publications, including:

  • Helping Children by Strengthening Families: A Look at Family Support Programs
  • Healing the Whole Family: A Look at Family Care Programs
  • Healthy Ties: Ensuring Health Coverage for Children Raised by Grandparents and Other Relatives
  • Expanding Permanency Options for Children: A Guide to Subsidized Guardianship Programs
  • Kinship Care Resource Kit for Community and Faith-Based Organizations

Ms. Allen has served on many boards, task forces and advisory committees, including the boards of Generations United, Parents as Teachers National Center, and Family Support America. She also served on the Advisory Committee for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges' publication, Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence & Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. Ms. Allen received her B.A. from Marquette University and her M.S.W. from the National Catholic School of Social Service at the Catholic University of America.

Recent Material

"Safe Haven or Last Resort?" (includes video) CBS Evening News, November 14, 2008