New director of DCFS announced by Gov. Pritzker

Following a national search, the Illinois Dept. of Children and Family Services has appointed a new director.

Gov. Pritzker announced Wednesday that youth justice and child welfare expert Heidi Mueller will fill the role. 

Mueller is currently the director of the Illinois Dept. of Juvenile Justice and will begin her new role on Feb. 1. 

Robert Vickery, the deputy director of programs at the DJJ, will be the interim director until that Mueller's old position is filled. 

"The work Director Mueller has done at the Department of Juvenile Justice over the last several years has been transformative for the juvenile justice system in Illinois, and I am thrilled that she will bring her unique experience and talents to DCFS," said Gov. Pritzker in a statement. "Heidi’s care and compassion for the most at-risk young people in our state and her exceptional leadership are hallmarks of her career, and I know that her passion and expertise will be a significant asset as we continue to improve our state’s child welfare system."

The current director of DCFS, Marc Smith, will serve through January. He announced his plans to depart the agency in Oct. 2023. 

Smith has served as the head of DCFS since 2019. 

Mueller has a bachelor's degree in psychology and history that she obtained at Macalester College, according to Pritzker. She also completed graduate studies in social psychology at Stony Brook University and has a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.