DHS’s Operations Staff
Steven Benden, Director, Office of Strategy and Performance
As Director of the Office of Strategy and Performance, Steve Benden oversees the development of DHS’s strategic planning initiatives, including the implementation of the five strategic imperatives: customer service, human capital, public assistance to entrepreneurship, foster youth development, and IT modernization.
Steve joined DHS from the Maryland Air National Guard, where he served as an Auditor, Chief Security Forces and Mission Support Group Commander, overseeing 500 personnel who supported 1500 airmen. Graduating from the University of Maryland University College with a bachelor of science degree in accounting and a minor in business administration, Steve went on to earned a master of science in management, air and space strategic studies from the University of Maryland University College.
Stafford Chipungu, Chief Financial Officer
As Chief Financial Officer, Stafford Chipungu provides fiscal support to DHS Leadership and the local departments of social services, ensuring coordination with the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Legislative Services, Comptroller’s Office, Federal Agencies and stakeholders. He also provides fiscal management for proper resources funding and utilization. Stafford has significant experience in state government and banking, and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has been instrumental in navigating fiscal challenges so that DHS can deliver critical benefits and financial services to Marylanders in need.
Terry Chrapaty, Director, Human Resource Development and Training
Terry Chrapaty oversees the agency’s human resources–related areas, including employment services, employee relations, health benefits, classification, training and staff development, and transactions processing. Terry has more than 18 years of human resources experience with DHS.
Prior to serving in her current capacity, Terry served as HRDT’s Assistant Director. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and management with a concentration in personnel and labor relations. Terry began her HR career at IBM. Her experience in the public and private sector serves DHS well as she works closely with the statewide leadership team and local departments of social services.
Audre Davis, Esq., Director, Maryland Legal Services Program
The Maryland Legal Services Program (MLSP) ensures legal representation in the Circuit Courts for children and indigent adults when local departments of social services or the Office of Aging are party to a case. MLSP provides high-quality, cost-effective legal representation in court proceedings for children involved in Child in Need of Assistance (CINA), Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) cases and related cases. MLSP also provides quality, cost effective legal representation in proceedings for adults involved in Adult Guardianship cases and Adult Public Guardianship Review Board proceedings. Ms. Audre Davis has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law. She has been an advocate for Maryland’s most vulnerable populations for more than twenty years.
Darlene Ham, Director, Office of Licensing and Monitoring
Darlene Ham, the Director of the Office of Licensing and Monitoring (OLM), is responsible for the oversight and direction for the office of licensing and monitoring of licensed child placement and residential child care programs that require licensure and monitoring by DHS. She ensures that each program complies with applicable laws and regulations designed to protect children, while ensuring they have the best opportunity available to develop into productive adults.
Darlene has served the State of Maryland for over 30 years, working in various child welfare and adult services components. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Morgan State University and master’s degree in social work from the University Of Maryland. Darlene also serves on the State Board for the Certification of Residential Child Care Program Professionals as a representative for DHS.
Rainier C. Harvey, Sr., Chief of Administrative Operations
Mr. Rainier C. Harvey, Sr. serves as the Chief of Administrative Operations and is responsible for providing executive direction for multiple centralized operational units as well as providing operational oversight for the 24 DHS local jurisdictions. Rainier has 30 years of professional experience, serving in leadership roles within Baltimore City, Baltimore County, the State of Maryland, and the Federal Government. Mr. Harvey’s expertise in matrix operational management has garnered local and state recognition and awards.
Under his leadership as Chief of Administrative Operations, the Department of Human Resources has been identified as an industry leader among State Departments in several operational initiatives and the State of Maryland has been recognized nationally for achievements in operational crisis response.
Margaret (Peggy) Hughes, Deputy Director/Deputy CFO, Office of Budget and Finance
Peggy Hughes is a Certified Public Accountant, licensed in the State of Maryland. She has 20 years of experience with DHS—ten years as Accounting Operations Director, and ten years in her current position. As the Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Peggy reviews contract funding, certifies and submits all federal financial reports, ensures attainment of federal revenue, and supports the fiscal operations of DHS.
Barbara Jackson, Director, Constituent Services Office
Barbara Jackson leads the Constituent Services Office, which is a special support and services office under the Office of the Secretary. Constituent Services functions as DHS’s centralized customer service operation, providing information about and access to programs and services administered by DHS. Customers gain access through a variety of methods: telephone, walk-ins, correspondence, email, community outreach, and referrals from other agencies and political officials. DHS Ombudsman Services, Information and Referral Services, Hispanic Services, Community Outreach and the DHS Call Center fall under the Constituent Services Office.
Sandy Johnson, Director, Office of Procurement
As Director of Procurement, Ms. Sandy Johnson ensures that the processing of contracts and purchasing activities required for DHS to obtain the goods and services follow COMAR Title 21 to include Advisories established by the Board of Public Works (BPW). Her responsibilities consist of organizing the solicitation, evaluation, and negotiation process to award contracts. In addition, she manages the development and implementation of procedures consistent with State Policy, the review of procurement documents, administration of the Corporate Purchasing Card program, representation of DHR before the BPW, the creation and maintenance of purchase orders, reporting, and other procurement related tasks.
Sandy brings considerable experience in procuring satisfactory services and that will serve the agency well, as she works closely with the Office of the Secretary and DHS’s statewide leadership team.
Rebecca Jones Gaston, Executive Director, Social Services Administration
Rebecca Jones Gaston has worked in the field of human services and child welfare for more than 19 years as a social worker, advocate, therapist, consultant, and administrator. She has extensive experience with community engagement, parent partners, mental health, and achieving permanency for children in care. She has worked throughout her career leveraging internal and external resources to increase the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families, and reduce the number of youth in out-of-home care.
As Executive Director of the Social Services Administration, Rebecca is responsible for planning and implementing strategies, policies, and procedures that ensure children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse and neglect. She will continue to develop the Families Blossom initiative, strengthen adult services to meet the needs of a rapidly aging population, and ensure that children leave our care ready to thrive independently.
A long-time resident of Maryland, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.
Kevin P. Guistwite, Executive Director, Child Support Administration
As Executive Director of the Child Support Administration, Kevin Guistwite has over 15 years of child support-related experience and a proven track record of establishing strong relationships with local, state, and national child support program partners. The Child Support Administration (CSA) provides comprehensive child support services to approximately 216,000 Maryland children. CSA is responsible for establishing paternity for children born to unmarried parents; establishing, collecting and distributing child and medical support obligations; enforcing past due support; and the accounting of child support payments which are made through the Department. The mission of the Child Support Administration is to make certain that children grow up receiving financial support from both parents and that the family is able to stay economically independent.
Previously, Kevin served as the Director of the Division of Program Development and Evaluation at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Bureau of Child Support Enforcement. Kevin has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Communication Studies from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
Nicholette Smith-Bligen, Executive Director, Family Investment Administration
With almost 25 years experience in child welfare, youth development, education and mental health, Nicholette previously served the Maryland Department of Human Services as its Director of the Dorchester County Department of Social Services, and as the Acting Executive Director of its Family Investment Administration, before being named as the Executive Director of the Family Investment Administration in July of 2017.
All public assistance programs in Maryland are coordinated and supervised by the Family Investment Administration (FIA). These programs include the Energy Assistance Program, the Family Investment Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. FIA also coordinates programs for public assistance to adults, emergency assistance, and burial assistance.
Katherine Morris, Director, Office of Communications
Prior to joining DHS, Katherine Morris spent ten years at Citigroup where she designed, built and centralized their internal communications department and channels across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Expanding the role to include external communications and public relations, Katherine oversaw the development, daily operations, and execution of all corporate communications and events, including multilingual communications, press releases, media advisories, public relations events, crisis communication strategies, internal corporate events, web content for six intranets, online and video publications, change management methodologies, creative design, print production, branding and identity initiatives. Most notably, Katherine helped lead a major re-branding initiative at Citigroup, and has extensive experience in communication strategy development across multiple geographies, organizational infrastructures, languages and corporate cultures.
Katherine graduated from Elon University in North Carolina, with a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. She resides in Baltimore City and sits on the Board of Associates of KidsPeace, one of America’s oldest and most comprehensive not-for-profit organizations, with more than 35 programs serving 2,500 children in crisis each day at 50 locations across the U.S.
Kenyatta Powers, Chief Information Officer
As Chief Information Officer, Kenyatta Powers oversees the day-to-day operations of the Office of Technology for Human Services (OTHS). Her leadership and relentless efforts ensure that OTHS continues to deliver mission-critical services and seamlessly run information systems that lay the foundation of essential human services and social benefits for Maryland’s vulnerable citizens. Kenyatta’s prior experience as Director and Deputy CIO at OTHS has honed her skills as a senior executive and prepared her to shoulder manifold responsibilities at the agency, particularly around statewide networking. She also plays a key role in the Maryland Health Information Exchange Project and is a familiar and respected name agency-wide as a proponent of state-of-the-art technological solutions for Maryland’s human services