Senate confirms children’s department secretary, judge

DOVER — The Senate came together for a special session Monday to confirm a secretary and judge, unanimously approving both.

Carla Benson-Green, a longtime worker in the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, was confirmed as the department’s new secretary, a position she has held in an acting role since Nov. 12.

She began her career with the department in 1982, the same year it was created, and most recently served as a regional administrator in the Division of Family Services. She was nominated by Gov. Jack Markell last month to replace Jennifer Ranji, who is now a Family Court judge.

Carla Benson-Green was confirmed Monday as secretary of Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. (Submitted)

Carla Benson-Green was confirmed Monday as secretary of Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families. (Submitted)

Ms. Benson-Green is the third secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families and the 28th official to serve in Gov. Markell’s cabinet since 2009.

Assistant public defender Natalie Haskins also was confirmed Monday, becoming the newest member of the Family Court. Judge Alan Cooper recently died, creating a vacancy on the bench.

Ms. Haskins previously had worked in the Department of Justice and in the Office of the Child Advocate.

The Senate met in the House chamber due to scheduled renovations in the Senate room. It was the first time the Senate had gathered outside the usual place since 1996 and possibly the first time senators ever held a legislative day in the House chamber.

Before the vote, Ms. Benson-Green was questioned by the Senate Executive Committee, and much of the discussion focused on children’s deaths.

Four children who were active cases in the department have died since May, a fact troubling administrators and lawmakers. Three of the children were in homes where substance abuse was an issue, with one dying due to accidental asphyxiation. The fourth death was due to suicide.

All four were in Sussex County.

Ms. Benson-Green stressed the department aimed to prevent youth deaths and she would “tighten up” if need be.

“If we done everything that we could possibly do and the outcome still was the death of a child, we would have done everything we could possibly do,” she said afterward. “That is always our goal.”

Lawmakers and Ms. Benson-Green also discussed the Stevenson House Detention Center, where many of the employees are casual/seasonal rather than full-time, creating a strain on workers.

Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, requested she do an analysis to determine if converting the employees to full-time would be best for the state monetarily.

Questioning for Ms. Haskins was much briefer, and the nominees were then confirmed in short order.
Both received no votes in opposition, and they earned standing ovations after the votes.

In a statement, Gov. Markell weighed in following the approval.

“Carla Benson-Green has been focused on the safety and well-being of Delaware’s children and families throughout her entire career,” he said, also praising Ms. Haskins for her commitment to Delaware families.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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