JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt announced Gary Sherman as his new director of the Department of Health and Social Services Monday and the new leader said improving child safety was his top priority.
"In our state 52 kids a year die from child abuse and neglect," Sherman said.
Sherman, a Rolla native, served as the director for the Wyoming Department of Family Services. He's leaving a job as chairman for the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Wyoming to accept Blunt's appointment. He has previous experience working in Missouri government stretching back to 1974 and spent two stints as a division director in the 1980s.
"The department of social services is perhaps the most critical in state government," Blunt said. "It impacts lots of Missourians."
Sherman said that many critical choices needed to be made within the department.
He said that while in some cases foster care can not be avoided, he thinks that the department must always be working to find stable homes for children.
Sherman also said that appreciation of state workers is vital.
"These are people doing difficult jobs. They see things that you and I would have trouble believing. The see horrendous abuses to children. What we want to do is make sure that they are trained, that they are supported and that we let them know that we affirm the work they are doing," Sherman said.
Sherman said that he wanted to continue to assess the department. He said that we cannot afford to waste or lose dollars in tough times.
"It's going to be difficult and as with the governor's budget, these are difficult choices," Sherman said. "Personally difficult, painful, hard decisions."