Courtney Hawkins

Director, Rhode Island Department of Human Services

Courtney E. Hawkins became Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services Director in June 2017 after nearly 20 years of social work service in the fields of child welfare, youth development and workforce development.

Hawkins started her career in New York City where she implemented non-profit programs to support kids and families to make economic progress. This included starting successful small schools, designing programs for youth aging out of foster care, implementing new initiatives targeting disconnected youth and running the city’s welfare to work and unemployment centers in the Bronx and Manhattan.

The Rhode Island native returned to RI as the first executive director of Providence Talks, a successful program, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, designed to reduce language development gaps in low-income children. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza later made her his Policy Director.

Her commitment to ensuring that all vulnerable families and individuals have a chance to make economic progress brought her to DHS. The Department’s vision is that all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to thrive at home, work and in the community. DHS administers all of the State’s public benefit programs as well as the divisions that handle child support enforcement and vocational rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities. Since her arrival, improvements in staff development, system stability, customer service and eligibility timeliness have been achieved. She has also shepherded major policy and procedural improvements to the State’s child care aid and cash assistance programs.

As its leader, the Department continues to add to its responsibilities for our great State, including adding child care licensing in late 2019, regulating summer camp offerings in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and any other resources – from basic needs to financial infusions to help stabilize the local economy – needed for Rhode Islanders during this global health crisis. In addition, Hawkins has been a leader in promoting equity and having all voices participate in the change needed to make a better Rhode Island for all.  

Director Hawkins has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.

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