About the Commissioner: Vanessa Garrett Harley, ESQ
Vanessa Garrett Harley was appointed Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) in August of 2014. DHS is the largest child welfare agency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, serving approximately 100 thousand children and families each year. Prior to her appointment, Garrett Harley served as Deputy Commissioner of the Children and Youth Division at the Department of Human Services. In this position she was responsible for child welfare services provided to the children and families of Philadelphia in the hotline, intake, ongoing services and adoption divisions of DHS. These services are strategically designed to ensure the safety, permanency and well being of the Department’s clients.
Garrett Harley is a staunch advocate for children and families with over a decade of service with the City of Philadelphia. Prior to arriving at DHS, she served as the Chair of the Social Services Law Group of the City of Philadelphia Law Department where she was responsible for providing legal advice to the City’s social services agencies. Ms. Garrett Harley supervised the work of both the Child Welfare Unit and the Health and Adult Services Unit. She joined the Child Welfare Unit in 2002 and was promoted to Chair in 2007. Prior to working in the Child Welfare Unit, she worked in the Major Trials Unit of the Claims section of the Law Department.
A staunch advocate for children and families, Commissioner Ambrose
spearheaded a comprehensive overhaul of the City’s child welfare system.Under Commissioner Ambrose’s leadership, DHS has improved child
safety, drastically reduced the number of children placement, and increased
permanency for children and youth.In order to be a more transparent and
accountable agency, at Commissioner Ambrose’s direction, DHS also made
significant changes to the monitoring of provider contracts and focused on
key outcomes to improve child and family well being.
Ms. Garrett Harley’s past legal experience also includes working for the federal government, corporate counsel and private practice. She is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a dual major in Government (Public Administration) and Sociology; she received her J.D. from Temple University School of Law.
Ms. Garrett Harley is also a 2007 graduate of the Urban League Leadership Forum, a program that identifies and trains minority leaders and establishes a forum for promoting effective leadership in all sectors of society.