Office for Children and Youth, Mississippi Department of Human Services
Looking back over a short 15 years from 1995 to 2010, Jill Ivey Dent has gone from being employed at a childcare center and going to school to having earned a Ph.D. and holding her current position as director, Office for Children and Youth, Mississippi Department of Human Services. In this position, she has great responsibility for the children of the state as she oversees the management and operation of the Child Care Development Funds, Quality Rating System, 16 employees and a $99-million budget.
Born in Jackson, Dent’s career with children began as nursery director at Heritage United Methodist Church Preschool where she coordinated schedules and maintained church nursery activities. From there she went on to positions of leadership in preschools, the City of Jackson’s early childhood program, Mississippi Forum on Children and Families and with the Mississippi Department of Human Services as director of the Mississippi Automated Child Welfare Information System Unit before assuming her current position.
She has expertise in administration of government programs, grant management, personnel management, early childhood education and kindergarten through 12th grade parent involvement in education and holds numerous certifications. Educationally, she earned a B.S. degree in child and family studies from the University of Southern Mississippi, a master of education from William Carey University and a doctorate of education administration from Jackson State University. She received a commendation from Gov. Barbour for participation on the grant writing team for the State Longitudinal Data System, which has been awarded $7.6 million to develop and implement.
“I have led Mississippi as the first state to implement and offer licensed child care centers the ‘color me health’ training and curriculum free of charge,” she said. “The program has been developed to promote and teach preschoolers health eating and physical activity habits. It is our intention that early habits will decrease some of the health issues that affect our state.”
Don Thompson, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, praises Dent for her ability to unite multiple agencies to find common ground and seek comprehensive programs for the betterment of the state.
“The collaborative effort she has brought to our agency has been invaluable and an outstanding benefit for the children of Mississippi,” he said. “Her relentless dedication to improving the quality of children will have an impact for many generations.”
Dent, who describes herself as determined, was able to earn her doctorate during a five-year period while working full time, having two children, going through two surgeries and remodeling a home.
Donna A. Lander, Ph.D., served as Dent’s academic and dissertation advisor at Jackson State University. “Jill is an exceptional woman who successfully integrates her passionate beliefs about the importance of quality education for children and youth into her personal and professional life,” she said. “She excelled in her classes while laying the foundation for her dissertation research. Throughout those years of demanding career, study and research, she maintained an equilibrium that was exemplary.”
Dent’s professional activities have included writing and editing that has been included in Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers (2009), Mississippi’s Governor’s Office; A Census of Parent Involvement Programs in Mississippi Delta Public Elementary Schools (2007), Jackson State University dissertation; and, Early Learning Guidelines for Four Year Olds (2006), Mississippi Department of Education.
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