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Lynn Johnson

Lynn A. Johnson

Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families

Lynn Johnson was most recently employed as the executive director of Jefferson County Department of Human Services in Colorado. Previously, she worked as the chief of staff to Colorado Lt. Governor Jane Norton and as a policy advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Owens. For several years, she ran a consulting firm focused on “mental health, high risk youth, developmental disabilities, child welfare and early childhood education.” She’s also worked as a U.S. Courts parole and probation officer.


The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) encompasses a number of offices, including those that oversee family aid programs as well as foster care and adoption. The ACF also includes the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is charged with caring for migrant children who arrive or are separated from their families at the border. Former ORR head Scott Lloyd personally intervened to prevent young migrant women in the agency’s care from ending pregnancies, forcing the young women to sue for their right to abortion access, and has been accused of mismanaging the tracking of separated children.


Executive director of Jefferson County Human Services, 2007-2018

Chief of staff to Colorado Lt. Governor Jane E. Norton, 2003

Deputy director for policy and human services to Colorado Governor Bill Owens, 1999-2002



Jane Norton:

Johnson was a healthcare policy advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Owens during the time that Norton served as the director of the state’s health department; when Norton became Lieutenant Governor, Johnson worked as her chief of staff.  Norton led a successful effort to deny state funds to Planned Parenthood in Colorado. When a subsequent administration reinstated Planned Parenthood’s funding, Norton filed a lawsuit with the help of the anti-abortion extremist organization Alliance Defending Freedom, where her husband, Michael, is senior counsel. Norton was the first political candidate to be endorsed by the anti-abortion extremist group Americans United for Life. Norton was a Trump appointee at HHS for seven months before being replaced.


Johnson Supported The Controversial Practice Of Placing Foster Children In Juvenile Detention Facilities Because “It Doesn't Matter Which System A Kid Is In”:

As the executive director of Jefferson County Human Services, Johnson supported controversial legislation that allowed for children removed from neglectful, abusive homes to be placed in a juvenile detention facility. Westword reports: “A longtime friend of Jefferson County Department of Human Services director Lynn Johnson, [Colorado state senator Nancy Spence] knew that two counties in particular — Jefferson and Arapahoe — were ‘anxious’ to be able to place kids at Ridge View [a facility for juvenile offenders]. So in January, she introduced a bill to do just that. Senate Bill 99 sought to amend the law that created Ridge View to allow the facility to also house ‘juveniles who are in the temporary custody of a county department of social services or who are in need of out-of-home placement.’” The legislation was met with opposition from lawmakers and children’s advocates who felt it was inappropriate and dangerous to house foster children alongside children who’d been committed to the facility for repeated, sometimes violent, criminal offenses. When asked about the legislation, Johnson commented: “‘If we use it in a year, great. If we don't, then no child was right for Ridge View.’ As for what types of youth fit the criteria, Johnson says she'd prefer to start with delinquent youth in the county's custody. ‘But if there is a child who is dependent and neglected that this fit for, I wouldn't rule it out,’ she says, adding, ‘I don't get walls, borders, boundaries and 'This system says A' and 'This system says B.' It doesn't matter which system a kid is in.’"

Johnson Said "Religious Freedom Is A Fundamental Human Right" — In Her Defense Of A HHS January 2019 Rule Allowing A Federally Funded Foster Care Program To Deny Non-Christian, LGBTQ People Participation:

The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will allow a ministry in South Carolina that only works with heterosexual Christian families to participate in a federally funded foster care program. That means Miracle Hill Ministries can receive federal funding to participate in the program while not working with non-Christians, or those who identify as LGBT. … ‘Our federal agency should not – and, under the laws adopted by Congress, cannot – drive faith-motivated foster care providers out of the business of serving children without a compelling government interest, especially now that child welfare systems are stretched thin as a result of the opioid epidemic,’ said Lynn Johnson, HHS's assistant secretary for children and families. ‘The government should not be in the business of forcing foster care providers to close their doors because of their faith.  Religious freedom is a fundamental human right.’” [The Hill, 1/23/19]


Lynn Johnson Was A Top Aide In Anti-Abortion Colorado Governor Bill Owens’ Administration

Johnson Worked As A Policy Advisor To Anti-Abortion Colorado Governor Bill Owens

Owens Was “Staunchly Anti-Abortion.” “Owens's election as governor is likely to encourage Colorado's socially conservative legislature to push limitations on abortion, gay rights and affirmative action. Owens has said he would sign legislation banning same-sex marriages, is staunchly antiabortion and opposes ‘special privileges based on race or sex.’” [Washington Post, 11/5/1998]

As A Policy Advisor To Owens, Johnson’s Portfolio Included Healthcare And Children And Family Issues. “[Johnson] also was deputy chief of staff for policy for Governor Owens, supervising a policy agenda that included families and children, agriculture, natural resources, crime, corrections, education, health care, mental health, transportation, business and tax issues.” [US States News, 6/5/2007]

During The Time That Johnson Was Advising The Owens Administration On Healthcare And Family Policy, Owens And Health Department Director Jane Norton Effectively Defunded Planned Parenthood In Colorado

Norton Led The Effort To Deny State Funds To Planned Parenthood And Other Organizations That Offered Abortion Services, Regardless Of Whether The Money Was Used To Provide Abortions. “New rules prohibiting agencies that provide abortions from receiving state funds for family planning might cost Planned Parenthood the $320,000 it uses for 13 rural health clinics. The rules released Tuesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are the outcome of a fight during the legislative session over $ 1.192 million for women's health care and the effort to keep the money away from any organization that provides abortions.

Health Department Executive Director Jane Norton said her agency is simply following the constitutional prohibition against using state money for abortion services. But Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Katie Reinisch said the administration is making good on Gov. Bill Owens' campaign promise to the Christian Coalition and other abortion opponents. ‘It must be a decision to follow through on the governor's pledge to the Christian Coalition to de-fund Planned Parenthood,’ she said.

During his campaign last year, Owens said on a Christian Coalition questionnaire that he supported banning tax money to such abortion providers as Planned Parenthood...Norton said after consulting with the attorney general's office, Health Department staffers decided the state funds cannot go to agencies offering abortions even if the money isn't used for abortions.” [AP, 8/10/99]

  • Norton “Acknowledged” That The Audit The Administration Used To Supposedly Justify Defunding Planned Parenthood “Simply Reached A Different Conclusion” From All Previous Audits. “Norton said a constitutional amendment bans direct and indirect state funding of abortions. She acknowledged that previous state audits found Planned Parenthood and other agencies didn't co-mingle funds used for abortions and other services, making the state grants to them legal. ‘We just simply reached a different conclusion,’ Norton said.” [AP, 8/10/1999]

The Policy Change Was Tantamount To The Domestic Title X “Gag Rule” The Trump Administration Is Currently Attempting To Implement. “Under Colorado’s last Republican governor, Bill Owens, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) withdrew state family planning funds from [Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains] based on its interpretation of the Colorado constitution’s ban on direct or indirect state funding for abortion care. In 2001, long-time anti-abortion advocate Jane Norton, who led CDPHE at the time, argued that because PPRM provided abortions in the same facilities that used Title X dollars for other non-abortion services, those dollars were indirectly funding abortion care. So, in a way, the policy behind Trump’s gag rule has already been in effect in Colorado for nearly two decades. ‘Colorado kind of serves as an example of what a terrible policy this is,’ PPRM’s Colorado Political Director Jack Teter told the Colorado Times Recorder. ‘Health care providers in Colorado built walls and formed separate organizations to try to comply with very similar restrictions to what Trump’s proposed gag rule is trying to do, hoping they’d be able to keep Title X funding for their family planning services, and they still didn’t receive any funding.’” [Colorado Times Recorder, 6/5/2018]

  • When Colorado’s Subsequent Governor Reinstated Planned Parenthood’s State Funding, Norton Filed A Lawsuit That Lasted For Nearly Ten Years. “The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a 2009 suit against Planned Parenthood that alleged that state taxpayer money was being used to pay for abortions, contrary to state law. Jane Norton, former Lt. Governor of Colorado under GOP Gov. Bill Owens, and unsuccessful Senate candidate, sued Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc. as a private citizen, alleging Planned Parenthood was subsidizing abortions with state funds by subsidizing rent for a related company, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains Services Corporation, which offered abortion services. Norton had previously been director of the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment, and in 2001 had cancelled all state contracts with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, Inc., after an audit found that the abortion services company was receiving a subsidy…In 2009, the state resumed payments to RMPP. Norton filed the suit claiming that Planned Parenthood had been unjustly enriched.” [Denver Patch, 1/29/2018]

When Norton Became Lieutenant Governor Of Colorado, Johnson Served As Norton’s Chief Of Staff; President Trump Later Appointed Norton To A Position At HHS

Johnson Worked As Norton’s Chief Of Staff. “She was the chief of staff to Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane E. Norton in 2003, and from 1999 to 2002 was a policy advisor to Colorado Governor Bill Owens.” [, accessed 10/22/2018]

Norton Served As Director Of HHS’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs Until Being “Pushed Out.” “Jane Norton, an anti-abortion activist tapped to be HHS' top liaison, was pushed out after less than seven months in the job, as she struggled to communicate the department's work to governors, business associations and other groups. She was also the plaintiff in a long-running lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, which created an eye-catching legal situation: one of HHS' top leaders actively suing one of HHS' grantees. Oral arguments in the case were held in  November 2017, while Norton was still at seat in HHS.” [Politico, 1/22/2018]

Johnson Is Intimately Involved In The Child Separation Crisis, And Praised Controversial Former Office of Refugee Resettlement Director Scott Lloyd Even After He Was Removed From Day-To-Day Management Of His Office

Scott Lloyd Was Criticized For His Poor Management Of The Migrant Crisis And His Attempts To Prevent Young Women In ORR Custody From Accessing Abortion; But Johnson Praised His Performance

Scott Lloyd Was Removed From “Day-To-Day Operations” After His Office “Came Under Fire” “The refugee resettlement office came under fire last summer after the White House and the Homeland Security Department began separating families at the border. The health department was responsible for caring for separated children, and then for trying to reunite them with their families under a court order. Facing a public outcry over the children’s plight, HHS Secretary Alex Azar later removed Lloyd from day-to-day operations.” [Politico, 10/23/2018]

…But When Asked About Lloyd, Johnson Said That “He’s On Top Of It” And Doing “A Fantastic Job.” “Azar has now empowered Johnson, a political appointee who was a longtime Colorado human services official, to review and make changes at the refugee office…Asked specifically about Lloyd, she praised him. ‘He’s on top of it...He knows what’s going on,’ Johnson said. Lloyd has been the target of lawsuits for his efforts to block and in some cases personally intercede when migrant teenage girls under his agency’s care have sought abortions. Separately, his management decisions leading up to the migrant crisis hurt the agency's response and led to his effective removal as refugee office director during the summer, say three individuals…But Johnson, who served for more than a decade as human services director in Colorado's Jefferson County, on Monday praised Lloyd. ‘Scott has been doing a fantastic job, considering the numbers’ of people at the border, she told POLITICO. Johnson specifically deflected questions about Lloyd's future. ‘I have not locked in with a decision that he needs to be gone at all,’ she said.” [Politico, 10/23/2018]

Johnson Has Been The Face Of The Trump Administration’s Flip Flop From One Trump Era Policy That Has Kept Thousands Of Children In ORR Custody Locked Up Indefinitely

In June 2018, Scott Lloyd Signed An Agreement Giving Other Federal Immigration Agencies Unprecedented Access To ORR Data Showing The Immigration Status Of Minors’ Potential Sponsors Plus Household Members, Deterring Sponsors And Keeping “Untold Numbers” Of Children In Custody. “‘There is a policy now on the part of our government for the Office of Refugee Resettlement to share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That’s as new as four days ago. ORR, entrusted with the safety and placement of those kids who are without family, are sharing who those family members are with Immigration and Customs Enforcement…The agreement calls for ORR to give ICE the names of potential sponsors for children in custody, as well as the names of all adults in the household. ICE then must request fingerprints from all adults in the household to review for criminal records. The unprecedented ICE access to ORR data will deter many potential sponsors who are undocumented or have family members without legal status, meaning untold numbers of children will remain in government custody rather than with their families, said Mark Greenberg, who oversaw ORR during the Obama administration.” [Texas Monthly, 6/23/18]

…But Now Johnson Said The Trump Administration Decided To Fingerprint Fewer Household Members So It Could Release Children More Quickly Because “The Government Makes Lousy Parents,” But Is Keeping The Information Sharing Agreement “The Trump administration had come under fire for holding nearly 15,000 migrant children in 137 shelters. The vast majority of the children are ‘unaccompanied alien children’ who crossed the border without parents or legal guardians. The administration has been criticized for long delays in releasing them to live with sponsors while their asylum cases are pending in immigration court. In a turnabout, the government now agrees the vetting of sponsors — usually a parent or family member — was taking too long. ‘The children should be home with their parents. The government makes lousy parents,’ said Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary at Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, in an interview with NPR…Johnson said the rule change would not affect an agreement whereby HHS shares sponsor information with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. Critics have warned that some potential sponsors are reluctant to come forward knowing that they are possibly making themselves targets of deportation agents. So far, ICE has arrested 170 immigrants who applied with HHS to sponsor children but are in the country unlawfully.” [NPR, 12/18/18]

Johnson Avoided Giving Direct Answers To Questions About The Importance Of Birth Control Access

During Her Senate Confirmation Hearing, Johnson Avoided Giving Direct Answers To Questions About Whether She Believes That Access To Birth Control Improves Health And Financial Outcomes For Women

Senator Tom Carper Asked Johnson If She “Believes It's Important That We Do Everything We Can To Improve And Expand Access To Contraception For Women And Their Families”; Johnson Deflected, Saying Only That She Believed In “Access To All Quality Medical Care.” “CARPER: I have a question on root causes in contraception access for you if I could. And I am very much encouraged by your interest in addressing root causes of poverty and finding ways to build stronger families. We used to spend so much time addressing symptoms of problems, we don't go to the root causes. And my sense is that you are interested in going after root causes. But based on your extensive experience, what do you think are some of the root causes of poverty and what we should be doing to help build more resilient families and community, that's a big question. But let me follow up, and as I've mentioned in our state of Delaware and your home state of Colorado, Iowa and other states, both red and blue states, state leaders have found that improving education and access to contraception, especially long-acting reversible contraception, known as LARCs, has helped mothers and families better plan for pregnancies leading to better health outcomes for mothers and their children and saving state and federal dollars. My question is do you believe it's important that we do everything we can to improve and expand access to contraception for women and their families? 

JOHNSON: Thank you, Senator. I believe that we should have access to all quality medical care for our children, our youth and our women throughout the entire nation. And what they need is very person-centered to prevent poverty.” [Senate Finance Committee Hearing, 3/20/2018]

When Carper Rephrased The Question, Johnson Responded By Talking About “Healthy Choices” And “Education.” “CARPER: Yes. Marian Wright Edelman once said, who was a giant in the area of families and supporting families and all, she used to say that if a 16-year-old girl becomes pregnant, drops out of school, does not marry the husband of her child, there is a 80 percent likelihood that they will live in poverty, 8-0, 80 percent.  Actually she went on to add that if that same young woman does not become pregnant at 16, graduates from high school, waits until 21 to have a child and actually marries the father of her child, the likelihood of that family living in poverty is eight percent, 80 percent on the one hand and eight percent on the other would suggest to me that trying to make sure that they don't have that first child at 16, and actually wait well into their, you know, early or later years to bring a child into the world. We have, in my state and I think across the country half of the pregnancies are unplanned, half of the pregnancies are unplanned, actually. We've made great progress in reducing teenage pregnancy as you know but we still have half of our pregnancies that are unplanned and we could do a better job than that.  And one of the most encouraging elements in that battle could be these long, like we call them LARCs, but they are part of the solution, I am convinced they are part of the solution. And we have a program in Delaware that is called Upstream. I don't know if you've ever heard of Upstream. We heard it, we brought it in from California and it is, I think going to be a game changer. Young girls who forget to take their -- or not so young girls who don't take their oral contraceptives, they may not have the money to get them, and the idea that they can have a long-acting contraception that can last years and years, and years. You don't have to remember anything, you don't have to pay for anything else, I think that's the place to go. What do you think? 

JOHNSON: As I said before, I think that is one of the reasons TANF has reducing out-of-wedlock and unintended pregnancies both as one of the four purposes of TANF. But I also agree we work very closely with the youth in our Jeffco Prosperity Project and we have discussions about healthy choices, we have discussions about education. I do believe as you said earlier education is the number one most important effort to be made to end poverty, quality education plus opportunity and the safety network that wraps around individuals. So all of those discussions, everything you just said needs to be wrapped around these individuals as they need it, one person at a time.” [Senate Finance Committee Hearing, 3/20/2018]