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Newsroom DCF Interim Secretary Names Deputy Secretary; Executive Staff

TOPEKA – Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) interim secretary Laura Howard, Tuesday named Tanya Keys deputy secretary for the agency. Keys brings decades of child welfare experience in both Kansas and Missouri to the position.
“I am excited Tanya has agreed to come back to Kansas to help us with the serious task of rebuilding DCF to better serve children and families in Kansas,” Howard said. “Tanya’s experience in developing promising child welfare practice models and her collaborative spirit make her the perfect person to lead the agency’s child welfare efforts.”
Keys previously served as the regional director for the Children’s Division in Jackson County, Missouri. She began her human services career in front-line foster care case management, and previously served as the child welfare director for the former Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). Keys is a loyal Jayhawk with an undergraduate degree in social work and master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas.
“I know we have difficult challenges ahead of us,” Keys said. “However, I am excited to get started and look forward to working with both DCF front-line staff and our community partners on behalf of Kansas families.”
Howard also announced Tuesday two new members of her executive staff.
Rebekah Gaston will serve as both policy director and director of economic and employment services. The position directs the agency’s legislative and policy efforts. In addition, she will supervise programs like food, cash and child care assistance. Gaston has spent her career advocating for Kansas children and families as an attorney and policy advocate. She has held positions as guardian ad litem and as a prosecutor focused on domestic violence cases. Later, she was director of the Children’s Hunger Initiative at Kansas Appleseed, advocating for system-wide, long-term solutions to childhood hunger. Gaston earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kansas.
Mike Deines has been named director of communications. Deines will manage the agency’s media and public relations along with internal agency communications. Deines most recently worked in corporate communications at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. Previously, he served as director of communications and responsible gambling for the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, special assistant to the deputy secretary and communications director at SRS. Deines earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas.

Images of Tanya, Rebekah and Mike are available upon request. Email for a JPEG file.