Bureau Director, Youth Transition Support Services
Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services
Mario Johnson is one of 15 members in the 2019–21 class of the Casey Foundation’s Children and Family Fellowship.
Johnson walked into his early role as a program facilitator for foster youth daunted by how little he knew about the young people he served. Today, the experience of getting to know them fuels his deep passion for his work.
“Emotionally connecting with the children we encounter and their stories really helped me understand that they’re not just cases, but actual people experiencing trauma,” says Johnson, now bureau director of youth transition support services for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.
Johnson seeks to shift the focus of child welfare and court systems from keeping children safe to the more complex goal of ensuring their well-being. This shift in perspective, he argues, might lead judges, caseworkers and even legislators to make different choices about a child’s placement or mental health programs.
“Our current data show when a child enters and leaves care,” he says. “But how many placements did they have in their first year? How many schools did they attend? Those things matter when we’re talking about a child’s well-being. We have to tell more individual stories.”