Keesa Smith

Deputy Director for Youth and Families, Arkansas Department of Human Services
Little Rock, Arkansas

Keesa M. Smith currently serves as the Deputy Director for Youth and Families with the Arkansas Department of Human Services. In this capacity, she has oversight of the child welfare, juvenile justice, childcare and early childhood education divisions. She also manages the agency’s Human Resources, Procurement and Appeals offices. Prior to joining DHS, Ms. Smith served as the Chairman of the Arkansas Board of Review, a position to which she was appointed by Governor Mike Beebe. Ms. Smith also served as Deputy Legal Counsel and State Implementation Director for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Governor Beebe. Before serving in this capacity, Ms. Smith held positions in the Governor’s Communication and External Affairs team. She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney for the Center for Arkansas Legal Services. Ms. Smith received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002. She also earned a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law in 2005. She has one daughter, Afiya, who is a Junior Nursing major at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

My Truth

What guides my leadership and work is never forgetting that every person has value. Those in need often find themselves marginalized and undervalued, especially when we overgeneralize how a person ended up where they currently find themselves. My truth is to always remember that, in creating and administering programs, we have the ability to change the trajectory of someone’s path if we truly see them for who they are as opposed to what their current position looks like.

Stories featuring Keesa Smith

Poverty is the result of poor policy choices. These choices reflect our national values and decide who deserves access to opportunity to achieve their dreams and who does not. This flawed mindset has led to persistent inequities and a hollowing of our shared humanity. Change is possible. The choice is ours.
Ascend FellowshipJanuary 21, 2022