Jennifer Nichols was appointed by Governor Bill Lee to be the Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services in January 2019.
Under Commissioner Nichols’ leadership, in 2021 the Department implemented the Family First Prevention Services Act, the most comprehensive legislative child welfare reform in 25 years that will provide evidence-based prevention services for children and youth at risk of entering foster care.
In 2019, the Commissioner created ChildStat, a statewide systematic and data-driven review of the department’s work to help reduce time to permanency. She has also overseen a department-wide reorganization that merged Child Protective Services units with the department’s Assessment teams, improving the department’s response to child protection and prevention required by the Family First Prevention Services Act.
Prior to joining DCS, Commissioner Nichols served as an Assistant District Attorney General in Shelby County for more than 20 years. During her tenure at the DA’s Office, she was the Deputy District Attorney, or first assistant, to the District Attorney General. In this role, she supervised the day-to-day operations of the office and its employees. Before being named Deputy, she served as the Chief Prosecutor over the Special Victims Unit. There she supervised and handled child homicides, child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, elder abuse, and other special projects. In that role, she worked closely with the Department of Children’s Services as well as law enforcement.
In addition to her work at the District Attorney General’s Office, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Ms. Nichols to the bench as a Criminal Court Judge in Shelby County in January 2018 where she presided until September 2018.
Ms. Nichols is a graduate of the University of Alabama and the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. She passed the Florida Bar in 1988 and practiced law in Orlando before joining the DA’s office in Memphis in 1991. Ms. Nichols was also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Memphis law school from 2012 through 2018, where she taught mostly third-year law students in the skills class, Trial Advocacy.