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Debra Nelson

Director & Bureau Chief, Bureau of Child Development and Head Start Collaboration, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services

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Debra Nelson, MS, has enjoyed an extensive and multi-faceted career in the fields of early childhood/special education and family support, enabling her to pursue her passion that all young children and their families have the supports and services they need to thrive. She joined NH DHHS as Head Start Collaboration Office Administrator in 2007, followed by her current position as Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Child Development and Head Start Collaboration, where she works to advance access to quality programs and early childhood systems building together with partners and stakeholders.

Previously, she served as Early Childhood Projects Director for 17 years at the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability/Center for Excellence, as well as Institute Assistant Director and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Child and Family Studies Department. As a former researcher and evaluator at the University of Oregon in Eugene, she is a firm believer in using integrated data to tell the story of NH’s young children and families, and how quality programs prepared children to succeed in school and beyond. Among her most career-shaping experiences was in working with families as a director/behavior specialist for a large family support program serving rural Central and Southern Illinois.

It was in parenting a child with a serious chronic health condition, however, that she learned firsthand the importance of meaningful family engagement, which she weaves throughout her ongoing work. Debra lives in beautiful Nottingham, NH with her son.