A senior official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), visited Kern County over the weekend, and spoke at a local Church Sunday.

Lynn Johnson, Assistant Secretary for the HHS Administration for Children and Families, spoke at the Canyon Hills Assembly of God Church in northeast Bakersfield Sunday to discuss a plan aimed at ensuring disadvantaged children and families get the assistance they need.

Invited by CityServe, a nonprofit faith-based organization dedicated to helping the disadvantaged, Johnson emphasized the need for faith-based organizations and churches to partner with government to provide services to the disadvantaged.

“Every human being deserves dignity and respect so they can become as healthy as they choose to be,” Johnson said.

While she is laser focused on the foster care system and the need for adoptions, the division she oversees is in charge of providing services to the vulnerable.

“What we are about is action,” Johnson said.

Speaking alongside Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh and CA Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), Johnson also spoke on two panels at the church, including one featuring Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). During the discussion Johnson said her division is overburdened, but she believes Kern county is leading the way to a solution.

“25 years ago, we were having the same conversations about homelessness, hunger, mental health, and child care that we are having today. Not here. You are doing something about this,” Johnson said, noting a collaboration between government, churches, and faith-based organizations like CityServe, a non-profit made up of a network of 109 churches throughout Kern County.

Each church in the network is tasked with engaging vulnerable members of the community.

“We’ve got Arvin, Lamont, Shafter, Taft, Delano, Wasco, Ridgecrest, Tehachapi, and our outer cities as well,” said Robin Robinson, CityServe community development and church engagement director. “Who better than the local church?” she continued. For Robinson, it’s personal. She once suffered from substance abuse.

“At 26, I was a drug addict. I was a mess, but somebody stepped into my life and completely changed the trajectory of my life,” Robinson said.

Now, Johnson hopes to change the lives of countless others.

“If you’re not moving to action to make the world a better place, than your sitting in the wrong seat. We are making a difference because we have teams like you. From my heart, thank you.”

Johnson, who represents the Trump administration, said the president is committed to the plan, and added she plans to come back to Kern County in the future.