Averi Pakulis Vice President, Early Childhood and Public Health Policy

Averi Pakulis serves as the Vice President for Early Childhood and Public Health Policy at First Focus on Children. Averi has over 15 years of public policy experience on Capitol Hill, at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and in the non-profit sector. For four years, Averi served as a Policy Advisor to Secretaries Sebelius and Burwell at HHS in the Office of the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary for Legislation. Just prior to joining First Focus on Children, Averi served as the interim Legislative Director for HHS at the National Governors Association. Her experience covers areas of public health and human services, including behavioral health, opioid addiction and recovery, early childhood care and education, women’s health, family and medical leave, and child abuse prevention. Averi has worked closely with a number of public health and human service agencies such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, the Administration for Children and Families, the Federal Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health on agency regulations, programs, and grants.

Prior to her work at HHS, Averi served as Staff Director and Professional Staff Member for Senator Christopher J. Dodd on the Children and Families Subcommittee of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee from 2008-2011, where she led the successful reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. She also successfully worked to expand family and medical leave for family members of service members through a provision in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.

Prior to the Senate, Averi worked for nearly six years in the House of Representatives. She worked in the personal office of Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro leading the congresswoman’s health care portfolio.

Averi is originally from Connecticut and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Union College in Schenectady, New York. Averi resides on Capitol Hill with her husband and daughters.

Resources by Averi Pakulis


The Mystery of Federal Pediatric Mental Health Funding: What We Don’t Know & Why It Matters

| January 23, 2024 |

Around the time of the U.S. Surgeon General’s report alerting the country to the crisis in mental health for American children, teens, and young


Why we need to research the impact of gun violence on kids

| December 5, 2023 |

Time and again, society betters itself through research. Children’s car seats were once just burlap sacks that hung from the passenger seat’s headrest. Research


FACT SHEET: Children’s Mental Health

| November 14, 2023 |

Children in the United States are facing unprecedented mental health challenges. In October 2021, First Focus on Children joined other leading children’s health organizations


FACT SHEET: School-Based Mental Health Coordinators

| November 14, 2023 |

What They Are and Why Children and Teens Need Them At a time when the mental health workforce is woefully insufficient to meet the


Did you know? The state of mental health for our children and youth

| June 27, 2023 |

The mental health of a child is as integral to their overall well-being as their physical health. Prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of mental


Policy Brief: The Harmful Consequences of Work Requirements and Other Obstacles to Services for Children and Families

| April 4, 2023 |

Each year, federal programs provide children with affordable health care, nutritious food, stable housing, and early childhood education. These programs not only lift millions


30 years after FMLA, children & families need more

| February 3, 2023 |

Thirty years ago, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which enabled some workers, for the


Watch: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline – One Size Does Not Fit All

| October 21, 2022 |

This afternoon, First Focus on Children hosted a webinar on 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline entitled One Size Does Not Fit All: Ensuring 988


Issue Brief: Behavioral Health Parity For Children

| September 14, 2022 |

What Is Behavioral Health Parity? Treating mental health conditions and substance use disorders as equivalent to other health conditions in insurance plans is what


Issue Brief: The Need to Incorporate Children, Youth, and Adolescents into State 988 Systems

| July 14, 2022 |

States are currently in the process of implementing the 988 National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, passed by Congress and signed into law in October