Promising to "fix this system once and for all," Mayor Nutter has named former public defender and juvenile justice administrator Anne Marie Ambrose to head the city's much-criticized Department of Human Services.

While promising DHS would do its best to protect kids, Nutter implored parents and guardians to stop abusing children.

"There are ways to discipline children besides putting cigarettes out on their arms and legs, besides beating them to death or starving them, or throwing them against walls . . . those are kinds of things people do every day in this city to children," Nutter said.

DHS has been under fire since an Inquirer series two years ago detailed the deaths of several children in DHS care. A blue-ribbon panel reported in January that the agency had made improvements but still had work to do.

Ambrose is currently a child welfare and juvenile justice administrator in the state Welfare Department. She was a DHS deputy commissioner from 2001 to 2005, in charge of juvenile-justice issues, including overcrowding at the city's Youth Study Center.

Advocates said yesterday that she's seen as a talented administrator but will have to learn more about the child protective services that DHS is responsible for.

Asked what an early priority would be, Ambrose said: "I think I need to reconnect the DHS workers with the core mission of keeping kids safe and protecting them from abuse and neglect."

The appointment of a DHS chief comes more than four months into Nutter's mayoral term. He said he was deeply involved in the national search, personally interviewing eight candidates.

"This is clearly a case where getting it right, quite honestly, is slightly more important that getting it done quickly," Nutter said. *