Dr. Sharon McDaniel’s own experience growing up in kinship care, led her to create Pennsylvania-based A Second Chance, Inc. (ASCI) in 1994.
This month, McDaniel was honored for her work by the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy (CRISP). McDaniel was awarded the Outstanding Individual in the Nonprofit Sector Award, an accolade presented by CRISP yesterday at its annual Social Work Day on the Hill.
“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award from a community of my colleagues in the field,” said McDaniel, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change. “But the people this award belongs to are my tremendous frontline staff and all of the members of the team whose dedication and commitment to the kinship triad [child, caregiver and birth parents] is on display day after day.”
ASCI is a licensed foster care agency that uniquely focuses on kinship families in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania. ASCI works to license kinship families and assist them in finding financial resources and supports that are often difficult for kinship families to secure on their own.
The organization’s collaboration with Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services in Allegheny County has led to more then 60 percent of the county’s children in foster care being placed with kin; nationally, about one-third of foster youth are living with kin. And 93 percent of ASCI’s kinship families become licensed, making them eligible for a variety of supports including financial assistance.
“We were pioneers,” McDaniel said. “Today, we continue to bring innovation to the human services and social work sectors. Through our values training, we are working locally and nationally with case managers, as well as supervisors and administrators to implement best practices for serving children in kinship care, both formal and informal care, to support the use of permanent connections with relatives and to create behavior change when it comes to perceptions about those children and families who are placed with kin.”
Another important part of the work of ASCI is a focus on families of color, who are often overrepresented in the foster care system.
“Here, in Allegheny County, like in many jurisdictions across the country, children and families in the system are disproportionately people of color,” McDaniel said. “One in 11 children lives in kinship-foster care at some point before they turn 18. And one in five black children spends time in kinship-foster care at some point during their childhood. All families have value.”
McDaniel recently released a book, “On My Way Home: A Memoir of Kinship, Grace,” about her own foster care and kinship journey.
Click here to read The Chronicle’s feature story on the work being done by McDaniel and other Allegheny County leaders when it comes to prioritizing kinship placements.