Casey Family Programs has announced the 2019 recipients of its Excellence for Children Awards, a list that this year includes several system leaders, advocates for kin and birth parents, and an alumni of an internship program for former foster youth on Capitol Hill.
“These awards are a recognition that everyone has a role to play in safely reducing the need for foster care by strengthening families and ensuring every child has what they need in their lives to reach their fullest potential,” said Casey CEO William Bell. “It is an honor each year to recognize a few of the people who are making a real difference today in their communities and in the lives of children by building hope.”
David Hansell, commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, shared an award with Goldman Sachs COO Lisa Opoku for development of the Fostering College Success Mentoring Program, which paired college-bound foster youth with Goldman Sachs employees trained as mentors.
“Casey Family Programs is the north star for child welfare agencies across the country and it’s an honor to be recognized by this organization as a national leader,” said Hansell, in a press release. “I will continue to work towards building a 21stcentury child welfare system that focuses on strengthening services and supports for children and families in New York City.”
Jan Wagner has facilitated a kinship support group in Michigan for years, and serves as the chair of the Michigan Kinship Coalition. Wagner has been working with Casey Family Programs to educated stakeholders on the potential upsides of the Family First Prevention Services Act when it comes to supporting kin.
“I didn’t feel this was just for me,” Wagner said. “I felt it was for all those desperate grandmothers, aunts, uncles and other kinship caregivers who search for services only to find them out of reach for them, for all of those who are raising their voices and telling their stories.”
The other recipients of Excellence for Children Awards:
Mischa Martin, director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services.
Judge Ernestine Gray, a longtime leader in juvenile justice who has served as a juvenile justice in Orleans Parish, Louisiana since 1984.
San Francisco Family Resource Center Initiative, a network of 26 centers in the city that connect parents and children with child care, food assistance, counseling and other services meant to prevent maltreatment.
Bester Community of Hope, a Hagerstown, Md. initiative through which Casey has helped a major group and foster home provider in the area – San Mar Family & Community Services – shift toward more community-based family preservation.
Brittney Barros, who spent last summer participating in the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), which is led by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and places youth and young adults into summer jobs with members of Congress or committee staffs. As part of the program, Barros wrote a policy memo on improving the federal role in supporting efforts to keep siblings together.
Stephanie Benally, the Native American specialist for Utah Foster Care, a nonprofit recruiting and training partner for the state Division of Child and Family Services.
Jeremiah Donier, a consultant on fatherhood engagement and member of the Birth Parent National Network. Having had his daughter placed into foster care at one point before working with Circle of Security International to regain custody, Donier now serves as a parent mentor to other parents working to regain custody of their children.
Raven Sigure, a member of Casey’s Birth Parent Advisory Committee who also serves as a parent support worker for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.