Philanthropic giant Casey Family Programs announced today the recipients of its annual Excellence for Children awards.
Each year, the Seattle-based organization bestows the honor onto leaders from every corner of child welfare — from caregivers and foster youth to professionals dedicated to improving the system.
“The individuals we are recognizing today are as diverse as the communities they represent, and they are unified in their common desire to improve the lives of children and families across our nation,” Dr. William C. Bell, President and chief executive officer of Casey Family Programs, stated in a press release.
This year’s honorees include a birth mother who has channeled her experience with child welfare into helping other families as a peer partner and advocating for system reforms.
Tecoria A. Jones of Columbia, South Carolina, brings her leadership and lived experience to numerous organizations. She serves on the board of Be Strong Families; is an advisory board member and national partner for Thriving Families, Safer Children; is a member of the Birth Parent Network and conducts trainings for the National Family Support Network. The mother of six was chosen as the first parent leader for the South Carolina Child Well Being Coalition, where her restorative work focuses on holistic health approaches, including mental well being, racial justice, food policy and therapeutic massage.
This year’s other winners include:
- Kinship Caregiver Award: Gail Engel, Loveland, Texas, founder of the Grand Family Coalition, a nonprofit that supports grandparents raising kin. Through her work with Grandparents United, Engel has advocated for the passage of laws like the Family First Prevention Services Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act of 2018.
- Resource Parent Award: Shawna D. Begay, Farmington, New Mexico, a caregiver to her nieces and a protective services placement worker for New Mexico’s child welfare department. As a member of the Navajo Nation, she focuses on family strengthening and ingraining the principles of the Indian Child Welfare Act with all of the children she serves.
- Alumni Award: Sixto Martin Cancel, Washington, D.C., founder of Think of Us, an organization that empowers people with lived foster care experience to drive the conversation around child welfare reform. Cancel uses his personal story to educate policymakers as a four-time guest at the White House and a frequent speaker at conferences, including the National Governors Association.
- Birth Father Award: Roger De Leon, Jr., Riverside, California, uses his experience navigating foster care and the courts to support fellow parents and develop and deliver state-wide trainings. He serves on the California Child Welfare Council, and is an instructor at the UC Davis Resource Center for Family Focus Practice and the Cultural Responsiveness Academy in San Diego State University.
Eight individuals were also honored for their professional contribution to children and families:
- Gail C. Christopher, executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity in Washington, D.C.;
- Mark Harris and Michelle Gros, executive director and chief operating officer of the Pelican Center for Children and Families in Zachary, Louisiana;
- Judge Kathleen A. Quigley, the associate presiding judge for the juvenile division of the Pima County Superior Court in Tucson, Arizona;
- Judge Sonia Rodriguez True, a judge for the Yakima County Superior Court in Yakima, Washington.
- Colleen O’Keefe, executive director, and Pat and Gary Sauer, benefactors and founders of the Sauer Family Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Casey Family Programs provides grant support to The Imprint. Per our editorial independence policy, the foundation had no role in this story.