Casey Family Programs has announced its annual Excellence for Children award winners, which this year include two birth parents working to support others involved with the child welfare system.
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.
“It is a profound honor to recognize this amazing group of awardees and what they have accomplished — and continue to accomplish — in communities across the nation,” said Walter Howard Smith, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees, in a statement announcing the awards. “They are making a difference each and every day in ensuring children and families have what they need to be safe and to thrive.”
Christina Romero, a mother and grandmother, has also helped care for her sister’s children. After her own experience with CPS, Romero became involved with Florida’s Family Engagement Advisory Board, counseling birth parents on their rights in such cases.
Too often, “we are separating families and destroying that culture, that community they have together,” Romero said in a short video on the awards website.
Churmell Mitchell of Auburn, Alabama, saw his father come and go during his own childhood. He now engages and mentors other fathers through his organization, A Father’s Voice Matters.
“We work with a lot of single fathers” who feel like there is no support for them, Mitchell said in his video profile. “So what we do is find those resources and partnerships in our community to help them.”
Other Excellence Award recipients this year include:
Kinship Caregiver: Keith and Edie Lowhorne, who put off retirement to adopt their grandchildren and have supported other kinship caregivers.
Resource Parent Award: Charles and Regina Harris, who have fostered about 120 children over 40 years.
Alumni Award: Veronica Krupnick, a mentor and advocate in New Mexico who has educated policymakers and practitioners around the Indian Child Welfare Act.
Life of Hope Recipient: Robert Carter, who gained custody of two siblings after they were all separated in foster care. Carter went on to foster three brothers, and then adopted them and their two sisters once he became aware they had been separated by the system.
Casey also bestowed an Excellence for Children Leadership Award to five child professionals:
Justice Ingrid Gustafson, who sits on the Montana Supreme Court and serves as a member of the state’s Court Improvement Project on child welfare.
Christine James-Brown, who recently retired after more than 15 years leading the Child Welfare League of America.
Texas State District Judge Aurora Martinez, who oversees the Travis County Model Court for Children and Families. She also co-founded the Child Welfare Race Equity Collaborative.
Jerod Pierce, managing partner of Olympic Holdings and founder of the Pierce Family Charitable Trust, who experienced foster care as a youth.
Dr. Annetta Wilson, executive director of Chicago’s Sankofa Safe Child Initiative, a residential community that provides affordable housing to kinship caregivers and young adults that have aged out of foster care into adulthood.
Note: Casey Family Programs provides funding to The Imprint’s parent organization, Fostering Media Connections. It had no involvement with this article, per our editorial independence policy.