Casey Family Programs, a Seattle-based grant maker and one of the largest players in philanthropy in child welfare, announced its annual Casey Excellence for Children Awards, which honor leaders and standouts from every aspect of the system.
Among the winners is a former foster youth who became a resource parent and has worked tirelessly to advocate for and support children who come into the system.
“The individuals we honor today come from an array of backgrounds and have contributed to the well-being of children and families in unique ways,” said Casey President and CEO Dr. William Bell. “However, they all have one thing in common: Every one of them is building hope through their work, their advocacy and their commitment to children and families.”
Rob Scheer of Rockville, Maryland, spent part of his childhood in foster care, and as an adult has adopted five children from foster care. An outspoken advocate for adoptive parents and the LGBTQ community, Scheer also started Comfort Cases in 2013 to provide a package to children in care that includes a bag or backpack, pajamas, personal care items and a stuffed animal. Since its founding, the organization has given those packages to more than 150,000 youth in care.
The other winners include:
- Kinship Caregiver Award: Mercedes Bristol, San Antonio, Texas, executive director of Texas Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Bristol’s advocacy contributed to passage of Texas House Bill 4 in 2017, which increased the state’s financial support for kinship caregivers.
- Birth Father Award: Jason Bragg, Olympia, Washington, social worker for the Washington State Office of Public Defense. After graduating from family drug treatment court and reuniting with his son, Bragg has since 2014 helped other parents work toward reunification after a foster care removal has occurred.
- Birth Mother Award: Jody Rodgers, Santa Rosa, California, a birth parent mentor. Rodgers developed a Birth Parent/Foster Parent Partnership model that her home county of Sonoma has adopted as part of its child welfare process.
- Alumni Award: Anthony Stover, Atlanta, youth engagement coordinator for Georgia EmpowerMEnt. Stover’s organization includes youth who are currently in or have recently experienced foster care, and want to advocate for change in Georgia’s child welfare system.
The foundation also honored five public leaders for their contributions to serving youth and families, including four government officials and one philanthropy official. They are:
- Jonathan Nez, president of Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona.
- Dr. Raquel Hatter, managing director of the Troy, Michigan-based Kresge Foundation.
- Aysha Schomburg, associate commissioner, U.S. Children’s Bureau.
- Vannessa Dorantes, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.
- Harry Spence (posthumously), former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.