2017 Casey Excellence for Children Awards
Casey Family Programs is pleased to announce winners of the national Casey Excellence for Children Awards. These awards, presented at a reception in Seattle on January 9, recognize outstanding individuals and leaders who have demonstrated distinguished work, exceptional leadership and relentless dedication in improving child welfare in America. Award winners are selected in five categories: birth parents, alumni of foster care, foster or adoptive parents, kinship caregivers and child welfare leaders.
“We are honored to recognize these individuals and communities for their amazing dedication to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families,” said David C. Mills, chair of the Board of Trustees of Casey Family Programs. “These recipients are helping to increase safety for children and to strengthen families.”
Family and Alumni Award Winners
Representative Les Gara, Anchorage, Alaska
Teri Hrabovsky, Jefferson, Louisiana
Foster or Adoptive Parent
Lou Ann and Jonathan Hawes, Palm Bay, Florida
Michael Huesca, San Diego, California
Kimberly Mays, Tacoma, Washington
Leadership Award Winners
Wendy Rickman, Des Moines, Iowa
Division Administrator of Adult, Children and Family Services for the Iowa Department of Human Services
Building around a strength-based, family-centered philosophy in child welfare leadership, Wendy Rickman is committed to improving outcomes for families in Iowa. She has worked to develop several initiatives aimed at strengthening families and improving outcomes for children, including a system that creates two pathways for handling child abuse and neglect allegations. She has also led the creation of Iowa’s nationally recognized children’s mental health and well-being community learning labs. Over the past five years, Iowa has experienced an overall reduction of 6 percent in the number of children in foster care. Rickman has worked for the Department of Human Services since 1987 and is a licensed social worker.
Bob Hutchison, Paintsville, Kentucky
Bob Hutchison is a business leader and entrepreneur who has invested his money, time and advocacy into improving community resources and opportunities for youth and families in Eastern Kentucky. He has developed meaningful community relationships and partnerships across a wide spectrum, and connected business leaders to philanthropy and investment in their communities. He has volunteered at and helped lead community organizations that serve vulnerable children and families, including the Christian Appalachian Project. Hutchison and his brother own 14 McDonald’s franchise restaurants in Eastern Kentucky, serving as an important employment base in the community. He has also served as a school board member for more than 20 years and was named Kentucky’s School Board Member of the Year in 2016.
Navajo Nation, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico
The Navajo Nation, led by President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez, responded to a cluster of youth suicides in 2015 by instituting a tribal listening tour and offering resources to those affected by suicide. The tour was part of the Navajo Nation’s Building Communities of Hope Initiative, aimed at raising awareness and preventing suicide. The tour visited every high school across the three-state nation, despite a cultural taboo about discussing suicide. Tribal leaders also declared a week in December and a week in June as Navajo Nation Suicide Prevention Week. Their efforts have included training for all Navajo Nation employees, trauma-informed care and an outreach campaign. In May, the Indian Health Service launched a suicide prevention campaign, “Love Your Life,” in partnership with the Window Rock, Arizona-headquartered Navajo Nation to connect young people to behavioral health care.
Oglala Sioux Tribe, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
The Oglala Sioux Tribe has taken on the important work of preventing youth suicides, declaring a state of emergency to focus on this vital issue. Nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Native American youth ages 15 to 24 years old. After the Pine Ridge, South Dakota, tribe experienced a cluster of youth suicides in 2014 and 2015, more Indian Health Service mental health counselors were made available to young members of the tribe. Tribal leadership testified in 2016 before a House subcommittee about the ongoing need for more funding for mental health services that are culturally appropriate, as well as investment to spark job creation and economic development to provide young people with hope and opportunities. Suicide prevention has been an ongoing effort of the tribe, with programs for youth and college students provided through grants from the federally funded Suicide Prevention Resource Center.