2014 Casey Excellence for Children Awards
Casey Family Programs is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Casey Excellence for Children Awards. These awards recognize outstanding individuals whose distinguished work, exceptional leadership and relentless dedication has improved the child welfare system. Award winners are selected from among a group of outstanding nominees within five categories: birth parents, alumni of foster care, foster parents, kinship caregivers, and leaders in child welfare.
We invite you to learn more about each below and view videos of the compelling stories and contributions of our constituent winners.
Eric Luciano, San Diego, California
Nancy Vivoda, Detroit, Michigan
Darrell Armstrong, Trenton, New Jersey
Foster care alumnus
Michelle Burnette, California, Maryland
Linette Kinchen, Chicago, Illinois
Reggie Bicha, Denver, Colorado
Executive Director, Colorado Department of Human Services
Reggie Bicha was appointed the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services in 2011. He has extensive experience working on child welfare, education, employment and health issues at the county, state and national levels. Director Bicha has helped to lead a 33 percent safe reduction of the number of children in foster care in Colorado between 2005 and 2013. During that time, Colorado also maintained an approximate rate of 85 percent of children in care exiting to permanency. The number of children achieving permanency in Colorado is 50 percent, 10 percent above the national average, and the percentage of children who do not experience maltreatment within six months is 93 percent. When Director Bicha assumed leadership, the state child welfare system was in considerable flux. Director Bicha’s steady leadership has enabled a practice model to take shape, the implementation of a Title IV-E waiver and a strong partnership with counties to emerge.
Dr. Allison Blake, New Jersey
Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Children and Families
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Allison Blake has been working on behalf of children and families. She served for 18 years at the formerly named New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, where she worked in direct service and administrative positions. Dr. Allison Blake was appointed Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) in 2010. As commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, she has led the development of the blueprint for the state’s child welfare system with an emphasis of working in partnership with NJ’s communities to help ensure the safety, wellbeing, and success of NJ’s children and families. Between 2005 and 2012 New Jersey DCF has safely reduced the number of children in care by 41.1 percent. During the same seven year span, exits to permanency increased. Dr. Blake and her staff continually review both the data and their practice to safely keep children at home and find timely permanency.
Marc Cherna, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services
Marc Cherna has served as Director of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) for over 17 years. He has implemented system-wide changes that have resulted in significant improvement in outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Director Cherna has lead Allegheny County DHS to achieve improved outcomes over the past three years. Under his leadership, DHS safely reduced the number of children in out of home care by 48 percent between 2005 and 2013. Exits to permanency and reunification have increased. Of all children who exited care in Allegheny County in 2012, over 80 percent of children exited to permanency, including 72 percent of those exiting to reunification. Director Cherna began his career in human services as a youth worker over 40 years ago. He has extensive experience in the field, including 13 years as an Assistant Director with the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
Judge Michael Nash, Los Angeles, California
Presiding Judge Juvenile Division, Los Angeles Superior Court
Michael Nash, the current Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court, was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1985. Elevated to the Superior Court in December 1989, Judge Nash was assigned to the Juvenile Dependency Court the following year. Since 1995, he has served as either Supervising Judge of the Juvenile Dependency Court or Presiding Judge of the entire Juvenile Court. Nationally, Judge Nash is a former president of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and is a member of the Board of Fellows of the National Center for Juvenile Justice. Judge Nash has improved the well-being of and permanency for children in the Los Angeles County child welfare system through his efforts to reduce the number of children in congregate care and their length of stay; increase and improve oversight of children receiving psychotropic medication; and the creation of Adoption Saturday.