2015 Casey Excellence for Children Awards

Casey Family Programs is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Casey Excellence for Children Awards. These awards recognize outstanding individuals whose distinguished work, exceptional leadership and relentless dedication has improved the child welfare system. The honorees are selected in two categories: constituents (birth parents, alumni of foster care, foster parents and kinship caregivers) and child welfare leaders.

We invite you to learn more about each below and view videos of the compelling stories and contributions of our constituent winners.

Constituent winners

Bobby and Teresa Coleman, Phoenix, Arizona

Kinship caregivers

For Arizona couple, kin really means family
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Bobby and Teresa Coleman
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Bobby and Teresa Coleman
Bobby and Teresa opened their home to Bobby’s 15-year-old, second cousin in 2013, adding to their three own children, including one with special needs. The Colemans welcomed and encouraged a relationship and communication with their foster son’s family. After his biological parents decided the Colemans would better meet his needs, Mr. and Mrs. Coleman became the boy’s guardians. They further welcomed his younger brother into their home as a family member. Viewed as role models by other foster parents, the Colemans are excellent advocates and always seek additional opportunities for growth and life lessons for the youth in their care.

 

Jerry and Sally Ellis, Nampa, Idaho

Foster parents

Idaho couple share heartfelt commitment as foster parents
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Jerry and Sally Ellis
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Jerry and Sally Ellis
Jerry and Sally Ellis have been foster parents for 21 years, helping to raise 20 children in addition to their own children. The Ellis’ heartfelt and enduring commitment has led to many successful outcomes for youth in their home and they work hard to facilitate contact between youth, birth family and siblings. For the past two years, the Ellis family has made their home available for weekly sibling visits between five siblings who were not able to be placed together. They have also provided short-term and respite care to countless youth over the past two decades. Additionally, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis offer guidance to a wide range of foster parents, contribute to a statewide Foster Parent Conference and participate in training and educational opportunities.

 

Lamar Graham, Columbus, Ohio

Foster care alumnus

Ohio foster care alumnus offers insight, inspiration
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Lamar Graham
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Lamar Graham
An alumnus of foster care, Lamar Graham is director of the Heart to Heart Food Pantry for First Community Church. There, he has greatly increased volunteers at the food pantry as well as local business donations. In addition, he has created a welcoming atmosphere – with music, recipes and cooking demonstrations. Mr. Graham has also worked on initiatives to support foster youth in higher education and is a highly regarded and inspiring foster alumni trainer for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. In his spare time, Mr. Graham works at a recreation center, organizing basketball and volleyball and movie nights for local youth. He also teaches Sunday school and mentors other youth, including his foster brothers.

 

Sandra Killett, New York City

Birth parent

A tireless champion for families in the child welfare system
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Sandra Killett
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Sandra Killett
Sandra Killett, executive director of the Child Welfare Organizing Project, is a tireless champion for New York City families in the child welfare system. A single mother of two boys, her older son was placed in foster care nearly a decade ago due to aggressive behavior problems. Through her strong advocacy, her son was able to successfully reunite with the family and the two have a close relationship. Ms. Killett has educated parents about their rights and reunification processes, and worked to reform child welfare policies through years of advocacy. In addition to her service on numerous boards and committees, Ms. Killett is an engaging public speaker who promotes the value of parent voices in shaping programs and policies that improve outcomes for families.

 

Timothy Phipps, Portland, Oregon

Birth parent

Oregon dad mentors fathers like himself
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Timothy Phipps
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Timothy Phipps
Timothy Phipps is a single father and advocate from Portland, Oregon, who successfully turned around his alcohol and drug addiction and domestic violence issues to provide a safe and healthy environment for his 12 year-old daughter. After his experience in a parent support group and numerous classes in parenting, anger management and healthy relationships, Mr. Phipps became a parent mentor with Morrison Child and Family Services. He facilitates a support group to help fathers regain custody of their children, if possible, or rebuild healthy, consistent relationships with them.  A founding member of the Fathers Advisory Board in Multnomah County, he is also on a subcommittee working to develop a statewide parent leadership team for Oregon’s child welfare system.

Leadership winners

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Pablo, Montana

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana

The three-person leadership team for child welfare of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes brings a deep understanding and collaboration to their advocacy for tribal sovereignty and self-determination, enhancing opportunities for Indian children in Montana to know who they are and have a lifelong connection to their tribes, family, history and language. The team has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to complying with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, and to strengthening practice, and improving outcomes for vulnerable tribal children and families. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes — the first tribes to implement their own foster care program under a federal waiver program — have been at the forefront of the nation building movement among federally recognized tribes in the United States. They oversee 19 separately funded programs on the reservation and administer and manage their own child welfare programs.

 

Theodore Dallas, Baltimore, Maryland

Secretary, Maryland Department of Human Services

Ted Dallas
Ted Dallas

Secretary Dallas has consistently championed new ideas and innovations in Maryland that have contributed to dramatically and safely reducing the number of children in out-of-home care. Over six years ago, Maryland created its Place Matters Initiative with the goal of safely reducing the need for foster care and to provide more services to children in their own homes. This ambitious effort included a reorientation of the state’s child welfare practice and policies, and a strong focus on family engagement and reaching families when their challenges are not significant enough to require out-of-home placement of their children. Secretary Dallas collaborated with lawmakers to pass what would become the state’s first legislation to provide supports and services to low-risk families in their own homes and communities. Across Maryland, almost every county’s numbers of children in out-of-home care are far below where they were five years ago.

 

Brenda Donald, Washington, D.C.

Deputy Mayor for District of Columbia Health and Human Services

Brenda Donald
Brenda Donald

Recently appointed as deputy mayor, Ms. Donald previously directed the Child and Family Services Agency with strong leadership and vision, and a track record of accelerated reform, performance improvement and achievement. During her tenure as director, the agency consistently delivered positive outcomes for the District’s children, youth and families, including safely reducing the number of children in foster care, providing alternative services for families who need support, and placing a higher number of children who need homes with relatives. Ms. Donald conceived and implemented the “Four Pillars” model for D.C.’s child welfare system, to engage private partners and advocates to help protect and support children and families. She has worked to rapidly transform child welfare practice in the District, infusing it with the best practices and innovations that support positive outcomes. Held in high esteem by her colleagues, Ms. Donald is a role model for her national peers.

 

Judge Jay Dugger, Hampton, Virginia

Chief Judge, Hampton Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court

Judge Jay Dugger
Judge Jay Dugger

Judge Dugger has been a leader in juvenile justice and foster care issues for over a decade. As the lead judge for Hampton’s Best Practice Initiative, he has worked to improve the legal system’s approach to dealing with abused and neglected children. Judge Dugger was a collaborative leader in the creation of Hampton’s Family Stabilization Program, which offers services to help support families whose children are at risk of removal for behavioral or delinquency issues. He was also instrumental in developing Hampton’s Child Dependency Mediation Program, the Safe Harbor for Kids Visitation Center and mental health screening and truancy initiatives. Judge Dugger has led and supported numerous other collaborative programs related to abused and neglected children, juvenile justice and child support.

 

Judge Katherine G. Essrig, Tampa, Florida

Thirteenth Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, Florida

Judge Katherine Essrig
Judge Katherine Essrig

Judge Essrig serves as Administrative Judge of the Unified Family Court/Juvenile Dependency in Hillsborough County, Florida and demonstrates her commitment to children and families through her caring and engaging courtroom manner. She chairs a local cross-system project, the Safe Reduction Workgroup, a data-driven effort to transform the Hillsborough County child protection system from reactive and siloed to proactive and united. At the statewide level, Judge Essrig chairs the Dependency Court Improvement Panel and is a member of the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Children and Families in the Courts. Judge Essrig speaks to national groups regularly and is a proponent of federal child welfare finance reform.

 

Joette Katz, Hartford, Connecticut

Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Children and Families

Joette Katz
Joette Katz

Commissioner Katz is a strong leader who has consistently delivered results by improving the safety, permanency and well-being of vulnerable children. She has supported efforts to connect at-risk families with services to prevent maltreatment and safely reduce the need for foster care. During her four-year tenure, Commissioner Katz has implemented a deeper focus on finding permanent homes for children in care and broadened the focus on wellbeing to include educational achievement, increased visitation with siblings and life skills for adolescents. Under her leadership, the department has shown a strong increase in the number of children placed with relative caregivers, a substantial decrease in the number of children placed in out-of-state care and in congregate, or group, care. She has worked to implement a family-focused practice model in which families are listened to, treated with respect and seen as the solution rather than the problem.

 

Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble, Washington

Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe
Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

The Port Gamble S’KlallamTribe has been a prominent leader in the move toward tribal access of direct federal funding of child welfare in the U.S.  Port Gamble achieved this milestone in far less time than the usual two-year planning process. The Tribe successfully operates tribal child support, tribal assistance for needy families, tribal Head Start and a nurse home visiting program.  Port Gamble also recently became the first tribe to obtain approval of their application for a federal IV-E funds waiver, which will give them more financial flexibility to provide culturally appropriate services that preserve and strengthen youth and families.

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