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.
Bobby and Teresa Coleman, Phoenix, Arizona
Jerry and Sally Ellis, Nampa, Idaho
Lamar Graham, Columbus, Ohio
Foster care alumnus
Sandra Killett, New York City
Timothy Phipps, Portland, Oregon
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Pablo, 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
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
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 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 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
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
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.