Washington, DC – The Freddie Mac Foundation and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) today launched an advertising campaign to attract new foster families using those named the region’s Foster Parents of the Year as spokespersons.
The new effort is designed to find foster families for many of the area’s teens and children who need care. Social workers report that because of the economic downturn, some families are too overwhelmed by stress, illness and a lack of income to adequately care for their children. As a result, the Freddie Mac Foundation is sponsoring a series of 30 second radio and television ads that will be broadcast over the next two weeks.
“Throughout our region, more than 4,500 children are in need of foster care, but we have fewer than half that number of foster parents who have opened their hearts and homes to care for them,” said Margaret Meiers, Vice President of the Freddie Mac Foundation. “This campaign will encourage others to open their hearts and homes to children in crisis.” The ad campaign, which was announced at a ceremony honoring the Foster Parents of the Year, will run from May 3 - 16 on television stations WRC, WJLA and DC 50, and radio stations WTOP and Praise and Spirit.
At today’s ceremony, nine jurisdictions in metropolitan Washington honored their foster parents of the year, including the District of Columbia, Frederick, Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland and the City of Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties in Virginia.
“We are delighted to honor these foster parents who, by helping to guide and care for our youngest citizens, truly make our communities better,” said COG Vice Chair Andrea Harrison, who also serves as vice chair of the Prince George’s County Council.
Mayor William Euille of Alexandria said the foster parents share “a wonderful determination to make a difference in the life of a child.” Supervisor Wally Covington of Prince William County said the successful work of foster parents becomes “multi- generational and feeds out into the broader community.”
The foster parents honored this year include several who care for children with medical or developmental issues, as well as those who care for children who have been neglected or abused. Many of the parents also work with teenagers and teen mothers. In two cases, the families’ biological children asked their parents to begin caring for foster children. All the parents have been outstanding mentors and advocates for the children in their care.
The honorees said the rewards of being foster parents outweigh the challenges. They also stress that even people with busy work lives can make an important contribution as foster parents.
“If we can do it, anyone can. Sometimes you just have to step out and share your gifts,” said Norma Gordon and Daniel Fleig of Fairfax County. “We also wanted our own children to see and understand that all people struggle. There is not much that separates us one from the other.”
Saundra Asante of the District of Columbia has been a foster parent for 18 years, while pursuing a career. “The kids help me with the scheduling. I really think it’s important for more people with busy professional lives to step up and become foster parents.”
Chelsea Anne Elizabeth Hayes of Montgomery County, the foster mother to four teenage sisters who had experienced domestic violence and abuse said, “Everyone should understand, even when children have issues, it doesn’t take up your whole life. They really give a lot of joy back to you.”
The recruiting campaign, called “Kids Need Families Like Yours,” will direct people to call (877) 800-Foster for more information or visit the Kids Need Families Like Yours Facebook page.
The winning Foster Parents of the Year* are:
City of Alexandria: Kaari and Lee Vasquez
Frederick County: Samuel and Melody Bennett
Prince William County: Patricia and Jesus Lavarello
Prince George’s County: Odessa Holliman
Loudoun County: Rose and Roger Schaffer
Arlington County: Katina Wells
Montgomery County: Chelsea Anne- Elizabeth Hayes
Fairfax County: Norma Gordon and Daniel Fleig
District of Columbia: Saundra Asante
*Photos of the Foster Parents of the Year can be found at the Kids Need Families Like Yours Facebook page.