WASHINGTON, DC – To kick-off Foster Parent Appreciation Month, celebrated every May, nine outstanding foster families from around metropolitan Washington were honored at Nationals Park on April 30, 2011. For their exceptional job caring for abused and neglected children in our region at a moment’s notice, these nine families have been given the auspicious title of “Foster Family of the Year.” Taking center field for a pre-game recognition, the families were joined by elected officials from each of their jurisdictions and received rousing applause from the tens of thousands in the stands.
“We hope the examples set by our Foster Parents of the Year inspire more area residents to open their hearts and homes to our region’s foster children,” said Andrea Harrison, Prince George’s County Council Member (District 5) and 2011 Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors.
Foster Parents of the Year have been honored by the Freddie Mac Foundation and COG for 8 years. This year the celebration included the pre-game center-field recognition as well as free admission to the Nationals’ game versus the San Francisco Giants for over 800 foster families, social workers, and elected officials.
“We were thrilled to join again with COG in honoring the region’s foster parents of the year,” said Renette Oklewicz of the Freddie Mac Foundation. “Foster parents do tremendous work every day, all year round, and we’re so grateful that they opened their hearts and homes to care for children in need in our communities.”
“Being on that field with so many wonderful foster parents and families was really the most memorable experience of my time in office,” Loudoun County Supervisor Andrea McGimsey said of the event. To learn more about and see videos of the Foster Parents of the Year, visit the Kids Need Families Like Yours Facebook page.
The winning Foster Parents of the Year for 2011 are: (Photos of the event are available free-of-charge upon request. Please contact Lewis Miller to request the professional photos).
District of Columbia: Lynette Monroe
Ms. Monroe has been a foster parent since 2001 and has foster parented more than 20 children. She is seen as a “mother” to many. Even after her foster children return to their birth families, they often stay in touch with her and ask for advice. As a parent of six children, three whom she adopted, and three biological children, Ms. Monroe is an experienced parent who obviously loves children. In fact, she is not done yet! This caring foster parent plans to add one more young man to her family who she has been fostering for 8 years.
Frederick County: John and Lynn Taylor
The Taylor’s are middle and high school educators with a knack for teens. They decided to become foster parents because they wanted to do more for their community. When Frederick County invited this couple to consider foster parenting a 17 year old boy who had been in the system for several years, the Taylor’s not only enthusiastically agreed, but dove right in by visiting to make the young man’s transition into their home as smooth as can be. After reporting just how well this young man fits in with their family, the Taylor’s are now planning to adopt him, right before his 18th birthday. John and Lynn Taylor reside in Frederick.
Montgomery County: Rick Wright
Mr. Wright is often referred to as a “miracle maker.” He literally transformed a young man’s life who was originally placed in his home temporarily for respite care. This young man had many behavioral and emotional challenges, and yet the youngster blossomed with this single dad. Mr. Wright provided the youngster with the support he needed to let go of his aggression. The one day of respite has turned into a lifelong connection for this young man and adoption plans are underway! Rick Wright resides in Bethesda.
Prince George’s County: Vernice Moody
Ms. Moody recently became a foster parent, but has taken to the role like a pro! She opened her home to a sibling group of two to keep the brother and sister together, and has gone above and beyond to create a loving environment for them. When plans were made for the siblings to transition back to their birth family around the holiday season, Ms. Moody and her extended family had an early Christmas for the children before they left Ms. Moody’s home. The children have not forgotten their two Christmases, and the love Ms. Moody has for them. Vernice Moody resides in Fort Washington.
Loudoun County: Vic and Ginnie Dively
They traveled the country as a military family before settling down in Northern Virginia. (Mr. Dively is a former Marine.) After retiring from the military, The Dively’s decided to become foster parents, and have been doing so for more than a decade now. They specialize in teenage boys by providing a structured yet loving environment for each young man they foster. This couple’s parenting style is adaptable, yet the Dively’s consistently infuse the ideas of personal responsibility, value to your community and personal honor. These values have given their foster sons a sense of self-worth and increased self-esteem. The Dively family resides in Sterling.
Prince William County: Carlos Pasquel and Ada Feliciano
The Pasquel-Feliciano family began their journey to become foster parents in 2003. They called the county to share their interest in providing a safe and nurturing environment for all children, including those with special needs. Recently, the couple received a foster child with pretty extensive medical needs. The Pasquel-Feliciano’s take excellent care of the child often helping the social worker by transporting the child to various medical appointments and evaluations. This couple puts their foster child’s needs first at all times; their helpfulness and kindness has been a tremendous blessing to the county. The Pasquel-Feliciano family resides in Woodbridge.
Fairfax County: Ray and Judi Mason
The Mason’s are a kind, gentle, unassuming couple who foster children, including large sibling groups, to keep brothers and sisters together. They are able to recognize and understand how abuse and neglect impacts children and the scars that are left behind when abuse occurs. By keeping siblings together in their loving home, this couple has healed the children and helped them to feel safe again. During their 8 years of foster parenting, many county children, including sibling groups, teens, and tweens, have learned how to trust again thanks to the Mason family. The Mason family resides in Herndon.
Arlington County: Sanjay and Gita Altekar
The Altekar’s work seamlessly with the county’s social workers to “bridge the gap,” i.e. to maintain healthy birth family connections, at whatever level is deemed appropriate, so that foster children grow up without divided loyalties. The concept of “loving, yet letting go” is obviously difficult to do, but this couple does it well. As a result, the children the Altekar’s foster grow up feeling secure and well-adjusted. Their most recent foster child will be staying with the family, as they have happily decided to adopt her. The Altekar family resides in Arlington.
City of Alexandria: Ginger and Miquel Rodriquez
The Rodriquez’s are outstanding advocates for foster children. Due to their unwavering commitment, they have been asked by the agency to serve as a mentor for another foster family. For the last several years, the Rodriquez’s have been fostering a child who requires home nurse care, and must be fed through a feeding tube. With full-time work schedules, this couple made arrangements to study and become experts in how to care for the child. In the midst of this, they also received a teenager as a foster placement who was struggling academically. The Rodriquez’s advocated and earned a scholarship for the teen to attend a local private school for children with his learning needs. Both of their foster children are thriving and doing well thanks to this couple’s extra special care and advocacy. The Rodriquez family resides in Alexandria.