Megan Wells, Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year, and Fairfax County Board Chairman Sharon Bulova at COG - For photos of additional honorees, visit: http://www.facebook.com/kidsneedfamilies
Washington, DC – The 2014 Foster Parents of the Year for metropolitan Washington were honored today at the Council of Governments Board meeting for their commitment to their foster sons and daughters as well as to the children’s birth families. The foster parents were praised for developing productive partnerships with the birth families that benefitted the children and entire communities.
“We congratulate all our Foster Parents of the Year and thank them for giving this region’s most vulnerable children the time, attention and parental love they need,” said COG Chairman Phil Mendelson, who also is Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia.
This year’s foster parents are from Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles and Frederick Counties in Maryland; and the City of Alexandria, Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington Counties in Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Brief descriptions of the families’ work follows, and photographs of the foster parents for each jurisdiction are available upon request.
Click on links below to view short videos on these inspirational parents.
Denise and Robert Disney, Frederick County Foster Parents of the Year
When the Frederick County Department of Social Services offered an opportunity for a specialized foster parent training to work with teenagers, a very difficult population to place in foster homes, the Disneys were the first to sign up. Since that time, the Disneys have received dozens of teenage boys in their home. Mr. and Mrs. Disney are staunch advocates, mentors, nurturers, and supporters of each young man they have fostered. Their commitment to these young men has never faltered, and the agency is very grateful for the difference they have made in their lives.
Florence Bell, Montgomery County Foster Parent of the Year
Over 100 children have called Ms. Bell “mom.” She has been a foster parent since 1998, and is known for her patience and flexibility. Ms. Bell rarely declines the opportunity to receive a new placement, so over the years she has cared for the full spectrum of children, including infants, sibling groups, children with special needs, pregnant and parenting teens and young adult teenagers on the verge of aging out. It has been said and observed, that the children who arrive on Ms. Bell’s doorstep immediately feel a sense calm. Coming from situations of horrific abuse or neglect, Ms. Bell has the ability to make each child feel safe in her home so their healing process can begin. She is a seasoned foster parent who deserves respect and this special recognition for her two decades of commitment to the children of Montgomery County.
Prince George’s County
Valerie Jones, Prince George’s County Foster Parent of the Year
An island native, Ms. Jones has light-hearted nature and is passionate about “her kids.” Each child who is placed with Ms. Jones feels her genuine concern for their well-being. Ms. Jones made the decision to become a foster parent in 2001 after witnessing her relatives in their roles as foster parents. Ms. Jones is carrying on a family tradition, and is doing an excellent job of creating a legacy of love.
Teri Traudt, Charles County Foster Parent of the Year
Ms. Traudt is a single mom on the go, and yet she finds time to give back to her community as a foster parent. Ms. Traudt has adopted a child from foster care and is in the process of adopting another. She is known by the agency, parents, and community as a patient nurturer. This is why Ms. Traudt is often called upon to help children and their birth parents renew their relationship so the child can return home. She is an awesome example of how one person can make a significant difference. For her service to Charles County’s foster children, Ms. Traudt deserves this recognition.
Allan and Claire Wright, Loudoun County Foster Parents of the year
The Wright family is being honored for many reasons, but especially for their commitment to children with special needs and developmental delays. They are consistently supportive of each foster child’s birth parents, and have worked tirelessly with the birth families to support them in learning how to care for their child’s needs so they can return home. The Wrights are seen as cooperative parents, and are known as a very supportive, kind and loving family within their community.
Prince William County
Daniel & Mae Morey, Prince William County Foster Parents of the Year
Every child that is placed in the Moreys home knows they are loved. This large family, including 5 foster children, is best described as a fun, “never dull” home. Education is key in the Morey household, and the children who are placed there thrive academically. The Moreys recently had a child placed in their home who was failing in school. After a short time, that same child caught up to grade level, and is graduating a year earlier than scheduled. For this reason and more, The Moreys are this year’s Foster Parents of the Year for Prince William County.
Megan Wells, Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year
Although Ms. Wells is a new foster parent, fostering for less than a year, she approaches the role as a seasoned veteran. She embraced her first placement last year by helping a 13 year old boy remain connected to his extended family. She provides pictures and updates to his family constantly to keep them connected to their son. Ms. Wells has been able to work with the family in a manner that does not diminish their role or make them feel threatened. This level of trust is extremely hard to develop with birth families. The fact that Ms. Wells developed this bond so quickly is a true testament to her natural and obvious commitment to children, and earnest desire to help.
Ben and Shira Simon, Arlington County Foster Parents of the Year
The Simon’s home is a home away from home for many foster children. The Simons are inclusive of all birth families, even teaching one birth dad how to drive a car so he could get a job and receive his children back. After their foster children are reunified, the Simons are often invited to attend their birthday parties by their birth families. The Simons are truly seen as extended family members by the birth parents. They embrace the idea of foster parenting as a way to give back to their community, and have exposed their friends and relatives to the wonders of foster parenting and the difference it makes.
City of Alexandria
Keith and Cherie Smith, City of Alexandria Foster Parents of the Year
The Smiths are phenomenal foster parents. They are diligent caretakers willing to go the distance, any distance, to make sure their foster children are safe and secure. In fact, because it was in the best interest of the teenager who was placed in their care to continue to attend their base school, the family traveled over 40 miles each way to take the child to school. The Smiths also helped an infant, who arrived at their home in poor physical condition, return to optimal health by tending to her specific medical needs. Everyone at the City of Alexandria Department of Social Services agrees that the Smiths truly exemplify the generosity, understanding, care, thoughtfulness, and steadfastness that Alexandria foster children need and deserve.
Alecia Witherspoon, DC Foster Parent of the Year
Ms. Witherspoon is an outstanding foster parent. She was chosen among the many foster parents in DC’s system to serve in the Mockingbird project as a HUB parent. As a HUB parent Ms. Witherspoon is not only a foster parent, she is on-call 24/7 to the other foster parents in her neighborhood. If a parent has an emergency or a child needs respite care, they call Ms. Witherspoon. Her door is rarely closed, and she truly embraces her role as a parent to the children within her community, and as a servant of the District of Columbia.