Washington, DC –Foster parents from 10 jurisdictions across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia were honored today by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors as the region’s 2016 Foster Parents of the Year. A reception and ceremony for the foster parents was held before the board’s May meeting.
COG partners with local and state child welfare agencies around the region to recognize these outstanding parents on an annual basis.
“At a moment’s notice, foster parents open their homes and hearts to children in need,” said COG Board Chairman and Montgomery County Council Vice President Roger Berliner. “Foster parents play a vital role in the lives of these children by giving them unconditional love in a safe, supportive, and nurturing home.”
George Williams, City of Alexandria Foster Parent of the Year
George Williams dedicates his whole heart to his role as a foster parent. Although caring for an infant can be challenging, Mr. Williams accepted the opportunity to provide care and a loving environment for an infant with medical needs. Through many recommendations and medical appointments, Mr. Williams was eager to learn the ins and outs of caring for the child.
Scott and Marcy Burka, Arlington County Foster Parents of the Year
Scott and Marcy Burka are team players in advocating for the lives of their foster children. In addition to their three biological children, Mr. and Mrs. Burka have provided care for five long-term placements, including two sibling groups. The Burka family has been flexible and supportive to biological families. Mr. and Mrs. Burka excel in providing emotional support for smooth transitions when their foster children move to their adoptive homes by maintaining connections and even taking big family vacations together.
Reginald and Sabrina Darden, Fairfax County Foster Parents of the Year
Having been parents to over 200 children, including their own, Reginald and Sabrina Darden are committed to providing a structured, loving, and nurturing home. The Darden family continuously welcomes teens, primarily teen boys with special needs and challenging behaviors that would intimidate most, into their family. Currently, Mr. and Mrs. Darden have five young men in their home, attending five different schools, and three of which will be graduating high school and preparing for college this year. Mrs. Darden is known for sending cards and gifts to the families of young people who have been in their care. Mr. Darden makes sure to instill important aspects of manhood in all of his sons prior to them leaving the Darden home. The Darden family home is always a place their children can come back to.
Gabriel and Jaoni Wood, Loudoun County Foster Parents of the Year
Gabriel and Jaoni Wood are fully committed to the best interest of their foster children’s lives, which includes participating in regularly scheduled therapeutic appointments and occasional travel for specialized services. Not only are they dedicated to meeting the needs of children, but Mr. and Mrs. Wood are also dedicated to supporting the foster care program. They developed a foster care and adoption ministry at their church to educate the community about foster care needs and the opportunities to serve as a resource, such as the Wood family, to children and their families.
Kwabena and Victoria Obeng, Prince William County Foster Parents of the Year
Kwabena and Victoria Obeng display great dedication and determination as foster parents. Mr. and Mrs. Obeng have increased the quality of life for many of their placements. With one of their foster children having inconsistent medical care and physical neglect, and Mrs. Obeng being a nurse, the Obeng family successfully cared for the child who is now happy, healthy, and independent. Mr. and Mrs. Obeng continue to provide the same unmitigated care to children with a variety of needs.
Phyllis Wilson, District of Columbia Foster Parent of the Year
Phyllis Wilson has provided care for children from birth to the age of sixteen. Through exposure to different cultural and enriching experiences, Ms. Wilson enhances her children’s lives and increases their desire to learn. Ms. Wilson adopted her son who was placed with her when he was three weeks old, and is now the process of receiving permanent guardianship for a seventeen-year-old honor student who will graduate this year. Ms. Wilson supports and counsels foster parents and assists them with navigating the foster care system.
Calvin Anderson and Corey Creech, Charles County Foster Parents of the Year
Calvin Anderson and Corey Creech have poured unending love into two children who were once experiencing major difficulties. Upon entering their home, the children displayed complex behaviors. However, as Mr. Anderson and Mr. Creech provided a safe, stable, and nurturing environment, the children began to thrive in academic success and confidence. The children have come a long way due to the dedication of Mr. Anderson and Mr. Creech in making them a part of their family.
Kristy O’Neal, Frederick County Foster Parent of the Year
Although licensed for just over a year, Kristy O’Neal has become a true asset to her agency and community. Ms. O’Neal is willing to help out in a flash and has accepted respite placements, sibling groups, and children with special needs. As a firm believer in the reunification process, Ms. O’Neal has developed strong and supportive relationships with birth parents. Currently, Ms. O’Neal serves as President of the Frederick County Foster Parent Association and has connected with the faith-based community to assist with resource parent recruitment. Ms. O’Neal continuously makes herself available to other foster parents for mentorship and support.
Reine Marie and Faustin Marcelin, Montgomery County Foster Parents of the Year
Reine Marie and Faustin Marcelin have displayed outstanding courage, patience, and dedication as foster and adoptive parents for the past six years. The Marcelin family has provided notable care for emergency, respite, short, and long term placements. Very humble in regards to their exceptional parenting, Mr. and Mrs. Marcelin strive to provide the children leaving their care with a smooth transition of reunification by engaging and interacting with birth families. On any given weekend, the Marcelin household could be filled with nearly a dozen children, some who just wanted to come back and visit. Mr. and Mrs. Marcelin recently adopted a sibling group of three who came into their care three years prior. The Marcelin family continues to be a great resource to their agency.
Patricia Park, Prince George’s County Foster Parent of the Year
Patricia Park hit the ground running as a new foster parent. Ms. Park’s first encounter as a foster parent involved a teen girl who was entering foster care for the first time. Through this shared first experience, Ms. Park and the young lady created a special bond. Ms. Park has since opened her door to many teens and provided them with a home, in some cases on emergency basis. Ms. Park also assists youth in enrolling in GED classes, obtaining state identification cards, and holding family visits in her home. Ms. Park has a genuine interest in the well-being and achievements of youth who come into her care.