Credit: Shelley Miller Photography, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Outstanding foster parents from 10 jurisdictions around metropolitan Washington were honored May 13 by the Council of Governments (COG) Board of Directors as the region’s 2015 Foster Parents of the Year. A reception for the foster parents followed a ceremony held before the Board’s May meeting.
COG Board Chairman, Mayor William Euille of Alexandria, said foster parents are true heroes because they do much more than offer to rescue children and their families in the midst of a crisis.
“They are the ones who give vulnerable children the consistent love, attention, and support kids so desperately need. They bring rays of light, as well as the peace and understanding that lead to healing and a better life,” he said.
The 2015 Foster Parents of the Year include the following. Videos and photos about each family can be found on COG’s Child Welfare Program’s Facebook page.
Karen Fjeld, City of Alexandria Foster Parent of the Year
Karen Fjeld immerses herself into the life of her foster child so they feel all the love and support she has to give. Ms. Fjeld ensures that family relationships continue to flourish while she supports her foster child in all of their interests such as: swimming lessons, guitar lessons, and kick boxing. Through her own international travels and fluency in many languages besides English, Ms. Fjeld opens a whole new world to her children, and has been an excellent foster parent that embraces children of many cultural backgrounds.
Jean Ray, Arlington County Foster Parent of the Year
For Jean Ray, traveling far and wide to support the needs of her foster children is not an issue. While a teenage girl was placed out of her home for a period of time due to treatment needs, Ms. Ray devoted time in her schedule to travel 60-90 miles to visit this young lady. Sadly, Ms. Ray was the only person to visit the young woman while she was in treatment, and continues to be the only positive role model this young woman has.
Karen Humes, Fairfax County Foster Parent of the Year
Affectionately referred to as “Suga Momma”, Karen Humes parents children who display very challenging behaviors and that have significant developmental and intellectual disabilities. Ms. Humes uses compassion, love, and creative discipline strategies to nurture both ongoing foster care and respite placements. Starting out as a kinship parent to her own grandchildren, Ms. Humes has a unique and important perspective. She has provided outstanding guidance to other foster parents as a trainer encouraging and supporting new families, and sharing her experience with them.
Michael and Rachel Hunsberger, Loudoun County Foster Parents of the Year
Supportive in more ways than one, Michael and Rachel Hunsberger have fostered several children and formed positive working relationships with birth parents in their Leesburg community. The Hunsberger family has participated in several recruitment events to share their experiences with prospective foster families. As a result, the couple is responsible for many other foster parents deciding to start the process because of the Hunsberger’s can-do attitude. You see, the Hunsberger’s are a large family with four boys under the age of 7, plus one more on the way. Yet, they have extended themselves and offer to foster parent so they can be of service to other families in their community who need a helping hand. The Hunsbergers epitomize what is means to be selfless by fully embracing their role as foster parents.
Saeed and Michelle Riddick, Prince William County Foster Parents of the Year
The Riddick home is a fun home! The family owns their own entertainment business and instills the spirit of entrepreneurship, and working for a good cause, in all of their foster sons. The family hosts “Parties with a Purpose” inviting attendees to bring items to donate to charities. Through their connections in the community, the Riddicks ensure their foster sons have summer internships, weekend jobs, and connections to the business community so they can network themselves into careers they will love in the future.
Isaac Lambert, District of Columbia Foster Parent of the Year
Isaac Lambert is very charismatic. As a foster parent, Mr. Lambert has had more than 14 young men come into his home. Each of the youngsters felt comfortable calling him “Dad” almost immediately. Mr. Lambert diligently encourages every boy that comes into his home to be the best they can be at school, at sports, and in life in general. He is their number one fan! Mr. Lambert ultimately adopted one young man he fostered and became the legal guardian of another. Mr. Lambert has developed an open door policy for all of “his boys.” Some who have aged out of the system, know they can always count on Mr. Lambert for support.
Stephen and Gilda Clifford, Charles County Foster Parents of the Year
Stephen and Gilda Clifford are givers! They are humble generous people who wholeheartedly contribute all they have in the hopes of bettering the lives of children and families in their Waldorf community. This may be because Mr. Clifford was a foster child himself and can fully empathize with the children and their situations on a much deeper level. After each placement leaves, everyone in their large family mourns the lost, including their own children, three teenage and middle school-aged daughters. The Cliffords feel they are raising their children to embrace and understand what it means to give back. Despite the heartache of saying goodbye, the Cliffords feel it is important that they said hello, and gave that young foster child a chance to be loved, and to experience what family is all about.
Joe and Linda Daniele, Frederick County Foster Parents of the Year
“Their situation does not define them,” said Joe Daniele about the 19 foster care placements he and his wife, Linda, have cared for over the years. Linda and Joe are being recognized as outstanding foster parents because of their ability to take in challenging placements such as: sibling groups, teens, and young children with special needs. The couple raised four of their own children in the City of Frederick, and, just before their nest became empty, the Daniele’s decided to become foster parents. The way their journey into foster parenting began is far from the norm. Linda, a special education teacher in Frederick, learned that a student of hers was in foster care. She and the student had such a wonderful bond in the classroom that Linda decided to inquire about being his foster parent. After several years in their home as a foster placement, the Daniele family adopted this young man who they continue to love and adore.
Dale and David McCloud, Montgomery County Foster Parents of the Year
As a high school basketball coach, Mr. McCloud has come to know many young men in Clarksburg, while Mrs. McCloud has served as a surrogate mother and friend to many neighborhood children. Even before the couple started foster parenting, they always had a home full of teenagers who would retire after a long practice, tournament, or game at Coach McCloud’s home. The McClouds officially became foster parents when one Coach’s players shared that he was in foster care, and wanted to know if the McClouds would consider keeping him. The timing was not ideal as the McClouds were newlyweds and had just returned from their honeymoon. Yet they said yes, and the rest is history! Two years later, the McClouds adopted that young man, who is now in college, and have warmly welcomed several other young men into their home as foster parents.
Jason and Jennifer Float, Prince George’s County Foster Parents of the Year
Jason and Jennifer Float are high school sweethearts who decided to give back by caring for local children as foster parents. This young couple have shown so much maturity and shared so much wisdom with their foster children’s birth family feel they learned how to be better parents from the Floats. The idea of loving and letting go is difficult for any foster parent to do. The Floats approached their role as foster parents fully embracing this idea and working diligently with the birth parents and children to bridge the gap. Despite the birth family’s history, which included drug use and incarcerations, the Floats did not stereotype them. Instead the Floats understood that people can and do change, and in time, this was exactly what happened! Thanks to the Floats, their foster children are well-adjusted and know they have two sets of parents who deeply care and love them.