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 2018 Foster Parents of the Year. A ceremony for the foster parents was held during 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.
“Foster parents are an invaluable resource to our region’s youth, providing them with a safe, supportive, and nurturing home until children can be reunified with their birth family or achieve permanency through adoption or guardianship,” said COG Board Chairman Matt Letourneau. "We are grateful for these outstanding foster parents in our region and congratulate them on this much deserved recognition."
The 2018 Foster Parents of the Year are listed below with a summary from their award nominations. Videos and photos of each family can be found here: www.facebook.com/kidsneedfamilies/.
Andrew and Diana Intagliata, City of Alexandria Foster Parents of the Year
City of Alexandria’s Foster Parents of the Year are Andrew and Diana Intagliata. Like many foster parents, the Intagliatas opened their home and hearts to provide care to vulnerable children. As a school psychologist and a special education teacher, the Intagliatas fostered two male teens that were eventually reunited with their families. Then, they began fostering a young lady and are now her permanent foster family. The Intagliatas have a genuine desire to help others.
Robert and Leslie Harden, Arlington County Foster Parents of the Year
Arlington County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Robert and Leslie Harden. Robert and his wife, Leslie, a former Arlington County Police Officer, recognized the need in the community for children to have a safe place to call home. The Hardens have fostered several children over the years. They focus their efforts on trying to reunify children with their birth families. In October 2014, when reunification was no longer an option for their foster daughter, they welcomed her as a part of their permanent family through adoption. They adopted their second child in 2017 and continue to serve as foster parents in the county.
Nicholas and Elisabeth Zeller, Fairfax County Foster Parents of the Year
Fairfax County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Nicholas and Elisabeth Zeller. The Zellers are currently parenting a two-year-old who joined their family at 14-months-old. Despite facing many personal challenges this past year, the Zeller family continues to provide exemplary care for the child. The Zellers strive to maintain relationships with children and birth parents whom they have previously fostered.
Robert and Sarah Wilkinson, Loudoun County Foster Parents of the Year
Loudoun County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Robert and Sarah Wilkinson. The Wilkinson family began fostering with Loudoun in 2007 and have provided care for many children since then. Currently, they have seven children in their home between the ages of two and seventeen, most of whom have special needs. The Wilkinsons adopted two children and are in the process of finalizing the adoption of a teenager. They are devoted to being permanent connections for those who enter their home and consistently focus on the needs of Loudoun’s children.
Melvin Reynolds, Prince William County Foster Parent of the Year
Prince William County’s Foster Parent of the Year is Melvin Reynolds. Reynolds has proved to be an exceptional foster parent and adoptive parent. He works hard to provide a stable home for the teen who has been with him since 2013. Under his care, the teen has grown and thrived and will be graduating from high school this May.
Melissa and Daniel Cummins, District of Columbia Foster Parents of the Year
The District of Columbia’s Foster Parents of the Year are Daniel and Melissa Cummins. The Cummins have been foster parents in D.C. for 6 years. During this time, they have provided a stable home and cared for nine children – many of whom have developmental delays and medical challenges. The Cummins have worked to prepare the children for reunification with their birth families. When reunification was no longer possible for a child in their care, they adopted him. The Cummins are committed to helping children and families involved in the District’s foster care system and work in partnership with the agency to ensure that the children’s needs are fully met.
Lakita Ayers, Charles County Foster Parent of the Year
Charles County’s Foster Parent of the Year is Lakita Ayers. Ayers has taken on the task of caring for three children under eight-years-old, with two of the children having extensive special needs. She has gone above and beyond in working with the biological family of the children. Ayers works diligently to maintain all medical appointments for each child and to meet each child’s individual needs.
Benjamin and Melissa Vivari, Frederick County Foster Parents of the Year
Frederick County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Benjamin and Melissa Vivari. The Vivaris brought a little girl into their home who returned to foster care after an unsuccessful reunification with her birth parent. There were many challenges given the circumstances, but the Vivari family are committed to providing the child with a safe, stable, and loving home. The family not only meets the needs of the child, but also demonstrates compassion for the birth parent.
Dale and Kristianne Taweel, Montgomery County Foster Parents of the Year
Montgomery County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Dale and Kristianne Taweel. The Taweels have served the county as foster parents for 12 years, during which they have fostered over 24 children. In 2009, the Taweels adopted a 6-year-old girl who had been in their care since 2006. They have proven to be cooperative, friendly, and very experienced in dealing with children who have been abused and neglected. Mrs. Taweel has become a Foster Parent Assistant in the Pride Training Program.
Angela Alston, Prince George’s County Foster Parent of the Year
Prince George’s County’s Foster Parent of the Year is Angela Alston who has been a foster parent for the county for seven years. In that time, she has been a great provider to many foster children ranging in ages from infancy to 20-years-old. She provides space for Prince George’s youth to grow, learn, and thrive and has been an advocate for teen girls, at one time taking in a teen mother with two children, who was also pregnant with twins. Alston prides herself in being available for the placement of youth who may have challenging behaviors or special and unique needs. She provides emergency and respite care and acts as a resource and support for other foster parents.