County of Los Angeles
DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES
425 Shatto Place, Los Angeles, California 90020
Board of Supervisors MARK RIDLEY-THOMAS DON KNABE
Board of Supervisors
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2010
Contact: Jennifer T. Baronoff Pat Salcido
Office of the Presiding Judge Children's Law Center
(323) 526-6667 (323) 980-5720
Los Angeles County Foster Care Heroes Honored by Board of Supervisors on May 25th as Part of Foster Care Awareness Month
Throughout the month of May, foster youth, their caregivers, families, child advocates and associated organizations will participate in events in Los Angeles County and California in celebration of National Foster Care Awareness Month. This annual campaign is a national effort designed to increase awareness around issues that impact foster children and to encourage individuals and communities to do more to support these amazing and deserving youth.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be joined by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Director Patricia S. Ploehn, Children's Law Center Executive Director Leslie Heimov and other County social service dignitaries in honoring this year's Foster Care Awareness Month Heroes and their families at a press conference on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at 8:30 a.m., in Room 864 of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration located at 500 West Temple Street. The press conference will be followed by a presentation during the regular Board of Supervisors meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board Room of the Hall.
Every year during National Foster Care Awareness Month, a number of individuals and organizations are honored for their contributions to Los Angeles County foster youth. They are nominated by individuals and organizations in social services throughout Los Angeles county. A number of these honorees have been selected for overcoming adversity or for the outstanding contributions they have made improving the lives of abused and neglected children. This year's nominations were drawn from foster parents, social workers, DCFS clients, lawyers, judicial court and community partners. This year's heroes include:
Ronnie Romero, Maternal Grandfather
Ronnie Romero is the maternal grandfather of 7 ½ year old Angel who resides in the sub acute unit at a hospital. Shortly after birth, Angel required a hospital placement due to Hypoxic Brain Damage, Seizure Disorder, Circulatory Collapse, Esophageal Reflux and G-tube dependency. Since birth, Angel's grandfather, Ronnie Romero has visited with her 3 to 4 times per week providing company and stimulation in an otherwise sterile and lonely hospital setting. Most times he is Angel's only family contact. He talks to Angel, rubs her arms and legs and has developed his own system of communication with her. While Angel is mostly unresponsive, she does seem to respond to her grandfather's voice and touch with animated face, eye and tongue movement. Mr. Romero buys all of Angel's clothing and personal items. He has been by Angel's side during the many emergency surgeries and procedures she has required over the years. He even donated Angel's long beautiful hair to an organization that makes wigs for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses. It could be said that Angel has her own guardian angel in grandfather Ronnie Romero.
Sharon Watson, Child Advocate
Sharon Watson has worked to improve the lives of foster youth in Los Angeles County for over 30 years. She began her career as a staff psychologist at MacLaren's Children's Center heading both the mental health unit and the Youth Services Center. She later served as Executive Director of the Florence Crittenton Center, the Association of Children's Services Agencies and the Children's Planning Council. Additionally, she served as the Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles' Commission for Children, Youth and their Families, was President of the California Association of Services for Children and participated on several committees and task forces for the Board of Supervisors, County Commission for Children and Families, ICAN, DCFS and others. Through these efforts she has helped to restructure the Youth Development Services program and develop what is now known as the DCFS P-3 unit which finds permanent homes for foster youth while creating countywide policies and procedures that improve the way the system supports these youth. She has worked diligently throughout her career to help change the culture here in Los Angeles County of one from promoting child welfare to child well-being.
Kenneth Brown, Former Foster Youth
For over 21 years, Kenneth Brown has dedicated himself to the betterment of the foster care system and foster youth. Kenny's work began with California Youth Connection (CYC) a youth-led non-profit that engages current and former foster youth in child welfare policy and advocacy. Kenny started as a Youth Worker in 1997 and promoted to an Outreach Coordinator in 2000. He has trained social workers, community members, foster youth and policy makers throughout the State and at National Conferences. He was chosen by his peers to serve as the staff representative on the 2009 CYC Executive Director Search Committee. In addition to his work with CYC Kenny is also a full time employee at DCFS where he works with youth to help build skills for a successful transition out of care. One of Kenny's first accomplishments came in 1992 when he helped to pass AB 2691 (Areias, 1992), which makes it easier for foster youth to obtain driver's licenses. His mark on this world will not be forgotten by the thousands of lives he has helped, supported and touched. Kenny's words of encouragement live in the hearts of California's foster youth.
Kelly and Patrick Seidenkranz, Foster Parents
A year ago, a newborn baby was placed with Kelly and Patrick Seidenkranz who planned on adopting her. When the baby's grandparents were unexpectedly located in another state about six weeks later, their plans to adopt unraveled. After speaking with the baby's grandmother, Kelly was convinced that it was in baby Sarah's best interest to be with them. She continued to love and care for Sarah, hoping that she would be reunited with her grandparents quickly. The grandparents lacked funds to come and meet their grandchild so Kelly and Patrick, with help from their church, raised the necessary funds. They welcomed the grandmother into their home for a couple of days so she and her granddaughter could bond in a familiar setting. By the end of the visit, court approval was received for the baby to fly home with her grandmother. Kelly and Patrick have kept in touch with the grandparents and there has been talk of a possible visit to see the baby and her family. The generosity of Kelly and Patrick turned a very difficult situation into a loving and permanent home for baby Sarah.
Guadalupe Teran, Former Foster Youth
In 1997, Guadalupe was detained from her mother due to mother's drug use. Guadalupe never reunified with her own mother. At age 17, Guadalupe herself became a very loving and responsible mother. She graduated high school and then completed a Business Administration program at Westech College in April, 2009. Guadalupe is now employed, supporting herself and her son and recently got custody of her younger sister. She is also taking care of an additional younger sister as well.
Patrick Lee, Former Foster Youth
Patrick Lee came to the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency in 2001, at the age of 15, after discovering his mother unconscious and suffering from cancer. Patrick, his twin brother Shane, and two younger sisters, Grace and Emily, had no relatives to care for them and were fearful that they would be separated. A safe and supportive home was found for all four siblings to live together as a family. Under the care of his foster father, "Pops" Patrick Glynn, Patrick flourished as a student and received a scholarship to attend San Francisco State University (SFSU) majoring in Cinema Studies. He made a few short films, one of which was an official selection at the 2009 SFSU Film Festival, "Collective at the Coppola". Patrick was nominated as an Official Honoree at the 2009 Foster Youth Leadership Awards. Since graduating from SFSU in 2009, Patrick has worked as a production assistant and volunteered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, while tutoring children and working for the 2010 Census. During the past year, Patrick has also been a participant in a co-mentoring program with his peers.
Jo Schiff, Child Advocate
Jo Schiff has dedicated herself to ensuring that youth in the system have access to creative arts experiences through Free Arts for Abused Children's programs for more than 30 years. Once this partnership was established, Jo dedicated herself to maintaining and growing the programs year after year ensuring that more than 20,000 children annually have the opportunity to escape the anxiety of their court experience, if only for a moment. In 2009 Jo worked with Judge Henry, Judge Nash, Rand Henderson and Robert Brewster to expand the program to the McCourtney Juvenile Justice Center in Lancaster so that children in that courthouse would also have access to creative arts programs as they wait for their hearings. Free Arts for Abused Children's seeks to inspire hope in the lives of abused, homeless and at-risk children through innovative arts programs and positive interactions with caring adult volunteers. For 30 years, Jo Schiff has been offering foster youth creativity, hope, understanding and a voice. She also invests her time and talent in helping the community know more about what foster youth experience and how we can all come together to help provide resources and a safety net.
Los Angeles County Foster Care Awareness Campaign activities are coordinated by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Alliance for Children's Rights, the Dependency Court Judiciary, Children's Action Network, and Free Arts for Abused Children.
The state Foster Care Awareness Month activities seventh annual kick-off was held on Tuesday, May 3, 2010, in Sacramento at the Capitol. There were a range of organizations with booths providing information about services available for foster youth, their caregivers and families was well as opportunities for individuals to support foster youth through volunteering, mentoring, and becoming foster parents. Additional Foster Care Awareness events scheduled for the month include:
Luggage Round Up: The collections of new and gently used luggage to be distributed to foster youth. For more information, contact Jennifer Wolbransky at JTWolbransky@lasuperiorcourt.org.
Harbor UCLA Medical Hub on May 13th: holds its Foster Care Awareness Month event. For more information, contact Deborah Knox at email@example.com
Career Day on May 17th: This event will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Edelman Children's Court with individuals from various careers talking about what they do and how they got there; many of whom will be former foster youth. For information, contact Linda Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org
Job Shadow Day - On several days throughout the month designated employers will provide youth the opportunity to learn about different job fields and possibilities for employment. For further information regarding Foster Care Awareness month activities across the country, visit www.fostercaremonth.org