This month, AOI is sharing with the world the names of the eight individuals – all experienced researchers and/or practitioners in the field of foster care – who have generously volunteered to be the judges for the 2018 AOI Awards Program, the first ever national awards program dedicated to recognizing successful strategies to help prepare youth for aging out of foster care and support youth after they age out of care. The judges for the 2018 AOI Awards Program are:

  • Chris Chmielewski, Former foster youth and Founder/Owner/Editor of Foster Focus Magazine
  • Dr. John DeGarmo, Consultant, international speaker, foster parent, and founder of The Foster Care Institute and Never Too Late, a home for boys in foster care in Georgia
  • Dr. Amy Dworsky, Research Fellow at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
  • Dr. Johanna Greeson, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice
  • Dr. Judy Havlicek, Associate Professor at the School of Social work at the University of Illinois
  • Susan Punnett, Executive Director of Family & Youth Initiative
  • Tina Raheem, Director of Scholarships and Grants at Foster Care to Success
  • Steve Walsh, Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at California State University, Bakersfield

We are very excited that they have joined the AOI team, but why did they do it? It will take time and energy to review and judge all the applications, and these are all very busy people, so something must have struck them as being important about this awards program.

If you have read the page on the AOI website about the awards program, then you know that the AOI Awards will recognize foster parents and organizations that are implementing strategies that are successfully preparing youth for aging out of foster care or supporting them after they age out. We all know that statistically, foster youth aging out of care face many challenges. Among other difficulties, these youth have (as compared with their peers not in state care) lower high school and college graduation rates, lower employment rates, and more difficulties finding stable housing.

We know that there are foster parents and organizations out there making a difference, minimizing these risks and successfully supporting youth through the transition to adulthood through the services they offer. Besides just publicly applauding these dedicated professionals, we are also going to share the winners’ strategies through papers and webinars so that others in the foster care community can learn from them and apply them in their own homes and organizations. Over the years, the AOI library of award winning strategies will become a significant resource for the foster care community (we think especially for those who are starting new programs and need guidance as to the services and strategies that they want to implement).

So back to the question about why the individuals above have agreed to be judges. Well, here are a couple of quotes from two of them that might shed some light on their motivation:

“I don’t think we fully understand the experience of fostering for older adolescents who developmentally are gaining independence and trying to figure out who they are and who they will become. Recognizing and acknowledging the hard work and commitment of those that do this work is critical to developing understanding of how to do this better than we do.  Foster parents and other organizations have a lot to teach the field. Recognizing their hard work is the first step in this process.”  -Judy Havlicek, Ph.D.

“Today’s youth in foster care face many challenges and difficulties when they age out of the system.  It is important for them to realize that there are, indeed, people who care about them, that there are people who want to help them, and that there are people who are cheering them on to succeed.” -John DeGarmo, Ed.D.

We thank the judges for participating, and we greatly appreciate all the foster parents and organizations that have already expressed an interest in applying for an award. So you are aware, foster parents and organizations may submit applications between January 1, 2018 and February 28, 2018. The judges will review the applications between March 1 and June 30, 2018. Winners will be announced in August, 2018. If you would like to be kept apprised of the development of the awards program and when applications are available online, please go HERE and fill out the form at the bottom of the page.

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Lynn Tonini

Author Lynn Tonini

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