Each year, the Children’s Bureau and AdoptUSKids honor families, individuals, and organizations who have made a significant impact on the field. This year, awardees were recognized during the National Adoption Month Celebration held in Washington, DC, on November 2.
The Parker Family
Brian and Josie Parker have been foster and adoptive parents since 2007. They bring awareness to the critical role and relevance of people of color in adoption from foster care through the self-authoring, illustrating, and publishing of children’s books. Brian is the “Creator of the Fantastical” while Josie is the “Curator and Artisan of Imagination and Wonder.” Their sons through adoption, Victor and Kamari, serve as the CIOs or “Chief Inspiration Officers.”
Together this family makes up “Believe in Wonder,” a family venture creating science fiction fantasy children’s books.
Their self-proclaimed message is to “share wonder, creativity, and the idea of endless possibility with their readers.” Their particular focus is on underrepresented audiences, including Black, Indigenous, or other people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA2S+ youth, at-risk youth, children in foster care, and children who have experienced trauma.
J. Toni Oliver
J. Toni Oliver has been a visionary and trendsetter in adoption and child welfare. After the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, Toni identified a need and established the first African American/Black adoption agency in the state of Georgia.
Starting in her church’s basement, she established a reputable adoption agency, working diligently to keep children connected with their communities, their families, and their identity. The agency was appropriately named ROOTS, Inc., implying the planting of seeds to secure our future. Almost every Black family adopting in Georgia knew of or was approved to adopt through this agency.
ROOTS, Inc. has successfully placed more than 700 children from Georgia’s foster care system and has placed more than 300 children with kin.
Throughout her esteemed career, Toni has advocated for Black children, Black families, and Black practitioners. She currently provides consultation services around race and cultural issues in adoption through the National Adoption Association.
Kim Stevens is an adoptive parent who has dedicated her personal and professional life to improving the lives of adoptive, foster, and kinship families. Kim recently retired from her position as program manager for Families Rising (formerly NACAC). Kim trained families and professionals across the US and Canada and developed curricula on key topics related to resource family well-being.
Kim has been a key partner on innumerable state and federal projects across the nation, including AdoptUSKids, QIC-EY, and NTDC. She has also been involved with countless organizations, including the Dave Thomas Foundation and Generations United.
As a white adoptive mom to BIPOC children, she has committed herself to advocacy efforts addressing disparity and disproportionality in child welfare practices and to ensuring that, when BIPOC children are placed in white families, they are instilled with a positive sense of racial identity. She has routinely worked in partnership with BIPOC people with lived experience in developing and delivering training on issues related to transracial adoption.
Amber Nagorski was adopted at the age of nineteen after aging out of foster care. She now has a bachelor of science in criminal justice and a master of science in behavioral sciences. Amber has pursued a career in social work, initially as a child protection safety worker for the State of Oklahoma is now working with the Children’s Bureau.
As a young adult who aged out of foster care and experienced trauma, she models the importance of strategic sharing when using her voice to create better outcomes for others. Amber offers a unique perspective by combining her personal lived experience in foster care with her professional experience in child welfare.
To this end, Amber has been a successful member of the AdoptUSKids speakers bureau and has helped raise awareness of adoption from foster care and the need for prospective foster/adoptive parents for teens.
Beth Hardman has been a volunteer for Utah foster care for more than 20 years. She has worked tirelessly to find creative solutions for the needs of foster and adoptive families. For example, she created a clothing shed for youth in foster care, as well as for those who have been adopted, and a sibling shop event where youth in care can pick out gifts for their siblings.
Beth is also a foster and adoptive parent and guardian for several youth. She mentors foster and adoptive families to support their growth and encourage their reunification efforts.
As the Founder and Foster Support Advocate for Every Child Oregon, Jillana Goble has provided meaningful support to the recruitment of thousands of prospective foster and adoptive parents in the state of Oregon. She has made extensive use of digital platforms, volunteers, and business and community partnerships in her recruitment efforts.
Jillana and her husband are the parents of two children adopted from foster care. She has worked closely with their birth and extended families, which has inspired other adoptive families to imagine the ways they can support the best outcomes for children in foster care.
Marcia Cipriani has been partnering with Spaulding for Children for nearly 30 years to bring to life the needs of children and youth who are awaiting permanency in the child welfare system. She uses her expertise in film production to create dynamic, engaging videos that portray relatable situations.
All the curricula that Marcia has been involved with have proven both inspirational and effective through formal evaluation. They are publicly available through websites like Child Welfare Information Gateway and Spaulding for Children.
Erie County Department of Social Services Adoption Units
The Adoption Units at the Erie County Department of Social Services (DSS) have made great strides in achieving permanency for children and youth. This is due to their use of permanency round tables and a Rapid Permanency Review tool. These strategies have been particularly successful in identifying, engaging, and supporting adoption resources for harder-to-place populations, including older youth.
The DSS Adoption Team also created a specialized unit, the Family Unification and Support Team (FUST). The goal of this unit is to assist Erie DSS caseworkers, identify and enlist kinship resources who are willing and able to care for their kin, and support already-identified kin resources.
FUST staff do this through meaningful conversations, managing expectations, helping kin complete applications for temporary assistance, and providing monetary assistance. This aligns with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services’ goal of having at least 50% of children placed in foster care with kin or fictive kin. Family group conferencing and family finding are additional tools actively used in this work.