Each year Kids Central holds a unique educational conference to address the emotional and practical challenges foster parents face when caring for abused and neglected children. In addition to the valuable educational component, Kids Central hosts the HALO Awards to recognize and reward the dedicated foster parents. It is vitally important to provide these unsung heroes with the training and recognition they need and deserve.Each year Kids Central holds a unique educational conference to address the emotional and practical challenges foster parents face when caring for abused and neglected children. In addition to the valuable educational component, Kids Central hosts the HALO Awards to recognize and reward the dedicated foster parents. It is vitally important to provide these unsung heroes with the training and recognition they need and deserve.
More than 300 foster parents attended the HALO Awards on June 24th from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm at the Circle Square Cultural Center in Ocala, Fl. Hosted again by Rosey Moreno-Jones and Pastor Chris Johnson, the HALO Awards is an educational conference coupled with a unique award ceremony. This year’s keynote speaker, Michael Williams, revisited his teen experiences in foster care in order to provide foster parents and social workers valuable insight thanks to his hindsight and understanding. When a teen, it’s hard to understand let alone explain your actions, emotions and motives; however, when you’ve grown up and processed your past, you can gain perspective. Michael Williams utilized his perspective to educate providing a voice and understanding to the actions of his teen self and so many others like himself in care. He can now explain his past behaviors and decisions providing foster parents and social workers a greater understanding of the teens they are working with.
Years of service were recognized for those in attendance who had foster for five, 10, 15 and 20 years. Others fall into these categories, but these are the foster parents who attended to be recognized.
5 Years of Service
Wanda & Mario Cambronne
Yomarie & Michael Cottom
Kimberly & Santos Escobedo
Marquise & Alain Guillaumette
Kimberly & Eric Spitler
10 Years of Service
Shawn & Jacque Provencher
15 Years of Service
20 Years of Service
Throughout the evening awards were given out to some of the outstanding and special foster parents Kids Central has. These are just a few of the amazing people who care for our children. We have hundreds of others who give selflessly to our vulnerable families.
The Angels of Adoption Award honors a family who has made an extraordinary contribution to our children by, not only fostering, but also adopting. This year, the award was presented to a single mother who has only been fostering for four years. As a child, she already knew she wanted to help children and make a difference in their lives. She has cared for some challenging children and has been open to teens and to those with behavioral issues, saying “Children can be reached. We just need to be patient with them and show them we care.” This mother has adopted two teenage boys and is providing extended foster care to another teen. In her words, “My heart would not allow me to let them be adopted by someone else. I did not want their worlds turned upside down.” John Cooper and Gail Burry presented Wendy Mabie with the Angels of Adoption Award.
The Enchanted Award: This foster family has been fostering for three years.They work diligently to mentor biological parents and all of their placements have been reunified. They are organized and detail-oriented, keeping track of appointments and court dates. Captain Cyrus Robinson and Courtney Barnett awarded Luke and Kristin Brear with the Enchanted Award.
The Mission Impossible Award: To many taking someone else’s children into your home, love them and raise them like your own and learn to say goodbye when they go home to their families or other permanent placements, is a mission impossible, but our foster parents choose this mission. Or as most of them would say, the mission chooses them. This award goes to a family who, when called and told your mission should you choose to accept it is… They always say, YES. As a brand new foster family, they took in five siblings and have accepted children from birth to 17 years old. Furthermore, even though they have a sibling group of five, they continue to offer respite and short term placements to help out whenever they are asked. Tom Ranew and Judge Gary Sanders presented Michael and Destiny Hardaway with the Mission Impossible Award.
Stand By Me is awarded to foster parents of the year for their unconditional love and service to our children. This year the award was presented to a single mother who has opened her home to numerous children while working full-time, as well. She models the Quality Parenting Initiative by meeting and mentoring birth parents. On average, she has five or more children in her home at any given time and has been open to caring for some of our most challenging cases. She handles them like a charm. She continuously comes through again and again. Initially, she was licensed as an ICPC home for a relative child, but because of her history of fostering and adopting in another state, she understood the need and agreed to foster children other than her relative child. She truly embodies all that Kids Central asks of our foster parents. John Cooper and Bill Daiuto presented Connie Gordon with the Stand By Me Award.
That Thing You Do Award is modeled after a great little film that highlights a young singing group in the 60s. It is about the special little things that someone does to make a big difference. This family has been fostering children for more than seven years. They have always gone above and beyond. They attend court hearings, transport children to all appointments, and above all, mentor biological parents in the hopes of a successful and smooth transition to reunification. Additionally, they are always available to help other foster parents whenever those calls come. A GAL contacted Kids Central and said, “They are knowledgeable and committed to the children in their home-Always fighting for their rights while providing a safe, loving, and caring home for all of them.” John Cooper and Gail Burry presented Marsha and Steven Foster with That Thing You Do Award.
The Incredibles Award is named for how important it is for successful foster and adoptive parents need to be flexible. They must stretch and bend with the child welfare system. Just like in the movie, The Incredibles, our foster parents have this super power. This family has gone through numerous case management changes for children in their care, but their support and commitment to the children and the child welfare team never wavers. They remain consistent and dedicated to providing the utmost in care and love and are truly committed to working as a team with everyone at Kids Central and our partners. Representative Dennis Baxley and Tom Ranew presented Brian and Erin Power with the Incredibles Award.
The event couldn’t have been possible without the support of our donors, not only to HALO specifically, but to Kids Central. Many of the funds donated throughout the year or via Casino Royale support HALO and the care of our children and families. HALO sponsors included Village Toyota, Circle Square Commons, Jim & Gail Burry, Youth and Family Alternatives, Kids Central’s employee contribution fund, Homosassa Marina, Service Master of Citrus County, The Mojo Grill, Party Time, Pixel Perfect Photography, Devereux, Lollygaggers, Crystal Aero Group, Suncoast Dermatology and John Cooper. Additionally, internal departments and external partners donated a plethora of beautiful gift baskets raffled throughout the evening to foster parents.
Making HALO happen wouldn’t be possible without the staff: John Cooper for allowing us to do this gig each year, Shalonda McHenry Sims for her support, Courtney Barnett for his trust, all of the OHC team, including but not limited to, Sarah Yaccarino, Toni Andriole, Carla James, Yisel Romero, Jessica Webster, Tiarra Alexander, Kim Siple, Lois McDaniel, Laurene Panek, Paula Mealy, Doug Perrone, Amanda Telez, Yariza Smith and Susan Joy Foreman. Also, we’d like to thank the teen ambassadors and their caregivers. Last by not least, thank you Rosey Moreno-Jones and Pastor Chris Johnson for acting as hosts for the entire evening, and to Ashley Cooper for presenting the awards to the winners. ◘