Contact: Sunny Mindel/Samantha I. Lugo (212) 788-2958
Leonora Wiener/Jennifer Falk (212) 341-0999 (ACS)
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Administration for Children's Services (ACS) Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today honored twenty-two foster parents in a ceremony at City Hall today in appreciation of their commitment to the well-being of New York City's children. In attendance were the honorees, their birth and foster children, and their ACS caseworkers.
The event was emceed jointly by Dr. Ida McMichael and Mr. CC Davis, President and Executive Director, respectively, of the New York State Foster and Adoptive Parent Association. Dr. McMichael is not only the President of the Association, but she has parented 9 birth and 8 adopted children, and has been a foster parent to over 130 other children. Mr. Davis has worked for numerous child welfare organizations over the past 35 years, in addition to being a former Harlem Globetrotter and a member of Pennsylvania's Basketball Hall of Fame.
"This ceremony is really just a small token of our appreciation for the priceless gift that foster parents give," Mayor Giuliani said. "Thousands of New Yorkers open their hearts and their homes to children who cannot live safely at home due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. In addition to providing a safe haven, foster parents provide love and guidance that truly cannot be measured. Each May, we honor these caring and selfless individuals during Foster Parent Recognition Month."
Commissioner Scoppetta said, "Foster Parent Recognition Month is a wonderful opportunity to express our appreciation for some quiet heroes of the child welfare system. On behalf of the children you care for, I thank the 22 foster parents who are here today for the nurturing, love, and guidance you provide. But most of all, I thank you for being active, caring participants every day in the life of a child who needs you."
When a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, ACS ensures that they are placed in nurturing, supportive foster homes. In addition to providing temporary homes, foster parents play an important role in securing permanency for the child, whether through strengthening the relationship between a child and his or her birth parents or by becoming an adoptive parent if the child cannot return to the parents.
During Foster Parent Recognition Month, ACS is reaching out to New Yorkers who can give support and love to a child in need. New Yorkers interested in becoming a foster parent can call the ACS Parent Recruitment Hotline at (212) 676-WISH (9474) for more information. All press inquiries should go to the ACS Office of Public Information at (212) 341-0999.
ACS FOSTER PARENT HONOREES:
* Ms. Ernestine Benjamin believes "children deserve the chance to be children" and currently ensures that her six foster children have that chance. In addition to giving the children a lot of love, she works hard to develop relationships with the children's parents and help smooth the transition as they re-enter their children's lives. Even when the children leave Ms. Benjamin's home, they remain members of her extended family. (Brooklyn)
* Mr. Michael and Mrs. Veronica Benjamin are loving and attentive parents to their four foster children. In addition to meeting all of the children's special health needs, the Benjamins enjoy family vacations and attending church together. The Benjamins plan to make their "little Benjamites," as the children are known in the church community, a permanent part of their family through adoption. (Manhattan)
* Ms. Deborah Bethea has been a foster parent for seven years, currently caring for four foster children as well as her own son. Beyond providing a loving and stable environment, Ms. Bethea uses her experience as a teacher to ensure that their educational needs are met. Whether she is caring for infants or teenagers, Ms. Bethea devotes herself to playing with, listening to, and challenging the children in her home. (Brooklyn)
* Ms. Veronica Conyers is raising four kinship foster children and her two daughters. With each child, she emphasizes the importance of education and a positive outlook. As an involved member of her community, Ms. Conyers sets an exceptional example for the children and encourages them to never give up on their dreams. (Bronx)
* Ms. Latricia Davis, the single mother of two children, also cares for two foster children. Raising these four children on her own, Ms. Davis has unselfishly met their individual needs. When the time comes, she hopes to continue to do so as their adoptive parent. (Queens)
* Ms. Maria Diaz, a devoted mother, grandmother, and foster mother, plans to adopt her three foster children. She is active in all areas of the children's lives and attentive to their special needs. And while Ms. Diaz works to sustain their relationship with their birth mother, the mother is surrendering her rights so that the children may continue to prosper in Ms. Diaz's care. (Bronx)
* Ms. Denise Fortune not only cares for her infant son but also, a foster son who has many medical needs. From appointments with specialists to extra attention in daily life, she works hard to improve her foster son's quality of life. Ms. Fortune's patience, dedication, and concern for this child are exceptional. (Manhattan)
* Ms. Sandra Gadsden is a foster mother who has taken that extra step to help reunite her foster children with their birth mother. She encouraged their mother both to return to school and to focus on her role as a mother. It can be safely said that without Ms. Gadsden, this successful reunification story would not have happened. (Manhattan)
* Mr. Jose Gomez is a kinship foster father to his niece and two nephews, as well as a father to three other children. Mr. Gomez finds time for one-on-one, group activities, and homework help for all his kids. He also works hard to help the children to understand their feelings about separation and foster placement, urging them to express their emotions. (Bronx)
* Ms. Rosemary Howard has been a foster parent for 12 years and currently cares for a child who requires a great deal of medical attention. Ms. Howard's affection for this young person is great and she plans to continue to care for him after he leaves foster care at age 21. (Bronx)
* Ms. Lillian Love's name says it all: she has been a warm and giving caretaker of 11 years for her four grandchildren. Despite occasional health problems of her own and the challenges of raising children with special needs, Ms. Love persists in seeking out services for the children and giving them the stable home that they need. (Manhattan)
* Mr. Geronimo and Mrs. Altagracia Martinez have shown complete dedication in their care for their foster grandson. In addition to suffering from cerebral palsy, the child has multiple health problems that require around-the-clock care. Their complete love for the child is evident in their daily commitment to him. (Brooklyn)
* Ms. Anne Merriwether has cared for her granddaughter since birth. Those who meet the child remark on her enjoyment of learning, sharing, and doing the right thing - noble values formed in Ms. Merriwether's warm and supportive home. (Brooklyn)
* Mrs. Alice Owens's two foster children have been described as polite, self-confident gentlemen - a compliment due in no small part to Mrs. Owens's care for the past 5 years. As a single parent, she gives her all to the boys, from her active involvement in their school and activities to ensuring that they attend counseling sessions. She has led them by example to be loving and caring individuals. (Manhattan)
* Ms. Rita Showe is not only a foster mother but, according to her foster daughter, a "best friend." Ms. Showe encourages her in school and church activities, travel, and the arts. While she supports her bond with her birth mother, Ms. Showe also assures her foster daughter that she is loved and will always have a home with her family. (Staten Island)
* Mr. John and Mrs. Irene Springer have been foster parents to their three grandchildren for the past ten years. In spite of the children's special health and behavioral needs, Mrs. Springer is ready, willing and able to give them the best care she possibly can. The Springers will soon become adoptive parents to the children. (Manhattan)
* Ms. Ellen Williams cared for her two maternal grandchildren for 5 years and helped reunite them with their mother. Because she gave the children her love and guidance, gave their mother encouragement, and has a cooperative spirit, Ms. Williams deserves the credit for this reunification. (Manhattan)
* Mr. Eddy and Mrs. Vivian Wonsley thought that at this time in their lives they would be traveling. Instead, they devote their energy to providing for a foster daughter. As a stockbroker, Mr. Wonsley juggles full-time work to meet court dates. The Wonsleys are extremely committed to ensuring their foster child remains safe, receives the love she needs, and continues to progress in the Gifted Children's Program at her school. (Brooklyn)