Staff of the CHD’s foster care program held an appreciation dinner event to honor the program’s foster parents for their commitment and contributions in the lives of foster youth on Thursday, May 20, at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow.
The event also served to recognize foster parents’ resilience in overcoming obstacles during an especially challenging year. Falling during National Foster Care Month, it was the first time many staff and foster parents have been together in person in more than a year. Foster parents enjoyed dinner, a raffle and the opportunity to re-connect with one another.
Members of the program’s leadership team shared remarks, including Vice President of Children and Families John Roberson, Program Director Rhonda Young, Assistant Program Director Jennifer Pierce and Homefinding Team Leader/Coordinator for CHD’s MaryAnne’s Kids Fund Yamilca Nogue. Foster parents also shared remarks during a special ceremony.
“I’m really proud of the foster parents we have at CHD. I hear stories every day [about] all the things our foster parents are doing, especially during a trying year, to keep kids safe and happy, and do all the things that are necessary to make their lives better. I’m always amazed,” Roberson said. He told foster parents, “On behalf of CHD, I want to tell you how proud we are of you. There’s foster care appreciation month, but I think every day is deserving of appreciation, because the work you do every day is truly amazing.”
Leaders also recognized foster parents’ dedication during a year filled with challenge and change, including the obstacles foster parents have overcome in the last fourteen months during COVID-19.
“We want to let you know that we appreciate all that you do so much. All of you have gone way above and beyond this past year,” Young told foster parents. She recognized how over the last year foster parents have taken on many other responsibilities brought on by the pandemic, including assisting with at-home learning and other needs. “Suddenly, one day, you were doing all this. Not only for your foster kids, but for your own kids, too. They’re in different grades, in different schools. You did it all, and it’s incredible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
During the event, staff of the foster care team honored two longtime foster parents, William and Jean Kelly, who have recently resigned as foster parents after 40 years of service.
Pierce, who has been with CHD for over 20 years herself, shared an anecdote from when she first learned of Bill and Jean’s resignation. She had to read their letter multiple times, she said, because throughout her time with the program, Bill and Jean, long established, had always been there.
“In those 40 years, they’ve not only raised their own two children, but fostered hundreds of children. Bill and Jean, you have touched the lives of so many. It’s such a pleasure to know you and to work with you,” Pierce said.
Bill and Jean’s daughter, Dawn Eaton, has also become a foster parent with CHD, and shared remarks to honor her mom and dad for their commitment and for inspiring her, too.
“Thank you for loving those who need it most, healing the hurt and guiding the lost,” Eaton said. “You went above and beyond with every child who ever walked through our door. Your kindness, generosity and big hearts have affected so many children over the past 40 years. I’m honored to be the daughter of such remarkable parents. Thank you for making the world a better place in your own special way.”
Nogue and Pierce presented Bill and Jean with a framed copy of their application to become foster parents, which was dated January 12, 1981.
Bill also shared stories about children who he and Jean had fostered over the years, including one child who first arrived at the age of nine but recently visited Bill and Jean’s home at the age of 22, clad in a military uniform, to thank them for their impact on his life.
“These kids, and every child, need a home. They need somebody,” Bill said. “That’s what we’re here for—to embrace our home to give them stability and whatever they need to succeed.”