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SEATTLE – A Nebraska couple who adopted a foster child was announced today (1/12) as a winner of the national Casey Family Programs’ Excellence for Children Awards.
Tracy and Doug Christensen of Lincoln were cited for adopting Joy, an older foster girl, in 2014 and advocating for improvements in her medical treatment, while establishing family connections she didn’t know existed.
They also have spoken at foster parent gatherings and provider meetings about the importance of maintaining biological family connections. A video of their story is available at: www.casey.org/2016-CECA#lincoln
“We congratulate Doug and Tracy for their untiring work as foster parents on behalf of their daughter, Joy,” Governor Pete Ricketts said. “They are excellent examples of the loving parents who provide our foster children with nurturing care, including maintaining a connection with birth parents to reduce a child’s trauma.”
Tracy met Joy at a camp for foster children, and afterward mentored her. After attending an information meeting and training, the Christensens became Joy’s foster parents.
Tracy felt that medications prescribed for Joy were not necessary and she worked with doctors to advocate for the end of their use. They agreed and the prescriptions ended. They also talked with staff at Joy’s school who became helpful partners and worked with the Christensens to develop a plan for Joy if she encountered difficulties. She made honor roll in 2014 and remains there this school year.
Department of Health and Human Services Case Manager Katy Rawhouser searched for Joy’s biological mother, which took considerable effort, but Rawhouser located her in an assisted living facility in Texas and the Christensens took her for a visit.
“The positive results of the Christensen’s advocacy for Joy have made a huge difference in her life,” said Doug Weinberg, director of Children and Family Services at DHHS. “When it’s in the best interests of the child, connecting them with their biological parents is very helpful in their acceptance of changes in their life, and opens the door for a happier and more positive outcome. We thank the Christensens who have gone out of their way to advocate for her well-being.”
Studies show that state wards are traumatized when the court takes them from their home, and maintaining a child’s link with biological parents is crucial to their success.
Rawhouser also found more relatives out of state and the Christensens linked Joy with them. She also talks to her step sisters and Tracy and Doug took her to visit them out of state. In addition, her biological father calls her every week.
Last July, the Christensens adopted Joy.
“It’s our honor to recognize these individuals for their powerful commitment to make life better for the children and families who need it most,” said Bob Watt, chair of the Board of Trustees of Casey Family Programs. “These champions for children are making incredible contributions to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families.”
The Casey Excellence for Children Awards recognize outstanding individuals and leaders in child welfare who have demonstrated distinguished work, exceptional leadership and relentless dedication in improving child welfare in America. Award winners are selected from among a group of outstanding nominees in five categories: birth parents, alumni of foster care, foster or adoptive parents, kinship caregivers and child welfare leaders.
Casey Family Programs, headquartered in Seattle, is the nation’s largest operating foundation focused solely on safely reducing the need for foster care and building communities of hope for vulnerable children and families across America.