Sherburne foster care awards doled out

• Commissioners recognize foster parents who care for children, adults as well as the foster child of the year

Special to the Star News

The Sherburne County Board of Commissioners recognized on Monday foster care providers making a positive difference in the lives of children and disabled adults.

Awards were given out for Adult Foster Care Provider of the Year, Child Foster Care Provider of the Year and Foster Child of the Year.

Commissioners also proclaimed May as Foster Care Month in Sherburne County.

The winners are nominated by Sherburne County Health and Human Services staff who have worked closely with them through their involvement with the foster care system.


Adult Foster Care Provider of the Year 

Dan and Kathie Peterson, Elk River, were honored as Sherburne County’s 2014 Adult Foster Care Providers of the Year.

Nominating social worker Marie Hudalla wrote in the nomination: “Dan and Kathie are patient and understanding. They are able to help in emergency placements and help clients as they navigate difficult transitions. They welcome people into (their) home, making families feel comfortable from the start.”

In Sherburne County, Adult Foster Care provides disabled adults and seniors with an alternative option to an institutional placement. In 2013, 153 adults lived in one of the County’s 57 licensed adult foster homes.

According to licensing social worker Elisha Thomas: “Adult Foster Care providers are very valuable and greatly appreciated. They open their homes to adults in difficult moments of their lives and offer a home atmosphere to help each person continue their personal journey through life.”


Child Foster Care Provider of the Year

John and Peg Anderson, Zimmerman, opened their home to a sibling group of three in mid-September 2013 initially as a voluntary placement.

When the children entered care, they were significantly developmentally delayed. After about one month in the care of John and Peg, service professionals including doctors, school personnel, public health and case managers within Sherburne County noted a significant improvement in all areas for the children. The children have become outgoing, happy and interactive.

Because of their needs, the children require a large number of appointments and services. The Andersons accommodate these appointments and play an active role in their treatment.

They are fully invested in being the children’s permanent family despite the number of services and needs that will be ongoing. With the children’s voluntary placement recently becoming permanent, the Andersons have started the process to adopt all three children.

In 2013, there were 46 licensed child foster care homes for children; 73 children from Sherburne County were placed in foster care homes.

Sherburne County Health and Human Services works with children and families to ensure that children are safe from abuse and neglect. According to Jodi Heurung, lead child welfare supervisor, child welfare services focus on keeping children safe within their own homes whenever possible. Support is provided to families, but when children can no longer remain safely in their own homes, a foster care placement is made.

“Being a foster care provider is a great way to make a huge difference in the life of a child while helping to empower, stabilize and reunify the entire family,” Heurung said.

Foster families provide children with a temporary, stable and caring family setting until they are able to reunite with their family or, if that isn’t possible, until another permanent home is arranged with relatives or adoptive parents. Sherburne County’s philosophy is to maintain that any out-of-home placements result in the least amount of change as possible for the children involved.


Gonzalez wins    Foster Child Award

Blanca Gonzalez, 18, came to the United States in 2009. She has faced numerous challenges throughout her life, including an extensive trauma history, language and cultural barriers, and family struggles, but she has worked to overcome obstacles and create a positive life for herself.

Gonzalez graduated from Solid Rock Christian School, and she hopes to attend Anoka Technical College this fall and obtain a degree in community social services.

Gonzalez said she believes that her experience being in the foster care system will offer her a unique perspective when working with children and families in need.

Gonzalez is currently working three jobs. She has continued to work as a teacher’s assistant at her foster parent’s day care, and she obtained her personal care attendant certification this past year and was hired as the PCA for a child at the day care. Additionally, Gonzalez recently obtained employment with United Way of Sherburne County to teach the iEmpower curriculum to youth in local elementary schools.

Gonzalez was elected to the Youth Board of the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Program, and she volunteers, weekly, at her church. She plans on remaining in foster care, in the Fostering Connections Program, until she is 21.  She has been committed to maintaining a close connection with and being a positive role-model for her two younger sisters.

Gonzalez expressed her gratefulness for the support that Sherburne County Health and Human Services has given her over the last few years at the May 13 Sherburne County Board meeting as well as the love and encouragement that she has received from her foster parents, Randy and Julie Goldenman.

The Goldenmans said they view her as a part of their family and have committed to being in Gonzalez’s life forever.

Anyone interested in finding out more about adult or child foster care, or about becoming a foster family, can contact Suzanne Hulett at 763-765-4033 or [email protected]