Audette Achieves Top Honors in D.C. for Foster Care Reform

On October 12, Lund Family Center Adoption Director Wanda Audette, of South Burlington, and Vermont Adoption Chief Diane Dexter will be among 18 individuals from across the country recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a 2011 Adoption Excellence Award. The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA.

Congressman Peter Welch and Probate Court Judge Susan Fowler wrote letters supporting their nomination.

Audette and Dexter are being recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in the field of state adoptions, including significantly decreasing the length of time children in foster care wait to be adopted. Research shows the longer a child spends in a temporary foster care setting, the greater the negative impact on the child’s development and future potential.

Their efforts have been part of a long-standing, public-private collaboration between the Department for Children and Families and the Lund Family Center—an innovative project to recruit and support adoptive families for children in foster care called Project Family. Among other accomplishments since it began in 2000, Project Family has:

  • Reduced the time between a child’s entry into the child welfare system and exit into a permanent home, from four years in 2000 to under 24 months;
  • Reduced the time it takes for a child in foster care whose parents’ rights have been terminated to become adopted, from 26 months in 2000 to between four and six months;
  • Reduced the number of foster care placements a child experiences before adoption;
  • Found adoptive homes for 329 older youths who due to their age and specific circumstances would previously have been deemed unadoptable; and
  • Created a pre- to post-adoption support network for families adopting children over the age of eight and children with special needs (e.g., mental health, behavioral or developmental needs).

Audette and Dexter have devoted their personal and professional lives to children. Both are adoptive mothers, adoption professionals, in addition to being Congressional Angel in Adoption awardees. Audette and Dexter are innovative, flexible, visionary and, above-all, committed to doing what is right for children. For example: They found a builder to donate a house addition to a family who wanted to adopt siblings with high special needs but needed more space. They facilitated an adoption via Skype to allow a child a special day without the trauma of returning to Vermont. The two travel across the State to attend monthly permanency meetings at each of twelve DCF Family Services district offices. Dexter and Audette embody both unfailing practicality and endless compassion. What results from this dynamic combination is that every day in both the big picture and individual situations involving children in care Dexter and Audette, are asking, “How can we make this better?” Through their leadership and modeling, their staff is doing the same. The positive impact on Vermont’s children is incredible.

HHS established the Adoption Excellence Awards program in 1997 to recognize outstanding accomplishments in achieving permanency for America’s children waiting in foster care. These awards honor States, child welfare agencies, organizations, courts, businesses, individuals, and families.

SOURCE: Lund Family Center

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