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New York City
March 2004

Honoring Foster Care Volunteers

Governor James E. McGreevey recently focused on his commitment to protect New Jersey’s most vulnerable children by honoring community volunteers and organizations, which have contributed meaningfully to the foster care community. He urged more people to become foster parents. “New Jersey is blessed to have individuals and organizations, such as those we are honoring today, who have worked tirelessly to improve the lives of children in foster care,” said McGreevey. “Today, which we officially proclaim as ‘Foster Children’s Day,’ we are asking others to follow in their footsteps by joining their efforts and even by opening up their hearts and their homes to foster children.”

Foster Children’s Day was created in 2000 to increase awareness of the needs of New Jersey’s 7,000 foster children. Children may be placed in foster care when they cannot safely remain in their own home because of abuse or neglect. Currently, 65 percent of foster children are siblings and 50 percent are under the age of five.

“Giving love and assistance to a child in need truly exemplifies the spirit of this season,” said Commissioner Harris. “I would like to invite more individuals and organizations to follow the lead of those we honor here today by participating in efforts to enrich the lives of children in foster care or to consider becoming a foster parent.”

Those individuals and organizations honored for their work on behalf of New Jersey’s foster children were:

Shannon and Kaity Hresko of Greenwich Township, Gloucester County—8th grade twins at Nehaunsy Middle School collected the teddy bears during April—Child Abuse Prevention Month—to benefit foster children. Bears and other stuffed animals were given to Gloucester and Camden Counties’ DYFS offices to distribute to children entering foster care. The girls’ community service drive also promoted the need for more foster parents.

Troop leader Vinita Ramsay, co-leader Starr Diethorn, and Girl Scout Troop 161 of Long Valley, Morris County—Sarah Gail Banford, Michelle Margared Bayman, Stephanie Beggin, Moriah Diethorn, Judy Morrell, Christine Morrison, Resham Ramsay, H. Victoria Sonderly, Corrin Wolf; and Aakash Ramsay from Boy Scout Troop 236—established a foster care merit badge for girls to earn. They’ve raised awareness of the needs of foster children; provide Halloween costumes, collect toys for the holidays and backpacks for children in foster care. Their February “Love Drive” collected toiletries and other items for foster children, and this year Troop 161 is sponsoring the holiday party for the foster children of Morris County.

Reverend Sandra Bracket and Reverend Lawrence Forman of Lawnside, Camden County—every year their Sunday school at Mt. Pisgah AME Church in Lawnside hosts a Christmas party for children in foster care. Each invitee is given a gift from their wish list.

Kathy Mercer of Pine Hill, and Dignity for Children (a group of women from Camden County)—for the past three years they have sponsored a ballroom dance at the Starlight Ballroom in Pennsauken, courtesy of Joyce Handley, with the proceeds benefiting foster children. Besides providing for foster children at Christmas, they also have a fund that can be used for special requests for foster children like music lessons or a gym membership

Roy Greenblatt of Vineland, Cumberland County—his Matt Blatt Car Dealership has provided a gift for every child in foster care in Cumberland County for the past five years.

Dr. Sunanda Gaur of North Brunswick, who works at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick, Middlesex County—an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the NJ Statewide Family Centered HIV Care Network, Dr. Gaur participates in the DYFS Child Health Advisory Council and has assisted with the subcommittee looking at Medical Health Records. She brings her expertise in the area of HIV and pediatrics to the Commissioner’s Substance Abuse Work Group; provides direct patient care; works with many children under DYFS supervision, particularly those residing in foster care; and has been an advocate for foster and adoptive parents who are caring for a child who is HIV positive. Dr. Gaur also assisted the Division with updating DYFS policy on HIV and is currently working with the Adolescent Services Unit in helping to address the needs of youth transitioning into adulthood.

Recognizing that this Administration has no more important obligation than to protect our most vulnerable children, Governor McGreevey has already taken aggressive steps this year to meet that obligation:

Settled the Children’s Rights litigation, and, backed by the Annie Casey Foundation, brought together a panel of national child welfare experts to reform DYFS top-to-bottom.

Created the Child Advocate, an independent watchdog with far-reaching legal powers to protect the children he serves, increased DYFS funding by $30 million, to help obtain basic essentials like new computers, conducted comprehensive safety assessments for over 7,000 children in foster care, moved the Institutional Abuse Unit out of DYFS.#


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