By Pam Turos /

Carrie Decker Brings a Foster Mother’s Perspective to Waiting Child Fund Board

Carrie Decker with husband, Eric, and children, Sarah (13), Joshua (10), Sadie (9), Alice (6), Shannon (1.5)

Three of Carrie Decker’s five kids, who joined the family through adoption in 2014, need an extended network of support. This includes a team of doctors and therapists helping the siblings cope with the emotional and behavioral aftermath of five years in foster care.

“I know firsthand what kind of trauma being removed from your home can bring, and the system isn’t set up to support them enough when they are moved away from their birth family,” says Decker, who moved from central Pennsylvania to Northeast Ohio with her family in June 2017.

Decker and her husband Eric fall into a growing group of trained foster parents who felt called to expand their family through adoption but then go on to advocate for changes in the flawed system their children were once dependent on.

As Waiting Child Fund’s newest board member, Decker brings a maternal perspective and nonprofit experience. She is a former board member at Habitat for Humanity Northumberland, PA. She is deeply passionate about Waiting Child Fund’s vision for a world where families, agencies and children work together to ensure that every child is nurtured in a permanent, chosen family.

When it comes to programs, such as the new 30 Days to Family Ohio pilot being implemented in eight counties over the next year, Decker isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. “At what point are we just continuing the cycle of poverty and substance abuse?” she asked Mike Kenney, Waiting Child Fund’s executive director, voicing concern for children impacted by the opioid epidemic. This is a common concern expressed around the idea of kinship care, and Decker was pleased to learn about a growing body of evidence indicating that children placed with relatives are more likely to live with siblings, have fewer behavioral problems, are less likely to change schools, are less likely to run away and are less likely to re-enter foster care.

Decker is already an excellent spokesperson for the organization, explaining that “If you can find family members of the children, maybe they’re not suited for long-term care, but they can host holidays or gatherings,” says Decker. “So they have ties to their kin, whether it is a placement or just having a relationship. Not everyone might have someone who is perfect for placement, but they can rally around and help the foster parents or birth parents succeed.”  

She imagines how much better it would have been for her own children if their extended family (an aunt and family babysitter) were given more support when the children were placed in their homes.

Decker also extends this new level of empathy and understanding to her children’s birth parents. “When I thought of foster care, I always thought of the mom and the dad as the ‘villians’ in the story,” she says. “I had a negative view of the birth family. As I’ve learned more about the system, I’m a lot more angry about how the children are treated once they’re in the system.”

She goes on to say that if children are taken away from their families, then we owe them a better future and better outcomes. “Eleven homes in five years? That’s what my kids went through,” Decker says. “That’s not better. It’s just traumatic.”

Describing her first Waiting Child Fund board meeting, Decker says she looks forward to hearing more success stories, like a recent experience when a county avoided foster care placement by working out a new custody arrangement with the family. “Those kinds of stories really give me hope that we’re going in the right direction,” she says.

As an advocate for her children, Decker encourages them to focus on their strengths and helping them develop skills that will lead them to a better future. As an advocate for children in the foster care system, she’s hopeful of our power and responsibility to make change. “The more support we can give to county agencies, and to birth families, and to foster families – the better the outcome for all these kids will be,” Decker says.

We couldn’t agree more, Carrie, and we’re pleased to welcome you to the Waiting Child Fund family!

By Pam Turos /

Meet the Manager: 30 Days to Family Ohio

When Maria Roehrkasse began applying for graduate fellowships, she could only access the online applications through a shaky internet connection. She was completing a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Panama. In summer 2015, with just a few photos of her future apartment and an adventurous spirit, the California native and University of Portland graduate made her way to Cleveland as a Clinical Leadership Fellow in Case Western Reserve’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

Maria, the newly hired project director for Waiting Child Fund’s 30 Days to Family Ohio initiative, brings a unique blend of experiences in evidence-based clinical practice leadership, program development, mental health clinical case management, health advocacy and education.

“What makes Waiting Child Fund unique is their passion for what they do and their ability to connect with progressive leaders throughout the country, and asking, ‘How can we make this happen in Ohio?’” says Maria.

During her role in the development of Cleveland’s collaborative HUD-VASH program, which provides access to permanent housing for homeless veterans, Maria saw firsthand that no matter what a person was experiencing – addiction, mental health issues, poverty – the greatest indicator of a positive outcome was the presence of a support system and family involvement.

With this experience in mind, Maria makes a compelling argument on behalf of Ohio’s children who experience foster care: Connections to family are worth protecting. “We know how to treat addiction and mental health issues – those skills and services are necessary and important, but how can we prevent them from happening in the first place? It all starts in the home,”she says.

In her first weeks on the job, Maria has tackled and revised the 30 Days to Family Ohio budget. She’s focused on raising additional funds to cover the 20 percent match required by the VOCA grant awarded to Waiting Child Fund by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. She also is busy hiring and training additional staff to support the eight Ohio counties that have been chosen as participants in the pilot program. She plans to work closely with the program’s founders and hopes to build strong collaborative relationships with all the county agencies.

When she’s not busy planning a better future for Ohio’s child welfare system, the accomplished young leader enjoys cooking, travel and hiking in the Cleveland Metroparks. She admits it was a little tough coming back to sub-zero temps after spending the holidays at home in Northern California. But she’s quick to say that she has fallen in love with the people, food and artistic culture of Cleveland.

Maria has found plenty of inspiring professionals in Northeast Ohio. She credits three of her favorite female social work mentors with providing the foundation, support and courage to pursue her goals: Paula Atwood, vice president of staffing and special projects at Beech Brook; Annabella Batiz-McCandlish, her colleague and supervisor at the veteran’s administration; and Kate Biddle, private clinician and CWRU fellowship mentor.

By Pam Turos /

The Best Holiday Gift: Loving Families

While many children are eager to receive material gifts this holiday season, some simply want a permanent, loving family to call home.

Ohio currently has 15,000 children in state custody. But there are only 7,200 licensed foster families. With limited resources, agencies resort to placing children hundreds of miles from home – even other states.

Waiting Child Fund helps children find permanent families they are familiar with and trust. Studies show children placed with kinship connections — relatives, neighbors, teachers and others — are more involved in extracurricular activities, have more positive contact with their birth parents and extended relatives, and experience increased stability.

To help our partner agencies achieve these kind of connections for all of their children, we had to make changes to our structure, funding and the scalability of our programs.  We are honored and excited to share with you the following updates:

New grant funding and programs 

Through a partnership with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Quality Improvement Center at the University of Maryland, we have commitments for an additional $1.2 million in grant funding in 2018.

This will enable us to implement a proven model called “30 Days to Family” in 10 new counties next year. Each participating county will have a new staff member whose job is to aggressively seek out kinship caregivers for children who come into the child welfare system.

We also will launch a program called Chosen Affirming Family to help LGBTQ youth in the Cuyahoga County foster care system find permanent caregivers. Both of these initiatives have been made possible through our collaborative state and national partnerships.

Leadership and staff structure changes 

With the growth in partnerships and funding, we have plans to hire 18 new full-time employees over the next six months. These staff members will help us serve more children and families and ensure that we have the operational foundation to support our programs.

Matching funds needed

We are required to match 20 percent of the $1 million in grant funding received from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. This means that every $100 received from supporters like you allows us to access $500 in grant funding. 

We ask you to consider making a generous year-end gift to support our work of helping children affected by abuse and neglect remain connected to their culture, their family, and to their community.


By Pam Turos /

Eight Ohio Counties Chosen for Innovative Foster Care Pilot Program

Dec. 15, 2017

Families, children and child protection staff in eight Ohio counties can look forward to additional support and resources in 2018 thanks to the innovative 30 Days to Family Ohio program expected to launch early next year. In August, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced $1 million in funding for foster care family recruitment and support in 10 Ohio counties hit hard by the opioid epidemic.

Last week, administrators from Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Fairfield, Highland, Montgomery, Clark and Allen counties received the exciting news that their agencies were chosen to participate in the pilot program, which will provide each site with a full-time family search and engagement staff member. 30 Days to Family is a short-term intervention program that aggressively searches for extended relatives and kin to identify potential placement options and supports, decreasing the need for long-term foster home placements.

Selection criteria for participating counties includes: the number of families/children in need of services, geographic location and the child welfare agency’s readiness or ability to implement the program. The VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) grant funding, which is anticipated to renew for a second year, requires a 20 percent match in funds for each location. To protect Ohio’s financially strapped child welfare agencies from the burden of this expense, Cleveland nonprofit Waiting Child Fund, which will oversee the program, has pledged to raise the necessary $200,000 through private donations and local foundation support.  

“Children are entering foster care throughout the state at an alarming rate,” said Mike Kenney, executive director of Waiting Child Fund. “The Ohio Attorney General is responding to this crisis by investing in a proven solution which empowers and supports kinship and foster families.  We are honored by the opportunity to grow our collaborative partnerships and ready to get to work helping more children and families.” 

Recruitment and selection of two additional counties is still underway.

For additional information, please contact:

Pam Turos, Communications Liaison, at or (440) 668-4104

By Pam Turos /

Crime Victims Grant Awarded to Waiting Child Fund

Children affected by the opioid crisis have a better chance at living with trusted kinship caregivers thanks to a $1 million grant awarded to Cleveland’s Waiting Child Fund.

“This is a tragedy and certainly is an emergency,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine of the state’s need for foster care services. The Victims of Crime Act funding will be allocated over one year, with the possibility of an additional $1 million for the following year.

The funds will implement a pilot program called 30 Days to Family, which is facilitated by the Waiting Child Fund. The program creates new staff members at child protection agencies in 10 Ohio counties that are significantly impacted by opioid use. These additional employees will work to match children with kinship caregivers, which include relatives, neighbors, teachers and others, when their parents are unable to care for them. The goal is to find a primary kinship caregiver, with one or two potential back-up options, within the first 30 days children enter the foster care system. Studies show when children stay with adults they know and trust, they often have better outcomes.

Launched in 2011 by the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in St. Louis, 30 Days to Family has created proven results. In 2016, research from the St. Louis program showed children placed with relatives were more involved in extracurricular activities, had more positive contact with mothers, fathers and extended relatives, and experienced increased stability.

While DeWine emphasizes the great need for more foster care families, he said it’s also the case that “these children have further trauma when placed in unfamiliar environments.”

Ohio currently has 15,000 children in state custody. But there are only 7,200 licensed foster families. With limited resources, agencies resort to placing children hundreds of miles from their counties of origin – even other states.

Two years ago, Fairfield County typically had three to four children in treatment facilities at any time. Today, it’s jumped to 20 children, which costs $8,500 per month for each child, said Kristi Burre, Fairfield’s deputy director of protective services.

“It’s a call to arms – loving arms – and we must do everything we can to help these suffering children,” said DeWine.

Launched in 2005, the Waiting Child Fund believes childhood is a fundamental human right, and every day for a child in foster care is a day in crisis. We envision a world where families, agencies, resources – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent, chosen family. Our goal is to develop partnerships that transform beliefs, values and actions to achieve permanency for all children in the shortest time possible. For more information about the Waiting Child Fund, contact Pam Turos at or 440-668-4104.

By Pam Turos /

Waiting Child Fund to Host Statewide Child Welfare Collaboration


Columbus, Ohio, August 24, 2017 — Statewide leaders, elected officials and national experts are coming together Aug. 29 in Columbus to examine foster care reform – a substantial need as Ohio tackles its opioid crisis.

The Family Finding Convening will share best practices for connecting with kinship caregivers, such as relatives, neighbors, teachers and other trusted adults that can provide care for children. Cleveland-based Waiting Child Fund, the conference host, was recently designated by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine as the recipient of an anticipated $1 million grant per year for two years.  The funding is earmarked for a pilot program that will help public child protection agencies across Ohio to more effectively find, engage, and partner with kinship caregivers.  Studies show kinship care can reduce trauma for children, increase the likelihood a child reunifies with their birth family, and reduces the financial burden on county agencies.

The Convening, held at the LifeCare Alliance, will provide self-assessments of county’s current family finding practices, assist in short- and long-term action planning and develop a needs assessment report to present to state leaders and advocates.

Agency leaders will engage in a town hall discussion with keynote speaker Molly McGrath Tierney, past director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services. During the last eight years, she implemented reforms that reduced the number of Baltimore children in foster care by 69%. McGrath Tierney’s work is now a national model for social services.

Other presenters at the Family Finding Convening include Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and other state judicial representatives. DeWine has prioritized fighting prescription drug abuse and heroin, as well as focused on issues affecting children and teens.

Many youth in state custody have been living in the foster care system for years. If they age out of care at 18, they have a much higher risk of facing homelessness, incarceration, unemployment and other challenges.

In 2015, of the children taken into the custody of a county agency 28% percent of them had parents using opioids.  Children entering care due to abuse and neglect related to opioid addiction are staying in foster care longer, and as a result foster care costs have increased by 20%.  Overall there are more than 1,300 more children in foster care in Ohio than there were six years ago at this time.  Ohio is 50th in the nation when it comes to state funding invested in children services and is more than four times lower than the national average.  The investment from the Ohio Attorney General is a step in the right direction and discussions at the Family Finding Convening will focus on how we align local and state funding to achieve better outcomes for Ohio families and children.

Launched in 2005, the Waiting Child Fund believes that childhood is a fundamental human right and that every day for a child in foster care is a day in crisis. We envision a world where families, agencies, resources – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent chosen family.  Our goal is to develop partnerships that transform beliefs, values, and actions to achieve permanency for all children in the shortest time possible.

For more information about Family Finding Convening and the Waiting Child Fund, contact Pam Turos at or call 440-668-4104.

By Pam Turos /

Sunshine and Success for the 12th Annual WCF Golf Outing


The sun was shining and the competition was fierce but friendly.

Last year’s golfers came back for another round and brought some new players, making it a sold-out event.  By all measurements, the annual WCG Golf Outing was a day of abundance!

More golfers. More sponsors. And more funds raised than ever before.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible. We raised over $23,000 that will go directly toward our mission of ensuring that every child in Ohio has a permanent, chosen, loving family.

You can visit our Facebook page here to see photos from the day.

Special thanks to the following donors, volunteers and sponsors:



True Digital Communications

Reminger Co., L.P.A.

Dworken & Bernstein

Linda & Lee Miller


Miceli’s Dairy

Mary & Jerry Deinhart

Cucina Rustica

Bob Barry

Tommys Restaurant


Tommy’s Restaurant

CQ Printing

Gallucci’s Italian Foods


Action Carstar Collision, Ariel International Center, Bess Matuszewski, Bob Barry, Buckingham Doolittle & Burroughs, Caring for Kids, Cleveland Marble and Mosaic, Cucina Rustica, Dworken & Bernstein, Electrolock, Fragapane Bakery, Frankie’s Italian Cuisine, Hunan by the Falls, Jen Grenwis, John & Laurie Cunningham, Ken & Loretta Janc, Kocian Meats, Larry & Bonnie Lindberg, Linda & Lee Miller, Lorex Inc.,  Mark & Mary Joyce, Mary & Jerry Deinhart, Maureen Roche, Miceli’s Dairy, Good Cause Creative, Perspectus Architecture, Premier Printing Corporation, Ray & Sharon Ayrey, Reminger Co, LPA, Rib Cage, Robert Wellman, Schweizer Dipple, Serenova, Spennato’s, The Merchants Towel Services, Thomas & Mary Carney, Tommy’s, Total ID Solutions, True Digital Communications, Valtris Specialty Chemicals


Akron Rubber Ducks, Aldo’s Restaurant, Angelo’s, Anonymous, Austin’s Wood Fire Grill, Berkshire Hills Golf Course, Bob Reed, Briarwood Golf Club, Callaway Golf, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Metroparks, Corner Alley, David Simpson, Diamond Shine Car Wash, Dworken & Bernstein, Farinacci Pizza, Flannery’s, Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, Gino’s Hair Designs, Gionno’s, Glidden House, Golf Committee, Grantwood Golf Course, Joe Deinhart, La Fiesta, Lake MetroParks, Legend Golf Course, Lucy’s Sweet Surrender, Mahall’s, Mallard Creek, New Heights Grill, Oak Harbor Golf Club, Panini’s, Paragon, Pine Brook Golf Links, Powderhorn Golf Course, Provenance, Ridgewood Golf Course, Riverview Martial Arts, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Serenova, St. Denis Golf Course, Station 43 Tavern, Taco Tontos, Taste, Tasty Pizza, Terry Pluto, The Harp, The Standard, Valleaire Golf Club, Windmill Lakes Golf Club, Zocalo, Zumba Fitness


By Pam Turos /

SOLD OUT, But You Can Still Join the Fun

Tickets have officially sold out for the 12th annual Waiting Child Fund (WCF) golf outing, but there are still plenty of ways to participate in the Aug 6 event, whether you’re a competitive golfer or a serious spectator. All proceeds directly support our work to ensure that less children go into the foster care system and every child has a permanent, loving, chosen family.

Sonya Caswell

Longtime volunteer and supporter Sonya Caswell suggests you check out her favorite part of the event, the hole-in-one competition, where golfers can “test their skills by donating ten bucks for a shot at the grand prize.” As a board member and fundraiser for several other organizations, golf outings are a bit of a specialty for Caswell who considers the hole-in-one competition one of the most unique parts of the WCF event, giving everyone a chance to “have fun while donating to a great cause.”

She and her husband have supported the WCF golf outing and other events for over ten years, “because it’s a concrete organization, where you can see exactly what the group is doing with donations and see how they really help people.” Caswell also notes that WCF’s approach is “much different than many other non-profits, because the really do reach, teach and educate.”

As this year’s golfer registration success has shown, we are fortunate that golfers are coming back, having a good time and bringing their friends. This is in no small part to the planning committee, a long list of volunteers, like Caswell, and countless donors and supporters who out-do themselves year after year.

Last year’s event surpassed all previous fundraising benchmarks, raising over $17,000 – impressive for a day of friendly competition and fun in the sun!

This year’s auction items include a Yeti Cooler, golf items, sports tickets, and more. If you missed the opportunity to register as a golfer or team, you don’t have to wait until next year to join the fun – tickets are still on sale for the dinner and auction, or you can sponsor a hole for just $100 (in memory of your favorite golfer, in honor of an upcoming event, or on behalf of a business). Auction item donations are also still being accepted.

The 12th Annual WCF Golf Outing will take place at the St. Denis Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio.

Click her for start times, dinner tickets and sponsorship details.

By Pam Turos /

DCFS and Community Partners Selected for Initiative to Help LGBTQ Youth In Foster Care

For immediate release – June 26, 2017

CLEVELAND – The Division of Children and Family Services along with key community partners have been selected for a grant from The National Quality Improvement Center to develop programs and best practices that improve the lives of LGBTQ youth in foster care.

Children and youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identifies and expressions have been found to be at greater risk for:

  • physical and emotional abuse,
  • drug use,
  • suicide attempts,
  • mental health concerns,
  • homelessness,
  • interpersonal and/or community violence,
  • bullying,
  • harassment,
  • academic challenges,
  • increased school sanctions, and
  • discrimination

While 3-8% of youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ, approximately 19% of youth in child welfare identify at LGBTQ.  When in the child welfare system they are likely to have more foster care placements and less likely to be reunified with their families of origin.

DCFS will collaborate with The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland, Waiting Child Fund, and Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences on the initiative.  We’ll strive to improve placement stability, well-being, and permanency of children and youth by:

  • creating safe and welcoming environments for children and youth to self-identify;
  • enhancing assessment methods and processes that are culturally responsive, trauma-informed, and that safeguard confidentiality;
  • providing culturally responsive, individualized, and accessible services;
  • establishing and implementing permanency innovations for those not reunified with families of origin; and
  • increasing the knowledge, skills, competence of, and responsivity by child welfare workforce, providers, and caregivers.

“It is important that we create a safe, supportive environment for LGBTQ youth in the custody of DCFS,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, Director of the Division of Children and Family Services.  “This calls for us to be diligent in addressing the unique risks and needs of young people in our care.”

“This is a positive step to help LGBTQ children and youth achieve better outcomes and ultimately live a better life,” said Thomas Pristow, Director of Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services.

The initiative is a collaborative effort with our community partners.

“We are excited to partner with Cuyahoga County Division of Children & Family Services to address the unique needs of LGBTQ youth in foster care. We are committed to striving toward excellence as subject matter experts and in service delivery and support for youth who are underserved,” said Phyllis Seven Harris, Executive Director, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “This partnership and project is a great step forward in enhancing the life experience of many greater Cleveland LGBTQ youth.”

“The need for improved permanency services for LGBTQ youth in the foster care has never been greater.  The grant funding from the Quality Improvement Center is an incredible opportunity to partner with local and national agencies to ensure that all children are able to live with a chosen and affirming family,” said Mike Kenney, Executive Director, Waiting Child Fund.

Dana M. Prince, MPH, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences will serve as Research Consultant on the project. The Mandel School and DCFS have a long history of working together on child welfare research, educational, and community outreach projects in public-private partnership to enhance services and wellbeing outcomes for youths and families.  Dr. Prince has extensive experience working with older youth in the child welfare system, particularly those who are LGBTQ2S and those who leave care without attaining permanency.


Founded in 1975, The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland is a leading non-profit organization that empowers Northeast Ohio’s LGBTQ community through advocacy, education, collaboration and celebration. Vision: The LGBTQ community is embraced and celebrated as an integral part of the thriving Northeast Ohio region.


The Waiting Child Fund works throughout the state of Ohio with public and private agencies to improve the permanency outcomes for the children and families they serve. Vision:  We believe that childhood is a fundamental human right and that every day for a child in foster care is a day in crisis. We envision a world where families, agencies, resources – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent chosen family. Mission:  Our goal is to develop partnerships that transform beliefs, values, and actions to achieve permanency for all children in the shortest time possible.


Dana M. Prince, MPH, PhD is Assistant Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (Mandel School), She provides expertise in advanced statistical methods, longitudinal research design, and program evaluation.

For more information about Dr. Prince:

For more information about the Mandel School:

By Pam Turos /

Sean Williams Joins Waiting Child Fund Board of Directors

There are a few people who have supported Waiting Child Fund for so many years that we consider them like family. Sean and Sandy Williams are two of those people – some might even call them our original (pro-bono) communications department. In fact, we know at least one person who assumed that Sean Williams was already a Waiting Child Fund board member. Naturally then, we are very pleased to officially announce his formal commitment to serve in that capacity.

After seven years managing his own consulting agency, Communication Ammo, Williams recently transitioned into a new role as Vice President of Education and Internal Communication Practices at True Digital Communications, where he specializes in helping corporate leaders leverage communication strategy to influence their company’s environment and culture. Sounds like something the non-profit community could benefit from too, right?

Born in New York and raised in Los Angeles, Williams came to Cleveland in the late 90s, when corporate bank mergers prompted his relocation. “It was the best decision we ever made,” says Sean, a Moreland Hills resident who supports a number of other Cleveland non-profits, including the Ronald McDonald House and Red Treehouse.  He is also an adjunct Public Relations instructor at Kent State University.

As a longstanding member of our marketing and branding committee, Williams appreciates the close involvement that Waiting Child Fund volunteers can have with the organization’s mission and impact. In helping articulate our vision of “a world where families, agencies – and children – work together so that every child is loved and nurtured in a permanent chosen family,” he feels directly connected to work we do to benefit Ohio’s most vulnerable children.

For a large-scale example of Sean Williams’ ability to shape purposeful communication, look no further than our newly-refined Mission and Vision statements (below) which are proudly displayed in the new Waiting Child Fund Office and Training Center.

By Pam Turos /

Hello Amy! Where have you been all our lives?

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone who is so passionate and dedicated … who have done so much, with just two people.” – Amy Milroy, Administrative Assistant

Yes, she’s talking about Mike Kenney and Shannon Deinhart. (Thanks for noticing, Amy!)

But we’d much rather talk about how happy we are that you’re here!

In case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her yet, we hope you’ll take a moment and help us offer a warm welcome to Amy Milroy, the newest addition to the Waiting Child Fund team. She comes to us with a long history of community involvement and administrative support roles, but her most important job (she would gladly admit) involves raising two sons and a yard full of suburban chickens.

A proud, lifelong northeast Ohio resident, Amy is no stranger to the non-profit community. Her history of service and leadership includes board positions and supportive roles with organizations such as Matthew Salem Camp, Littlest Heroes and the Highland Heights Green Task Force.

When she’s not keeping the chaos in our office under control, you might find Amy cooking, gardening, or visiting the West Side Market  and Lakeview Cemetery with her husband of (almost) twenty years. “It’s a great time to be in Cleveland,” she says with a smile.

We couldn’t agree more. Welcome to the Waiting Child Fund team!

Amy Milroy, Waiting Child Fund’s newest team member, with her family.






By Pam Turos /

Where Do We Stand? Race & Culture

A Reflection on Race & Culture in Child Welfare, Foster Care and Adoption

Published in collaboration with Family Builders Network
Authors | Addie Ellis, Jill Jacobs and Kim Stevens

The Issue

Children identified as belonging to certain racial and ethnic groups including, Native American/American Indian/First Nation/Aboriginal, African American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, and New Americans/Immigrants are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system.[1]  The disproportionality that occurs is linked to a history of racism, structural inequalities, and systemic barriers that contribute to how and why these families are engaged with the child welfare system.

Race and culture matter, and they impact policy, procedures, and practice decision-making in child welfare. It is the responsibility of the professionals, including social workers, guardians ad litem, the courts, care providers and all other involved adults in the child welfare system to understand and acknowledge their own implicit and explicit bias as they work with the children, youth, and families to influence the best possible outcomes for the child.

Practice and Policy Values

  • Families are given culturally appropriate services to assist with reunification and every effort is made for children/youth to safely remain in or return to their family, community and culture of origin.
  • Children will be placed with a family who recognizes that preservation of the child’s ethnic and cultural heritage and relationships are the child’s inherent right.
  • Public and private agencies are responsible for diligent and continuous recruitment of potential foster, adoptive, guardianship, and kinship families who reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in the community for whom a family is needed.
  • Those who work with the child welfare system including: Direct care staff, foster parents, adoptive parents, group home staff, administrators of programs, social workers, private agencies, must be trained and held accountable to implement culturally relevant, responsive, and respectful practices.
  • Race and culture matter and children’s voices need to be respected, in part because they can often identify options for culturally appropriate and/or least disruptive interventions
  • Families who adopt and/or foster children of ethnic and racial backgrounds different from their own must recognize and understand the ethnic and cultural heritage of the child goes beyond clothes, hair, and music.  The agency must prepare the family to recognize the realities of race and racism as it pertains to preparing the child to navigate the complexities of the various systems that the child comes into contact with.
  • On-going relationships between adopt/foster parents and birth family are the primary vehicle for preservation of a child’s cultural history and identity.
  • States, tribes, and public and private agencies are urged to recruit resource families from children’s own communities to further ensure their connection to culture and tradition.
  • States, tribes, and public and private agencies are expected to provide all potential foster and adoptive parents with cultural awareness, humility, and responsiveness training, and encourage the utilization of cultural mentors.

[1] Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 2014, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau

Additional Resources

NACAC Policy Statement on Race and Culture:

By Pam Turos /

Permanent, Chosen Family: Lamar’s Story

Front left to right: Cousin Nivea, Aunt Sonya, Aunt Priscilla. Back from left to right: Uncle Courtney and Lamar

Lamar Graham chose to age out of the foster care system even though he had a supportive foster family willing to adopt him. It was a decision the Franklin County teenager made out of loyalty to his birth family. “I thought adoption was a sell out and that I would lose ties to my biological family.” Thankfully, Lamar defies statistics, because research tells us that youth who “age out” are more likely than any other demographic to experience homelessness, unemployment, low rates of college graduation and early parenthood.

Lamar, who is a college-educated child welfare trainer, motivational speaker, and director of the Heart to Heart food pantry, credits support from foster parents, maternal aunts, friends, teachers, and coaches for helping him accomplish his goals. This extensive support network includes both chosen family and birth family – all permanent family to Lamar.

It wasn’t a clear and simple path to the inspiring place Lamar speaks from today, but he intends to make it easier for youth who come after him. “No matter what they may be experiencing, I want kids to know that good can still come from it.” While encouraging youth to see their own potential, he also challenges them to “never sit back and make excuses.” His ultimate goal is to help other foster care alumni speak openly about their perspectives and experiences. By sharing his personal story, Lamar has influenced child welfare staff, legislators, judges, lawyers and foster youth and parents.

Reflecting on the time since he first entered foster care at age six, Lamar cites many examples of how the child welfare system has changed and improved – such as children being able to attend meetings and participate in planning, while birth families and foster families work together to provide care. Not to mention the ability to participate in sports and sleepovers with friends”like normal kids.”  But he is quick to say there is still more work to be done. In particular, Graham would like to see increased awareness around the experiences of kids in foster care and increased support for families in crisis.

Considering himself a “lucky one,” Lamar hopes other youth can be empowered to honor their past while looking toward the future – a balance he knows is vital to their success. Perhaps he was ahead of his time, recognizing the importance of self-determination and birth family connections, long before most of the child welfare community.

By Pam Turos /

Taking a Stand: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression


Published in collaboration with Family Builders Network| Authors, Michelle Chalmers & Jill Jacobs

The Issue

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children and gender non-conforming children are disproportionately represented in foster care. The ability of children to safely develop and express their sexual orientation and gender identity expression (SOGIE) has a significant impact on their safety, permanency, and well-being. Within the child welfare system, professionals must ensure that children have the support and safety to do so. Each child exiting the foster care system must do so to a safe and permanent parent committed to providing for the child’s well-being – including the development and expression of their SOGIE.

Practice and policy values

  • Individuals and couples should be welcomed as prospective foster and adoptive parents and be free from discrimination based on SOGIE and/or marital status. All families deserve equal access to supportive services and to be equally represented and supported by the agency. The strength and competence of GLBT persons as adoptive and foster parents is supported by virtually every professional organization related to children’s health and well-being (see resources below).
  • Affirmative programs designed to proactively recruit and support families across the spectrum of SOGIE are a necessary and positive addition to the array of services in child welfare – especially until such time that safe, competent and affirming services are the norm rather than the exception in child welfare.
  • All children and youth in foster care, including GLBTQ youth, have an equal right to safety, permanency and well-being. Protection from discrimination or violence based on SOGIE is a non-negotiable minimum requirement of all child welfare placements.
  • All children and youth deserve equal access to supportive services and to placements that proactively affirm their All care providers, including direct care staff, birth parents, foster parents, group home staff and adoptive parents have an obligation to provide LBGTQ-affirming and competent care, and to know the limits of their capacity to do so. (consider NYC policy, found here:
  • All public child welfare systems have the obligation to welcome and serve the LGBTQ community and provide equitable, high quality services and supports to birth, foster, adoptive, kin families and children and youth. They must ensure freedom from discrimination based on SOGIE and/or marital or relationship status.

Additional resources and citations

All Children All Families

Gathering and Managing SOGIE Information

Child Welfare League of America

By Pam Turos /

Thank you! Making dreams come true

Thank you to everyone who supported our 12th annual spring FUNraiser!

The feeling of shared purpose and mission at the March 11th Live from The Red Carpet event was tangible. We are truly reaching a point where our biggest dreams for helping children who experience foster care are within reach.  Thank you for being a part of that journey.

Live from the Red Carpet was a record breaking event in all of the following ways:

  • Recognition of the generous TC’s Promise Foundation, whose co-founders, Chris and Julie Ilcin, gave us our first oversized check in memory of their son, Therlow Cash Ilcin
  • An amazingly fast and successful “Fund-a-Need” appeal, led by board member Kevin McNulty, raised $10,000 for our new office/training space in a matter of minutes
  • A grand total of more than $30,000 raised – far surpassing last year’s net of $17,000

Special thanks to our event sponsors and donors, listed below.  We hope you will visit each of these businesses and say thank you in person for the generosity and support they provide.


Best Picture

Best Director
Norm & Margot Prokop
Pete Young & Elisabeth Eitel Young

Best Animation
Buckingham, Dolittle & Burroughs, LLP
Jack & Sue Kenney
John & Laurie Cunningham
Linda & Lee Miller
Knight Chisholm Insurance Agency

Best Visual
Scully and Delaney Attorneys at Law
Green Road Pediatrics
Geoff Hoff & Phil Lopez
Bill & Kathy Marsh-Wintour
Kilbane Family
Miceli’s Dairy & Kenney Family
Solstice Roasters

Best Costume Design
Betty Tereck
Brendan and Joanna Boone
Janice Hornack
Suzanne & Graham Howe
The Cleveland Marble and Mosaic Company
Tom & Marilyn Hanton
Tom & Mary Carney


Debbie Eastburn,  Andrea Andrews & SalonCentric,  Angelo’s, Angie Johnson, Anonymous, Banyan Tree, Barnes & Noble, Cedar Point, Chris Bruch, Cleveland Aquarium, Cleveland Cinemas, Cleveland Monsters, Cleveland Orchestra, Colossal Cupcakes, CrossFit Cleveland, Debbie Eastburn, Elizabeth Tarkowski, Fitworks, Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, Frontier Log Cabins, Geoff Hoff & Phil Lopez, Highland Oaks Winery, Inked & Dotted Jean Gauger, Jim Grenwis, Joy Barton, Karen Kilbane, Kent State University, Lockdown ClevelandLopez, Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland, Mod Mex Restaurants (Momoho & El Carnicero), Motter’s Music, Pickwick & Frolic Restaurant and Club – home to Hilarities 4th Street Theatre, Planning Committee, Platinum Photography, Riverview Martial Arts and Fitness, Rocco & Alexis Whalen, Ryan and Amy Kilbane, Scott Westover & Progressive Insurance, Scout & Molly’s Boutique, Segway Tours, Solstice Roasters, Sur la Table, Terry Pluto, The Green House Group / One Tree Yoga, Create-a-Craft, Good Cause Creative, FAB Handmade Bracelets, Wizard World, Zumba Fitness





By Pam Turos /

Lights, Camera, Action! The Oscars are coming to CLE

 “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid.” – Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress

On March 11th 2017, The Academy Awards are coming to Cleveland, and you don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy the glitz and glamour of America’s favorite red-carpet event. The nominees have been announced, so call your personal stylist (or raid your costume closet), because you’re officially on the A-list. 

Waiting Child Fund board members and volunteers are projected to sweep all of the top categories, with multiple nominations for Best Supporting Role. The 2017 FUNraiser committee, led by Oriana Belavic, will step in to provide press coverage for this star-studded event, while Best Director nominees, Mike Kenney and Shannon Deinhart are expected to shine a light on the agency’s mission and vision for the future.

No FUNraiser would be complete without the support of many generous sponsors, and this year’s swag includes a weekend Hocking Hills excursion, Cleveland date night gift basket, Cavs tickets, restaurant gift cards and much more. “I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this possible, including Megan Zabell, Jennifer Grenwis, Joey Wellman, Angie Johnson, Mickey Westbrook, Emily, Westbrook, and Sonya Caswell” says Belavic, of the event’s dedicated production crew.

Supporting Waiting Child Fund “is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” said Oriana, reflecting on her first leading role and her experience last year volunteering behind the scenes. “At the end of the night, I sat in my car exhausted. But I have never felt that sense of accomplishment ever before. You can’t get this feeling any other way.”

Directors’ Notes: If you haven’t already – confirm your place at the most spectacular event of the season! Tickets are available online and business sponsorships are also available.

You can also check in, like and share the event on social media (Facebook and Twitter) to help our volunteer press corps!

Finally … Do you know someone who has a weekend house or season tickets they’d like to share on behalf of a great cause? Please contact us with your ideas and suggestions!

By Pam Turos /

Trade Rumors: Stephanie Lariccia joins the WCF team

Waiting Child Fund’s newest team member, graduate intern Stephanie Lariccia, spent most of her adult life making a name for herself as a veteran reporter in the male-dominated field of sports news. She is full of great stories from LeBron James’ high school years and can still tell you what the Indians execs are thinking about for spring training. She also admits it was hard to watch the 2016 Indians’ World Series run from the other side of the news desk.

To outsiders Lariccia’s decision to pursue a second career in social work might seem a giant leap from her days traveling cross-country chasing players and pro teams. But it only takes a short conversation to realize that her journey began sixteen years ago – with the adoption of her son, Justice.

The world of professional journalism has changed a lot since 1994, when Stephanie, a Cleveland native, received her Bachelor’s degree from Kent State university. Job openings and salaries keep dropping, while demands on journalists continue to increase. A few years ago, Stephanie realized she had outgrown a career that once defined her, while her most important role, Mom, needed to take precedence over her byline.

Waiting Child Fund is the second of two internships Lariccia will complete prior to graduation, including a rewarding stint at the private adoption agency Caring for Kids. “I know I’m where I belong,” she says confidently, reflecting over the last 18 months of juggling school, work, internships and family. Even as an adoptive parent, she still had much to learn about the “invisible wounds” that remain for birth parents and children who are placed for adoption. Her experiences on both sides of the issue have now developed into a passion for child-centered and trauma-informed care, both central to the mission of Waiting Child Fund.

In May of 2018, Justice and Stephanie’s husband, Tony, will be in the crowd cheering as she accepts her graduate diploma in social work from Case Western Reserve University.  They have also volunteered alongside her with foster youth in Summit County, an experience that has offered a unique bonding opportunity for mom and her teenage son.

Social work may not bring the same rush of adrenaline that comes with extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series – but the rewards still run deep. Stephanie is truly inspired to help vulnerable children and their families rewrite their stories, and the field of child welfare is truly fortunate she chose to play for our team.

By Pam Turos /

Roots and Wings: Thank you, Sue Kenney

There are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children.
One of these is roots, the other, wings. – Henry Ward Beecher

Kenney_SIn the early days of Waiting Child Fund, when we were just two energetic idealists working out of a basement – there were a handful of people who kept showing up. The donations of time, talents and financial support, we have received over the last twelve years are immeasurable by any standard scale.

If we could total up all of the hours and heart invested, the Lifetime Achievement Award would probably go to Susan Kenney, a founding board member and tireless advocate for the children we serve.  Like a loving parent, Sue helped us through the early days of development – fumbling through our first grant applications and fundraisers – until we felt ready to take on the world without her, which is exactly what she asked us to do, when she announced her retirement from the Board of Directors at the end of 2016.

Thank you, Sue, for being our champion and cheerleader over the last twelve years. There aren’t words enough to express our gratitude for all that you’ve done.  It’s time now for you to sit back and enjoy watching your investment grow. Over the last year, we have welcomed several new staff and board members, from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, and we are more committed and qualified than ever to change the future of foster care in Ohio.

Every child deserves a permanent, loving, chosen family to call his or her own. Thank you, Sue, for being such an important part of ours.


By Pam Turos /

Welcome to WCF, Kevin McNulty

by Stuart Meyer Photography

by Stuart Meyer Photography

From the time he was eight years old, Kevin McNulty has been making lists of things he wants to do or accomplish. His earliest success from that habit goes back to a Cleveland Plain Dealer contest he took very seriously as an eleven year old paperboy. Racing through the Yellow Pages in his parents’ basement, Kevin mastered the art of cold calling and signed up enough new subscribers to win the plastic, neon wristwatch he had set his sights on in the prize catalog.

This list making process has been modified and refined over the years to become an annual review of values and intentions that Kevin relies on for both personal and professional goal setting. Fast forward to January 31, 2015, when the successful husband, father and CEO contemplated his commitment to community service and added the words, “I want to be a part of reforming foster care” as a hand-written side note on that year’s list.

At the time, Kevin knew very little about foster care, except that his father’s life had been deeply impacted by negative experiences moving through a number of placements as a young child and teenager.  “Does foster care even need reformed?” Kevin asked himself when he added that ambitious goal to the page.  The issue lingered in the back of his mind, but it would be a full year before Kevin learned the real answer to his question: Yes, in fact, foster care does need reformed.

At a family get-together in early 2016, his sister Rini announced, “I just started working with this great organization called Waiting Child Fund . . . ” and she went on to talk about her new role helping with development and event planning for a Cleveland based non-profit whose mission is to ensure that every child in Ohio’s foster care system has a permanent, loving family.  “I laughed out loud and went to get my journal,” said Kevin, bringing his prior year’s goal list to show Rini, who quickly realized that the small organization could benefit from his extensive business development and marketing experience as they prepare to launch a new strategic plan and capacity building efforts.

Now, as the newest member of Waiting Child Fund’s Board of Directors, Kevin is thrilled to honor his father’s past while sharing his perspective on how an organization can grow and develop through value-driven decision making.  (And of course, intentional goal setting.)  What other goals is McNulty still working on from his own list? As a former singer, guitar player and disc jockey, he still thinks of himself as a “musician with a great day gig,” so don’t be surprised if you hear his voice coming through your speaker someday. Because once it’s on the list, there’s a good chance Kevin McNulty will make it happen.

Kevin lives in Rocky River with his wife and three daughters, sharing his time between northeast Ohio and Franklin, Indiana, where he serves as President and CEO of G & H Orthodontics, a global orthodontics manufacturer and supply company, privately held by the Cleveland-based private equity firm, The Riverside Company




By admin /

Family Finding Convening 2017


Where We’ve Been

Our mission at the Family Finding Convening has always been to provide access to local and nationally-recognized thought leaders and experts in the fields of family finding and permanency while encouraging relationships and collaboration between those who are involved with Ohio’s foster care community. Past sessions included presentations from:

  • Bob Friend, National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness
  • Barry Chaffkin, Children’s Corp
  • Darla Henry, 3-5-7 Model ©
  • David Crampton, Case Western
  • Georgina Rodriguez, Foster Care Alumni
  • Kevin Campbell, Family Finding Model Author
  • Laurie Tochiki, EPIC ‘Ohana, Inc.
  • Antwone Fisher, Foster Care Alumni
  • Kirsten Arreguin, Jackson County, OR
  • Pat O’Brien, Trainer, Consultant, WWK Recruiter
  • Tim Harless, Richland County Children Services
  • Kim Stevens, Advocates for Families First, NACAC
  • Melanie Scheetz, Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition
  • Denise St. Clair, Family & Youth Law Center
  • Nicole Dobbins, Voices for Adoption
  • Ana Beltran, Generations United
  • Sharon McDaniel, A Second Chance Inc.
  • Kinship Caregivers
  • Foster Care Alumni Advocates

What We Learned

Following the WCF Family Finding Convening 2.0, we surveyed event participants and the feedback we received from last year’s audience of county leaders, service providers, attorneys, case workers and caregivers was tremendously helpful.

What did past attendees have to say?

  • “I was inspired.” (57%)
  • “I learned something new.” (43%)
  • “I was exposed to a different perspective.” (36%)

The top three requests from last year’s participants include:

  • More examples of effective Family Search and Engagement practices
  • Review of current research regarding Family Search and Engagement
  • Connections and idea sharing with colleagues from other agencies in similar roles

Finally, the inconsistency of Family Search and Engagement practices were a substantial concern of last year’s participants, and so one of our goals is to consider the reasons that consistent implementation is difficult for agencies and programs to implement. What are the barriers to consistency? And how can agencies overcome them?

Where We’re Headed

Over the coming months, you can expect to receive regular updates as we prepare for Family Finding Convening 2017. Consider it a sneak peek (or your advance preparation) for the content and conversations that we will continue together in March of 2017. Topics will include:

  • Foster Care 21 – Taking a closer look at the impact and implementation of the recent Ohio Legislation (H.B. 50/S.B. 240) that is intended to provide extended foster care support to youth who are at risk of aging out.
  • Notification – There are specific criteria for how and when extended family members should be notified when a child is removed from parental custody. Are Ohio counties following these guidelines consistently? If not, why? And how can we do better?
  • Kinship Support – We know that 43% of all children removed from a home are living with a kinship caregiver. What are the best ways to make it easier for extended family members to care for these children and to help them address the unique needs of children who have experienced trauma?
  • Shared Power – Exploring the importance of true collaboration between youth and the adults who are advocating for them when it comes to family finding, decision making and permanency planning.
  • Identity and Birth Connection – Recognizing that we need to honor the past before youth can truly engage in the future. Youth in child welfare custody have a right to know who members of their birth family are, and successful placement is dependent on giving youth access to accurate information about their birth family, regardless of their current or future ability to provide care.
  • Serving the LGBTQ community – There are higher percentages of youth who identify as LGBTQ in foster care than in general population and they are also more likely to be mistreated while in foster care. Effective programming must also address the unique needs of youth
  • Returning to biological parents – Should youth be able to consider the possibility of returning custody to their birth parents once they are old enough to age out of the foster care system?
  • Partnering with Our Courts – to effectively ensure permanency for all children we have an opportunity to improve our collaborative partnership with our court systems. How do we foster accountability, innovation, and teaming with our legal partners?

We look forward to hearing your insight and feedback on these or other issues as we plan for a dynamic, interactive Family Finding Convening. Did we miss something important that you’d like to see featured? Is there a speaker or expert you’d love to see on our agenda? We hope you will think of the Family Finding Convening as a day for growth, input and collaboration. Our mission is to coordinate an event that leaves you feeling empowered and inspired to help establish permanent, loving connections for all of the youth impacted by Ohio’s child welfare system.

Also, please let us know if there is an administrative leader or colleague who might benefit from an invitation. You can contact our Convening Director at with any suggestions or questions.

By Pam Turos /

11th Annual WCF Golf Outing: Wow! Our Donors and Supporters Are AMAZING

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to gather with golfers and supporters at the Waiting Child Fund 11th annual golf outing. Held at the scenic Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, in Chesterland, Ohio it was a perfect blend of friendly competition and high powered fundraising. Thanks to the support of our dedicated Planning Committee and volunteers, the event raised over $16,300 that will help us continue advocating for children in foster care throughout Ohio. Not bad for a day of sunshine and games!

wcf_golf_2016_004 wcf_golf_2016_141

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and based on the images below we agree. But there are two important words we can’t leave out (or say enough): “Thank You!” to the following people and organizations who made this event possible.

Thank you, again, to each person who helps us make dreams come true for foster youth and families. We hope you will extend your support of the Waiting Child Fund to include the businesses and organizations below that have offered sponsorship and donations.

Planning Committee: Joe Deinhart, Shannon Deinhart, Brian Keating, Grant Keating, Jack Kenney, Mike Kenney, Bess Matuszewski, Joe Palcko, Trip Wellmanwcf_golf_2016_131

Volunteers: Sonya Caswell, Jen Grenwis, Elizabeth Kenney, Elisabeth Young, Angela Johnson


Communications AMMO: A strategic communications agency

Reminger Attorneys at Law:  Litigation, estate planning and probate matters, business and transactional law and more

Dworken & Bernstein: A Full service law firm offering legal support to businesses, individuals and families

Linda and Lee Miller

Miceli’s Dairy: Family owned producer of fine Italian cheeses, using recipes passed down from generation to generation

BMW Cleveland: Owned by the Davis Automotive Group in Solon, Ohio

In-Kind Support: CQ Printing, Tommy’s Restaurant, Gallucci’s Italian Foods, BMW Cleveland

Auction and Prize Donors:wcf_golf_2016_093


Angelo’s Pizza


Atma Center

Austin’s Steakhouse – Brecksville

Austin’s Steakhouse – Mayfield

Berkshire Hills Golf Course


Blue Canyonwcf_golf_2016_088

Bob Reed


Briarwood Golf Club

Brown Bag Burgers

Bunker Hill Golf Course


Cleveland CAVS

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Metroparks


Dewey’s Pizza

Diamond Shine Car Wash


Dworken and Berstein

Farinacci Pizza


Fowler’s Mill Golf Course

Frontier Airlines

Gino’s Hair Design

Gionino’s Pizzeria

Giuseppe’s Ristorante

Glidden House

Goodtime III

Grantwood Golf Course

Grey Hawk Golf Club

Grove Hill

Hilton Garden Inn – Downtown

Hilton Garden Inn – Twinsburg

House of Blues

Hunan by the Falls

Hunan of Solon

Ironwood Golf Course

K. Station Katering

Ken & Loretta Janc

Kendra Esser

La Fiesta

La Look

Lake Metroparks

Laurel Telliard

Legend Lake Golf Club

Lenoci’s Spaghetti House

Leslie Sobey


Lost Nation Golf Course

Lucy’s Sweet Surrender


Mallard Creek

Mike Kenney

Mitchell’s Tavern



New Heights Bar & Grill

Oak & Embers

Panini’s Bar and Grill


Pine Brook Golf Club

Planning Committee

Pleasant Valley

Powderhorn Golf Course


Quail Hollow Country Club

Red Lantern


Ridgewood Golf Course

Rini McNulty

Akron Rubber Ducks

Sapori Italian Grille

Solstice Distributors

St. Denis Golf Club

The Standard

Station 43

Styleistics by Shannon

Taco Tantos


Tasty Pizza

The Corner Alley

The Harp

The Pufferbelly Ltd.

Two Bucks

Valleaire Golf Club

Vincinato Pizza

Wild Mango

Willoughby Lost Nation Municipal Golf Course

Winking Lizard Tavern


By admin /

Stark Tank: Changing the future of foster care, one big idea at a time

IMG_20160629_114510166It all started with a “Dream Team” session in which Stark County’s child welfare staff were encouraged to think big and share ideas that could help inspire positive change for the at-risk children and families they serve. “What are the best programs and services you can imagine?” “What are your biggest challenges?” “Where do you need more support?” “What do you wish you could spend more time doing?” “What do your clients need?”

Nothing was off the table, and with the encouragement of Waiting Child Fund facilitators, Mike Kenney & Shannon Deinhart, a team of Stark County’s highly experienced intake workers, case managers, supervisors and support staff rose to the challenge. Topics ranged from record keeping and worker retention to how to support kinship caregivers and find more people who can provide supportive, life-long connections for the children they are charged with protecting.

Once the challenges and opportunities were identified, the Dream Team went a step further and began researching best practices, reviewing data and identifying relevant case studies from agencies that had successfully implemented some of the changes they were hoping to inspire. They spent 4 months working together and formulating realistic plans for every topic on their list.

The final step was to bring all this enthusiasm and information to the agency’s leadership team, who were intentionally absent from the brainstorming and planning sessions.  And that’s where the group really had a chance for their ideas to shine, by setting up a full-scale production of their very own pitch-presentation game show “Stark Tank” modeled after the ABC hit show where entrepreneurial upstarts compete to win over the support of potential investors.

During nine multi-media presentations, staff members pitched their ideas to county executives and administrators, who were seated across the room just like the panel of angel investors you see on TV. Following each compelling argument came The Ask: “Which one of you will commit to helping make this happen?” One by one, the ideas were presented, investigated, supported and ultimately accepted – with partnerships between staff and leadership identified to champion every project that was presented.

“I’ve never been in a meeting where it felt like changes could really happen like that, where ideas were supported, right there, on the spot,” said Monica Watson, a supervisor and sixteen-year veteran of the department. The Stark County leadership team was equally inspired to see the innovative spirit of their staff come to light.

Program Administrator, Mary Hilaneh shared this endorsement, “I loved it! The amount of time and work that staff invested in the project was incredible and it was obvious in the professional work that they produced.  The presentation, the content, and their dedication was quite impressive!”

Dates have already been set to regroup and determine next step on all of the projects. Of course, the big winners will ultimately be families and children who are served by the Stark County Division of Children’s Services. In a field of work that is often plagued with high burnout and employee turnover rates, this kind of collaborative effort and unanimous support from administration leaves everyone involved feeling like a champion.

By Pam Turos /

Please share this with your favorite golfer!

golf_newsletterThere are typically two groups of people at any charity golf outing: those who came to play and those who came to support the cause. If you’re lucky, distinctions between each group are significantly skewed by the end of the day. And if you ask the planning committee of the Waiting Child Fund’s 11th annual golf outing, one category is really all that’s necessary: people who like to have fun.

For Brian Keating of Lyndhurst, what started six years ago as an excuse to get away for a day of golf with his favorite foursome has become an unexpected opportunity to impact the lives of Ohio’s most at-risk children. Like many people, Keating always had a sense that he wanted to contribute to the community but didn’t necessarily have “a cause of his own” to rally behind. When his wife, a high-school classmate of WCF co-founder Mike Kenney, introduced him to the organization, Keating admits he fell into the first category of golfing participants. He was there for 18-holes and a nice steak dinner with an extra serving of good-conscience on the side.

But as he learned more about Waiting Child Fund’s mission to ensure that every child has at least one dependable adult (and hopefully more) to rely on in his/her lifetime—Brian’s affinity for the underdog took over and now he and his brother Grant both serve on the event’s organizing committee. As seasoned golfers, their involvement has brought a fresh perspective to the planning process and helped ensure the outing exceeds expectations for both golfers and supporters alike. Last year’s sold out event surpassed all previous fundraising benchmarks, raising over $16,000 – pretty impressive for a day of friendly competition and fun in the sun!

This year’s outing will take place on August 6th 2016 at the scenic Fowler’s Mill Golf Course in Chesterland, once ranked by Golfer’s Digest as the 2nd best public course in the state of Ohio (2011). Thanks to the efforts and generosity of our volunteers, donors and sponsors the day’s prizes will include a chance to win a three-year lease on a new car, vacation packages, beautiful golf equipment and much more.  Come for the day or come for dinner – there are plenty of ways to get involved. Registration details and event tickets are available here and business sponsorship starts at just $100.

By admin /

Welcome to the Waiting Child Fund, David Simpson

David SimpsonAfter 27 years leading one of northeast Ohio’s most transformative nonprofit organizations, former Executive Director of Hospice of the Western Reserve, David Simpson, was ready for retirement. His final mission at HWR was the opening of a west-side care facility and almost immediately after the July 2012 ribbon cutting at the Ames Family Hospice House in Westlake, Simpson settled into an easy routine of doting on grandchildren, golfing in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Over the next 13 months, however, you might find him sorting through policies and procedures in the Waiting Child Fund offices. Thanks to the BVU Encore Fellows program, which pairs successful, retired professionals with nonprofit agencies, Simpson has committed to a year of semi-retirement, during which he will provide strategic planning and organizational development support as Waiting Child fund works to improve foster care outcomes in Ohio. Salary for the position is sponsored through Cleveland Foundation grant funding.

Simpson openly admits that when he first joined the non-profit world in 1985, he knew very little about hospice care, few people did at that time.  But over the last 30 years “hospice” has become a familiar household term, and Simpson’s agency was at the epicenter of that movement.

So who better than David Simpson to help us lead the transformation of how we think about foster care in the state of Ohio?  As a mission-driven leader, he speaks fondly of the way hospice’s culture and values led his decision making and the growth of the organization.  From determining which patients they would care for, to the structure of meetings and the planning of physical spaces—all resources were engaged in the advancement of the agency’s mission.

While few people truly understand how foster care works, we all know that kids who are dependent on the system are in for a lot of extra challenges in life. So instead of worrying about how to make elaborate plans that might help kids in foster care, Simpson is ready to help WCF advocate for a new service model, focused on putting kids first and developing programs around them. According to Simpson, continuously asking the question, “What is our mission?” is the clearest way to make effective decisions as an agency grows – which is exactly the kind of singular, mission driven approach that has always led our work here at WCF.

Our sole focus is to help every child in foster care find permanent, loving, family connections, and there are so many great collaborations happening in Ohio, as we shift toward a philosophy that recognizes how important relationships and connections are in helping kids heal and grow. To quote Johanna Pearce, our community partner from Fairfield County Children’s Services “It’s an exciting time to be working in foster care. Change is happening, and we get to be a part of it.”

And we can’t think of a better leadership partner than David Simpson to guide us as we increase our capacity to help not just county-based child welfare programs and private agencies, but most importantly more families and children.

By Pam Turos /

3 Reasons to Be Inspired About Foster Care

At Waiting Child Fund – we don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. From the beginning, we have been motivated and inspired by other program leaders across the country who are using innovative strategies to transform America’s foster care system. Each time we think to ourselves, “Yes! They know what they’re doing!” it’s followed by, “We need to bring that to Ohio.” These inspiring thought leaders are the foundation of our work, and over the coming weeks, we’ll introduce you to some of our biggest foster care heroes. And hopefully, by getting to know them, you’ll come to know more about us.

30 Days to Family is a free, short-term intervention through the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition, where staff members diligently search for at least 80 relatives/kin for each child, as soon as they come into foster care. And here’s one of the best foster care statistics you’ll ever read: On average, these committed family finding experts are able to find 165 connections for each child! That’s a whole lot of love, and once we know it’s possible – how can we accept anything less? The ultimate goal is to identify one primary placement provider and 1-2 other relatives or kin who can serve as potential back-up placement providers. (You know, just like we have in our own family networks.) Maternal and paternal family connections are all extensively explored, and every effort is made to search for relatives who can commit to keeping siblings together, maintaining children in their school of origin, and preserving the child’s important relationships with friends and supportive adults. Within just 9 months of starting the 30 Days to Family initiative, 71.4% of children were placed with someone related to them. What do referring agencies have to say about 30 Days to Family?  “It’s amazing to see how much work can be done in such a short time!” and “I can’t believe you found his father! We never would have had the resources to find him!” Gone are the days of asking one, aging grandparent to carry the heavy load of a family in crisis. It takes a village to raise a child, and we’re on a mission to build that village.

Barry and Shannon, Children's Corp at Waiting Child Fund Office

When we think of people who have gone the extra mile to support the Waiting Child Fund, Barry Chaffkin, the Founder of Fostering Change for Children in New York, comes immediately to mind. During the worst snow storm of the year, his flight was cancelled right before an important funding meeting here in Cleveland. So Barry jumped on a train to our offices, with the hopes of helping us bring the Children’s Corp program to Ohio. This unique model addresses one of the greatest challenges in child welfare: case worker turnover, which some studies estimate can be as high as 40% annually.  In this high stress field, few people can fault young social workers for moving on to greener pastures. But when case workers leave, children’s futures are at stake. So Barry’s vision was to strengthen the child welfare work force. By training and supporting young graduates, Child’s Corp increases the likelihood they will stick around to develop trusting relationships and successful outcomes. And hopefully, these bright, young, empowered caseworkers will become the future leaders of our child welfare system.

Finally, when we think of programs that inspire Waiting Child Fund’s big dreams for the future, the Treehouse Foundation’s multi-generational Treehouse Community in Easthampton, Massachusetts is at the top of our list. This planned neighborhood was custom designed to support families who are fostering and adopting children from the public foster care system, by creating a village of people who are invested in each other’s lives. Treehouse Circle includes 48 senior cottages and 12 family homes, with an onsite, professionally-staffed community center. Each child benefits from the love and support of an elaborate extended family, all committed to providing a secure, nurturing environment for them.  And, as you can imagine, it’s not just the kids who benefit from these relationships, but the lives of the adults who live, work and volunteer at Treehouse Circle are enriched as well. From respite care, to transportation assistance and educational support – the seniors at Treehouse donate over 600 hours a year as honorary grandparents.  And not only has the Treehouse Foundation inspired similar communities in other parts of the US, but their groundbreaking model of inter-generational support for our most vulnerable populations inspires us to think about how this could benefit traditional communities as well.

Want to help spread awareness about the innovative and inspiring work being done to transform foster care? Please share this post with your social media network and visit the Waiting Child Fund on Facebook and Twitter (@WaitingChildOH) to stay up to date on our efforts to bring these types of programs and services to Ohio!


By admin /

A Scary Good Time at Our 11th Annual FUNraiser

At Waiting Child Fund, we like to think we know how to throw a great party, and this year’s 11th annual FUNraiser event, Nightmare on 78th Street, was no exception. At one point, I saw Beetlejuice playing blackjack with Pope Frances, while Slash did an air guitar solo for his zombie girlfriend. Where was Waldo? Everywhere! And Donald Trump was a close second for most impersonators. Sound like your worst nightmare? Not us. We loved every minute of it and we raised over $18,000 to support our mission of ensuring that every child has the security and love of permanent connections!

View Photos from the Event

Another highlight of the evening was the official premier of our first Waiting Child Fund video donated by Good Cause Creative, followed by some inspiring words from our Board President, Mike Matasich of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs, LLC. Please be sure to checkout all our amazing donors – patronizing their business/organization is another way to support Waiting Child Fund. And finally, visit us on Facebook and Twitter (@waitingchildOH) to hear about all the great work we’re doing with your support! Then tell everyone how much fun you had helping change lives for kids in foster in Northeast Ohio and beyond.

Special thanks to our amazing FUNraiser Planning Committee: Oriana Belavic, Sonya Caswell, Lindsay Darby, Jen Grenwis, Amy Kilbane, Joey Wellman and Mickey Westbrook and Megan Zabell. This event wouldn’t have been possible without your hard work and dedication.

And Thank You to the following sponsors, whose support is both humbling and priceless:


Norm & Margot Prokop

Pete & Lisa Young


Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP

DDR Corp.

Friends of Waiting Child Fund

Jack & Sue Kenney

John & Laurie Cunningham

Kate & Ed Terrell

Linda & Lee Miller

Scully & Delaney Attorneys at Law

The Patterson Family


Garland / Wes Van Autreve

Jan Hornack

Mary and Jerry Deinhart

Sharon & Ray Ayery

Cleveland Marble & Mosaic

Sean & Cheryl Roche

Susan & Graham Howe

Kickstart Accounting

Thomas and Therese Pasadyn

AUCTION DONORS: Amy & Ryan Kilbane, Andrea Andrews and Saloncentric, Atma Center, Blue Canyon restaurant, Brian Brennan, CHEMAM, Cleveland Cinemas, Cleveland Indians, Color Your Palette, DOYS by Carie, Erie Island Coffee, Erin Rodriguez, FAB Handmade Bracelets, Farenheit, Fowler’s Mill Golf Course, Highland Oaks Vineyard, Sonya Caswell & Julia Hornack, J. Marie’s Hair Salon, Janet Houk, Jim & Lisa Riley, Joey Wellman, Kendra Esser, Kickstart Accounting, King’s Island, Lake County Captains, Laurie & John Cunningham, Michelle Chalmers, Nancy Anne, Novica, Parkview Nite Club, Perfect Touch, Platinum Photography, Ride and Workout, Rini McNulty, Riverview Martial Arts & Fitness, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Sibling Revelry Brewing, Simply Betsy, Solstice Roasters, Stir Crazy, Styleistics by Shannon, Table 45, The Cleveland Coca Cola Bottling Company, The Colony, Two Bucks Brand, Zumba Fitness

By admin /

Report to Supporters

2Report to Supporters FINAL_Page_1015 was an incredible year at the Waiting Child Fund. We expanded our partnerships, added new programs, and helped agencies work more effectively to find permanency for their children. The information contained in our Report to Supporters highlights a few of the key updates from our work this year and outlines some of our plans for 2016.

None of this work would have been possible without our donors, volunteers,board members, committee members, and partner agencies who share our vision for a foster care system that embraces permanency values and works to obtain permanency from the first minute a child enters foster care.

Click on the image to view a PDF of the Report to Supporters or Contact Us to request a hard-copy.