Department of Family Services – Children, Youth and Families

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

703-324-7500
TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035

Oriane Eriksen,
Director

Foster Family News – Staff Spotlights

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Foster Family News spotlights a variety of individuals and teams that contribute to the Department of Family Services Foster Care and Adoption programs and services. Meet the people who have been recognized in previous newsletters.

2021 Spotlights

January – South County Foster Care Unit

South County Foster Care Unit photo collageGet to know the staff in our South County Foster Care Unit. Their goal is achieving timely permanency for children while ensuring their safety and well-being. The unit strives to assist and support birth parents on reunifying with their children. Supervisor Nakejah Allen answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the South County Foster Care Unit.

2020 Spotlights

January – Permanency and Life Skills Unit
February – In-Service Training and Home Study Unit
March – Foster Care Case Carrying Unit for the Central Region of Fairfax County
April – Annandale Foster Care Unit
May – Pre-Service Training & Home Study Unit
June – Adoption and Kinship Assistance Unit
July – South County Foster Care & Adoption Unit
October – Placement and Resource Unit
November – Reston Foster Care Unit
December – Adoption Unit

January – Permanency and Life Skills Unit

Permanency and Life Skills Unit team photoThe work of the Permanency and Life Skills Unit in Foster Care and Adoption is all about helping youth in care to find permanent families or establish lifelong connections, and to prepare our older youth to transition to adulthood. We interviewed supervisor Maggie Moreland and share her answers to few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Permanency and Life Skills Unit.

February – In-Service Training and Home Study Unit

In-Service Training and Home Service Unit group photoThe work of the In-Service Training and Home Study Unit in Foster Care and Adoption is about helping to equip foster parents to support children in care, as well as providing “special” home studies including child-specific and interstate cases. Supervisor Amanda Macaulay shares about her team and how they help Fairfax County foster parents. Learn more about the In-Service Training and Home Study Unit.

March – Foster Care Case Carrying Unit for the Central Region of Fairfax County

Foster Care Case Carrying Unit for the Central Region of Fairfax County The work of this Fairfax Foster Care Unit is about helping to find permanent homes for children in care, as well as providing support to children and families in crisis and older youth who are on the verge of aging out of care. Supervisor Melody Vielbig shares about the team and what they're doing to help. Learn more about the Foster Care Case Carrying Unit for the Central Region of Fairfax County.

April – Annandale Foster Care Unit

Annandale Foster Care Unit group photoThe Annandale Foster Care Unit is working each day toward the reunification of families and achieving permanency for youth who enter foster care. Supervisor Penny Talley shared with us a little bit about who they are, what they do and why they do it. Learn more about the Annandale Foster Care Unit.

May – Pre-Service Training & Home Study Unit

Pre-Service Training & Home Study unit thank you photo collageThe work of the Pre-Service Training & Home Study Unit is about recruiting prospective foster families and providing trauma-informed pre-service training and working with prospective families through certification. Supervisor Dana Trower answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Pre-Service Training & Home Study Unit.

June – Adoption and Kinship Assistance Unit

Adoption and Kinship Assistance Unit group photoThe work of the Adoption and Kinship Assistance unit is about supporting adoptive and kinship families until the child is either 18 years old or even until their 21st birthday in some cases. They also help eligible families adopting a child with special needs to receive adoption assistance to provide for the needs of their child. Supervisor Julie Bowman answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Adoption and Kinship Assistance Unit.

July – South County Foster Care & Adoption Unit

South County Foster Care and Adoption Unit virtual group photoThe work of the South County Foster Care & Adoption Unit, part of “the Highway Crew,” is about moving families to a place where they can function independently, while providing community-based natural supports to facilitate safety and stability and well-being of the youth they serve. Get to know Supervisor Matt Copsey and rest of the unit. Learn more about the South County Foster Care & Adoption Unit.

October – Placement and Resource Unit

Placement and Resource Unit collage photo of team membersThe work of the Placement and Resource unit is about supporting foster families and facilitating placements of children in foster homes to ensure the children are provided with a nurturing, stable and protective environment. Supervisor Karen Roberts answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Placement and Resource unit.

November – Reston Foster Care Unit

From Left to Right: Mary Medina; Jessica Johnson; Julia Dimond; Anne Ziegler; not pictured: Dionne Johnston and Kara Tufts.Get to know staff in the Reston Foster Care Unit. Their goal is helping children in the foster care system achieve permanency through reunification with their birth parents. At the same time, the unit also works toward permanency through placements with relatives, if possible. The unit is always working with children and youth to ensure their safety and well-being in every environment they are in. Supervisor Jessica Johnson answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Reston Foster Care Unit.

December – Adoption Unit

screenshot of video call of Adoption Unit staffGet to know the staff in our Adoption Unit. Their goal is helping children in the foster care system achieve permanency through adoption when reunification with their birth parents is not possible. They also help prepare our adoptive families to launch from the Department’s involvement, so that they can have normal life experiences and be prepared to manage whatever may arise in the future of their child’s life. Supervisor Michelle Cover answers a few questions about the unit. Learn more about the Adoption Unit.

2019 Spotlights

February – Keith Wong
April – Mary L. Adamchak
July – Sheila Donaldson

February – Keith Wong

Keith Wong, Program Manager, Foster Care & Adoption Resource and Support Program

5 Things About Keith

  1. Keith WongSocial work wasn’t his first love. “When I was growing up I thought I would like to own a farm,” he says. “My dream was raising sheep.”

  2. He’s been with Fairfax County for 18 years, but he’s been a social worker since 1982. Keith started his career in Hong Kong working in mostly residential homes. He came to the United States and worked in Washington, D.C., as British rule of Hong Kong was about to transition to China. “Tiananmen Square happened. And the Chinese government was saying ‘after 1997 [folks in Hong Kong would have to] shut up or you won’t get your democracy,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘That doesn’t work for me; I’m not going to shut up.’ I was much younger then and a lot more rebellious. I have toned down a lot.”

  3. For Keith, the most rewarding part of this work is “seeing kids improve. Seeing the improvement of outcomes of kids,” he says. “Often, kids from foster care don’t graduate from high school, they don’t go to college. Nationally the percentage for kids in foster care who go to college is very low. But we have five kids graduating from college this coming year from the Foster Care & Adoption program. Five. Kids. Graduating. From. College. That’s major! These are the things that help motivate me.”

  4. Away from the job, Keith has a variety of hobbies, including listening to music (“Classical. Opera. Jazz. A little bit of R&B”) and traveling. “I like national parks,” he says, citing a recent circuit of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park as among his favorite trips of all time. He’s also a fish aficionado. “I have always, even when I was a kid, had an aquarium at home. I recently started doing saltwater fish. I have two saltwater and one freshwater aquarium at home.”

  5. Keith’s retiring soon. “I will miss the work, but I won’t miss the 40-hour work week,” he says. One of his first plans? He’s going to Machu Picchu in October. “I’d like to be able to do more hiking while I still have the mobility!”

April – Mary L. Adamchak

Mary L. Adamchak, Supervisor, Post Adoption Services

5 Things About Mary

Mary Adamchak1. I was a stay-at-home mom for several years and decided if I wanted to get back into the workforce I should pursue a graduate degree. I have always been an advocate for social justice and felt an MSW might be the way to go. My concentration was in policy and planning and, because of that, I managed to get an internship with Susan Alexander, then-CPS program manager. Through my internship, I became interested in child welfare and knew that is where I wanted to be. I started working on the CPS Hotline in 1999 before coming to post adoption services in 2003--so I went from the beginning of the child welfare spectrum to the very end of the spectrum.

2. I was originally attracted to the position because of the emphasis on policy, but I soon became a proponent for post adoption services. The majority of the children adopted from foster care meet the criteria for special needs, which qualifies them for adoption assistance. Some of these children have significant emotional or mental health issues, mostly related to the trauma they endured prior to being adopted. These needs do not go away when a child is adopted, so families need supportive services to continue. Under adoption assistance, children and youth can qualify for services until they are 18 or 21, should their needs continue. Part of my job is to advocate for families with the state to ensure they get the supportive services they need. Services can include respite, therapy, tutoring and help with medical care. I once successfully advocated for a hot tub for a blind youth with autism who loved being in the water! I am quite passionate about supporting our adoptive families and have attended meetings at the state to advocate for their needs.

3. The biggest challenge in this work: We currently have 415 cases divided between four social workers. We get audited regularly and need to ensure all our cases have documentation to support eligibility for adoption assistance. For some of our older cases, we have had to dig through old documents to retrieve essential documentation. Some of our families have significant difficulties coping with their adopted children, and I worry that maybe the placement was not the best for a child or family. But I tell myself the vast majority of our adoption placements are successful. We have only had two dissolutions in the past 20 years.

4. My job is rewarding. I have had the privilege of working with remarkable people. I have been so humbled by the generosity of our adoptive parents, many of whom go to extraordinary lengths to help children who have significant needs make their lives better. It is so rewarding to hear that children who once struggled are now thriving in their homes and communities. I also work with remarkable people who go above and beyond to ensure children find a permanent home.

5. When I’m away from the job, I love to cook and try out new recipes. My son once asked me if we could have hamburgers for dinner just like other families! Trust me, he had his fair share of hamburgers! I also am an avid reader and belong to a book club, which meets once a month, and we actually do discuss the book. I love walking and plan to get a few more miles in a week when I retire. I also love to work in my garden and travel, particularly adventurous trips. I have been to the Galapagos Islands, the Arctic Circle and, best of all, on an African safari! I became a grandparent last September and love spending time with my little grandson. I am retiring in May and am looking forward to spending more time doing the things I enjoy most.

July – Sheila Donaldson

Sheila Donaldson, Program Manager, Foster Care & Adoption Resource and Support

5 Things About Sheila

Sheila Donaldson1. I always knew I wanted to help children. I tended to be the “counselor” for my friends from a young age, which made me interested in becoming a therapist.

2. My first job out of graduate school was in child welfare. I had a general caseload consisting of CPS investigations, CPS ongoing and foster care. I left that job to work in the mental health arena, providing therapy and forensic evaluations. But I experienced missing a huge piece of the puzzle by only meeting with one person during the session. I missed child welfare and looking at the entire family system. I felt this was where I could truly make an impact on someone’s life.

3. I had previously been with the county in the ‘90s for a few years, and then I took a break to stay home when I started my family. I have been with the county for 10.5 years. I have worked in CPS ongoing (now PPS), both general cases and, specifically, when we had the “sex unit,” and Prevention (Neighborhood Networks). I also worked in foster care doing home studies and training.

4. I have enjoyed working along the child welfare continuum in various capacities. I have been able to support others to make significant and impactful changes in their lives. Trauma can change the trajectory of someone’s life, and with the right kind of supports, it is possible to triumph despite what occurred. I have been a foster parent and realize I cannot parent everyone myself! Specifically, in the Resource and Support program, I have enjoyed getting to know other foster parents and seeing the strengths that reside in each person. Many people have gone through some challenging times and it has motivated them to help others quite wonderfully. I experience a positive energy in the room when I train with foster parents. It allows me to see the beauty in others while being amidst the trauma that surrounds us. 

5. My last position was within the Prevention program within a sub program, Neighborhood Networks. It involved a lot of program development and figuring out where this program fit along the continuum. I surprisingly found I really liked that piece of the work. Now I am the program manager of five teams that do different parts. I enjoy seeing how each mini program fits in with each other and within the entire system. As a former foster parent, I feel passionate about supporting other foster families and our youth. I am loving working with all the people on my team who are also passionate and very talented at what they do. Everyone is eager to provide the best help that we can, and I am excited to be a part of that!

(go to Foster Family News current issue or archive)

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