At a special ceremony on November 5, 2015, State Court Administrator Milton L. Mack, Jr., presented award statues as Michigan Foster Care Review Board Program Manager Jim Novell read a summary of outstanding attributes of each awardee listed below. The award ceremony was part of the Foster Care Review Board’s Annual Training Conference in Lansing. Congratulations to all!
Foster Care Worker of the Year: Diane Tryan, Catholic Social Services of the Upper Peninsula, Escanaba, was nominated for her 12 years of outstanding work as a foster care and adoption caseworker, as well as her recent work as a foster care and adoption supervisor. She possesses a tireless work ethic with a positive energy that inspires others around her. She has an impeccable reputation among the professionals and clients she interacts with and is deemed invaluable by her agency, the children and families she has served, and the new caseworkers she has trained. She remains instrumental in addressing critical needs within her community, both as a victim’s advocacy counselor for the Diocese of Marquette and through her involvement with the Suicide Prevention Task Force in Delta County.
Foster Parents of the Year: Zackary and Tisha Estes, with Methodist Children’s Home Society, Detroit, have served as foster parents for 17 years. The Estes have fostered over 20 children, mostly very challenging adolescent boys, eventually adopting three of them and obtaining legal guardianship of another. Mr. and Mrs. Estes are described as strong and tireless advocates for the children in their care, ensuring the children receive the services needed. They also support other foster parents through their involvement with Families on the Move, a foster parent support organization, and Tisha contributes to system-wide improvements as a member of the Foster Care Review Board in Wayne County.
Lawyer-Guardian ad Litem of the Year: Annette E. Skinner, Attorney at Law, Lansing, was nominated for her extraordinary efforts in advocating for the best interests of her child clients. Of note were her attention to detail on each case, the investment of her time and energy on behalf of her clients, and her collaboration and consultation skills when working with caseworkers to ensure the children are receiving the services and support they need while in the foster care system.
Parent Attorney of the Year: Elizabeth Warner, Law Office of Elizabeth Warner, Jackson, was nominated for her zealous advocacy on behalf of parents in child abuse and neglect cases, advocacy that includes “pushing the envelope” to ensure the voices of parents who have been disenfranchised, often underserved, are heard. She is recognized as a knowledgeable and skilled litigator, as well as a strong and outspoken advocate for improved services and support to parents within our child welfare system who are listed with Michigan’s Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect.
Jurist of the Year: Hon. Patricia D. Gardner, Presiding Judge, Family Division, 17th Circuit Court, Kent County, has served with honor and integrity since taking the bench in 1997. She has received numerous awards, including in 2006 when Michigan CASA named her Jurist of the Year for her outstanding efforts to facilitate positive outcomes for children brought under the court’s jurisdiction due to abuse or neglect. Judge Garner was nominated for today’s award in recognition of her continued and tireless efforts to ensure every child and parent receives the services and support necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in each case, holding professionals involved to the highest standards of performance and the agencies involved to be creative in addressing barriers to permanency for the children. She was also recognized for her work off the bench, having established the Independent Living Closet, to which she donates—and encourages others to donate—household items for youth ageing out of the system as they set up their first homes.