2011 Child Welfare Award Winners

Foster Care Review Board recognizes honorees for work helping children in foster care

The Foster Care Review Board today announced the recipients of its 2011 Child Welfare Awards, which recognize exceptional services to children and families in the state's child welfare system.

Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan presented the awards today at the FCRB's annual conference in Southfield.

FCRB Program Manager Jim Novell explained that the awards "are presented annually to recognize exceptional work on behalf of abused and neglected children and their families."

Karen Bontrager of the Michigan Department of Human Services, Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Counties, was named Foster Care Worker of the Year. Nominated by her supervisor, Lori Tomkinson, Bontrager was commended as "an exceptional caseworker who works diligently to reunite children with their parents [and] a strong advocate for our foster families, as well." Tomkinson cited Bontrager's support of a foster family when the foster mother died unexpectedly, in addition to her work in engaging community resources on behalf of families in crisis.

The Lawyer-Guardian Ad Litem of the Year Award was presented to Cheboygan attorney Donna Hansel, nominated by Judge Robert John Butts of the Cheboygan County Probate Court. Hansel, who has represented children in foster care for eight years, is also a licensed foster parent, having fostered more than 50 children; she is also the adoptive mother of five siblings, three biological children, and three stepchildren. Butts praised Hansel for her "exceptional representation" of children, noting the efforts she made to find a permanent home for three young children whose parents died in a boating accident.

Don and Cindy Prince of Suttons Bay received the Foster Parents of the Year Award. In nominating the Princes, FCRB board member Diana Zapalski noted that "[t]hey have fostered numerous special needs children ... [r]egardless of any disability, children in the Prince home swim, ski, go to the school prom, are active members in the church community, and enjoy all that life has to offer." Zapalski praised the couple, who are directors for the Grand Traverse Chapter of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, for their "remarkable insight and compassion."

Published: Thu, Nov 24, 2011