Washington County honors foster care providers

Washington County honored its foster care providers, with special recognition to care givers who reached milestone years in their service at a May 8 event at the Lake Elmo Event Center.

The county has 48 adult family providers who provide emergency, respite and on-going placements to vulnerable adults. There are 50 child providers in Washington County.

"Every child, every adult who comes through your door, you make a difference," Rick Backman, community services manager, told the group.

Washington County had 213 youth in out-of-home placement in 2011, said District 1 Commissioner Dennis Hegberg, and 135 of them were in foster care. These are youth who need to be cared for by a relative other than a parent or non-relative foster parent, youth who have been deemed truant or delinquent, and youth who are dealing with mental health issues or developmental disabilities.

Foster care providers also care for vulnerable adults, who might have mental health challenges, are homeless or who have physical or developmental disabilities or are elderly.

Hegberg thanked the group for their work, and said, "I especially have to thank you for your hearts, because you give up so much when you care for these people."

Commissioners Autumn Lehrke and Lisa Weik assisted in handing out awards and congratulated the caregivers who reached noted milestones in their years of care.

Caregivers licensed between April 2011 and March 31 were honored. The group includes 16 adult, kin and child providers who were licensed during this time period:

n Susan and Jon Allery, child providers, Cottage Grove;

n Faye Bedaso and Moti Felema, adult providers, Woodbury;

n Stephanie Bernatchez and Dennis Davidson, child providers, Woodbury;

n Katie Cafferty, child provider, Woodbury;

n Vicki and Bruce Clendenen, child provider, Stillwater;

n Becky and Jim Dibble, child providers, Forest Lake;

n Natalie Evans, kinship provider, Woodbury;

n Janel Kuester, kinship child provider, Oakdale;

n Michelle and David Lawrence, child providers, Woodbury;

n Kathy and William Mathison, kin child providers, Cottage Grove;

n Candi Novotny, relative child provider, Hugo;

* Eloisa and Don Osborne, adult providers, Oak Park Heights;

* Mary Jean and Allan Paray, adult providers, Woodbury;

* n Cindy and Joe Radatz, child providers, Forest Lake;

* n Molly Stromme, adult provider, Forest Lake; and

* n Diane and David Wright, kinship child providers, Woodbury.

Each year, foster care providers who reach milestones are honored at the annual event.

Those honored for five years of service this year:

n Teresa England, Stillwater. She provides respite care for children with mental health needs.

n Crystal Ford, Forest Lake, along with Travis Schreiber, provides relative foster care.

n Dustin Frazier, Scandia, provides care to elderly residents in rural Scandia. He works closely with his mother, Diane Thom.

n Ranell and Erik Kirsch, child foster providers for small children, Cottage Grove; and

n Kelly Schoenecker, child foster provider who cares for young children from child protection, Forest Lake.

Those honored for 10 years of service are:

n Patricia and Robert Parker, Forest Lake, who provide respite care for one young man.

n Diane Thom, Scandia, who provides care for a mix of elderly and younger folks with difficult cares.

Those providing 15 years of service are:

n Kate and Doug Mehlhorn, Stillwater, who began as child foster care providers but expanded into the adult realm when their foster child aged into adulthood.

n Dennis and Corrine Schmidt have been providing care for their resident in Mahtomedi for the past 15 years.

Those honored for 20 years of service are:

n Dorothy Lofton, Woodbury, who completed her first 18 years of foster care through Ramsey County, before moving to Washington County. Her first placement was supposed to be a "short term placement" and lasted eight years.

n Marilyn and Dean Woodford, Mahtomedi, who foster youth with mental health issues.

Those honored for 25 years of service are:

n Ruby Engelhaupt, who along with her husband Ted, has cared for more than 33 people since they were first licensed in 1987. The placements have ranged from a few weeks to 19 years. They have cared for individuals with mental health issues, chemical dependency issues, developmental disabilities, brain injuries and physical health issues.

n Ronda Nelson, Oakdale, who began volunteer work with developmentally disabled individuals when she was 14 years old. She has had several long-term placements, and since 2007, she took a placement of two men with developmental disabilities.

Also honored for 35 years of service are Marline and Gary VanderKelen, Lake Elmo. Originally, they were licensed to provide foster care in Ramsey County where they fostered long- and short-term youth.

Honored for 45 years of foster care was Sara Thorson, Cottage Grove, who has devoted much of her life to the care of two individuals who were placed with her as infants. Thorson and her husband Donald were initially licensed in 1966, for child foster care. From 1966 to 1973, the couple cared for more than 10 children who ranged in age from infant to teenager. They switched to adult foster care in 1991 so that the two adults placed with them as infants could continue to live with them.

Special recognition was given to Jane George, who will no longer provide foster care, after providing care for 40 years in Stillwater.

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