Agnes Kulak, Dave Gallagher, and Christy George from the Aspire Permanency Program recently received the Outstanding Community Partnership Award from the Connecticut Alliance of Foster & Adoptive Families (CAFAF). DCF Commissioner Vanessa Dorantes presented the award at CAFAF’s 27th Conference on May 6. They were nominated by Paulette Limato from the Meriden area office of DCF.
The Permanency Program has a strong relationship with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) and this award honors the trio for a particularly successful partnership that resulted in adoption. A young child needed a foster home, but the child had a number of serious issues that were going to make placement difficult. When DCF contacted Aspire, Youth & Family Resource Manager Christy George began working on finding the right family. When a carefully prepared placement didn’t last, George switched gears and worked with DCF to identify one of their licensed homes. They found a foster family who was interested in adoption, but there would be a long road to get there.
Clinical Case Manager Agnes Kulak, with support from her supervisor Program Director Dave Gallagher, began the intense process of helping this family get to permanency. As is common in foster care, there were barriers to overcome. The child’s experiences had led to significant behavioral challenges, the family brought their own parenting history and unique circumstances, and navigating the system was complicated. Adding to it all was the pandemic – the placement occurred during the lockdown in the spring of 2020 when school was virtual and everyone was impacted by the isolation.
Kulak continued to make in-person weekly visits throughout the pandemic, along with online support. Gallagher reports that the family’s success was a direct result of Kulak’s dedication and skill as a social worker.
“She has high expectations for families, but she is so compassionate. Agnes finds their strengths and empowers the family. She gave them a ton of support.”
Kulak credits the team, “We had a really good team with ongoing communication and collaboration. Everyone was open to feedback and was on the same clinical page. The parents committed to doing whatever it takes.”
After a year and a half, the foster family adopted the child, an unexpectedly short time given the challenges. Permanency is the outcome that Aspire seeks for every child, and the success of the child in their family means everything. Recognition from CAFAF and DCF is gratifying, too.
Gallagher reflected, “It’s huge because this is what we do. We always look through the lens of emotional and legal permanency.”
Aspire salutes and congratulates the team for their life-changing work.