Relative and Kin Connections Keep Families Strong
Did you know? Every May, the Children’s Bureau leads the United States in celebrating National Foster Care Month. And as I’m sure you know, supporting DC’s young people in the foster care system is the heart of the BEST Kids Mentoring Program. This May we are joining the Children’s Bureau in raising awareness for National Foster Care Month as they highlight the importance of relative and kinship care placements to maintain family and cultural connections.
The BEST Kids Mentoring Program seeks to foster successful support systems for every mentee we serve while acknowledging the existing support systems they all have prior to joining our program. In addition to checking in with mentees and mentors regularly, BEST Kids builds and nurtures relationships with our mentees’ social case workers and caregivers, some of whom are kinship relatives of our mentees.
There are over 407,000 young people in foster care across the country, and 34 percent were placed with relatives. Kinship care, in its various forms, is important in meeting the needs of children involved in the child welfare system. This year, National Foster Care Month focuses on how relative and kin connections keep families strong. When children cannot remain safely with their parents, we should prioritize placements with kin. Kinship care helps maintain family connections and cultural traditions that can minimize the trauma of family separation.
Take time this month to raise awareness on how prioritizing kinship care, identifying connections rather than just placement options, and maintaining community ties makes a difference in the lives of our young people and can shift the foster care system to one that truly supports families.
For more information, visit and bookmark the National Foster Care Month website today at childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth. You can stay connected to the conversation by using the hashtag #FosterCareMonth and follow Child Welfare Information Gateway on Facebook and Twitter to see regular updates!
Check out the BEST Kids website at bestkids.org to learn how you can join us in supporting the young people in DC’s foster care system this May!
BEST Kids’ former leader and Executive Director, Krislyn Mossman, moved on after eight years at the agency to pursue a new adventure at the end of 2021. In her role as Executive Director, Krislyn fostered a culture of passion for the youth we serve, expanded the program’s mentor and mentee population, facilitated key community partnerships, and much more.
Following Krislyn’s departure, the Board of Directors – along with the help of Interim Executive Director, Ed Spitzberg – set out to find someone with the passion and experience to lead BEST Kids through its next phase of evolution. After a rigorous search, we are proud to announce that we have found that leader, Dr. Stephanie “Stephania” A. Herrera! Dr. Herrera’s passion for mentoring as well as her dedication to BEST Kids’ mission make her the perfect fit for executive director. We can’t wait to see where she takes the organization next!
Dr. Herrera brings more than 25 years of strategic business development experience in nonprofits and membership organizations, as well as a lifetime of experience and passion for education and leadership development to the team. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Business Management, a Master’s of Business Administration in Market Strategy from Regis University, and a Doctor of Business Administration in Business Administration.
Dr. Herrera is deeply passionate about mentoring. As someone who has been both a mentor and mentee at various stages in life, she has seen firsthand the power mentoring has and its ability to change a person’s life for the better. In her own words, “mentoring is a truly powerful tool to help people succeed.”
Please join us in welcoming Dr. Herrera to the BEST Kids team! If you have any questions as we begin this next phase, please let us know. We remain committed to the same mission, values and programming that have served our youth and made a difference in the DC Metro Area for the past 21 years, and we look forward to what’s to come.
Dear BEST Kids Family,
I am excited and honored to lead BEST Kids into this next chapter. This is an incredible opportunity to work for a leading organization focused on the advancement of mentoring and the support of youth and families affected by foster care throughout the DC area. And I am thrilled to do so alongside all of you!
As I transition into the role of Executive Director, one of my main priorities is to continue fostering the meaningful relationships and collaborations that have helped BEST Kids to serve DC area youth for the past 21 years. Our youth face innumerable challenges, but I am optimistic that we will continue to make a positive and lasting impact through our collective work.
I am eager to apply my many personal and professional experiences gained over the last two decades of work in the nonprofit space to guide BEST Kids into the next phase of its evolution. As we all adjust to this change, we will continue to strive towards organizational sustainability and growth. Over the next few months my main goal will be reinforcing our foundations. Once we make sure the foundations are as strong as they possibly can be then we can start to think about setting goals for growth and expansion. We know there are more young people in Maryland and Virginia that we could reach with BEST Kids. And one day, we hope to do so!
I promise you that I will continually strive to uphold the BEST Kids mission, support youth and families affected by the foster care system in DC and beyond, and create meaningful change in our community. I will work to be accountable to the community that we serve and transparent in my decision-making. I look forward to digging in and doing the hard work.
I would like to recognize the tremendous effort put forth by current and former BEST Kids staff and board members, and volunteers. This amazingly talented group of people have helped to make BEST Kids the organization it is today. I have seen the passion, commitment, time, and love that each one of these people has poured into this work and the youth the organization serves. Their dedication to this organization, our work, and those we serve is nothing short of an inspiration.
As I get to know the internal BEST Kids’ team better, I hope to have the opportunity to get to know YOU – our external team of donors, volunteers, partners, and friends – better as well. I appreciate your continued support of BEST Kids and look forward to sharing these next steps of our journey with you.
Dr. Stephanie “Stephania”
BEST Kids, Inc.
Dear BEST Kids family,
As you may have seen in last month's newsletter, I've recently joined the BEST Kids team as the new Executive Director. I wanted to take this chance to introduce myself and to allow each of you - our wonderful supporters - to get to know me a bit better.
As someone deeply passionate about mentoring, I am thrilled to join the BEST Kids team and be apart of the mission to serve youth in DC area foster care. As I see it, BEST Kids is DC's best kept secret and I am excited to contribute to such an amazing organization. For most of my own life I have been a mentor or mentee in some capacity and have seen the power of mentoring proven time and time again. Mentoring is truly a powerful way to help people succeed and I am happy to be apart of work dedicated to this cause.
For the past two decades I have worked to grow and develop programs focused on leadership development, skill building, and youth mentoring. I look forward to bringing my passion for creating organization and improving processes to the BEST Kids team.
As our internal team takes steps to reinforce and strengthen our foundations and think about setting goals for the future, I look forward to working with each of you. The support and assistance of our donors, partners, and volunteers has helped BEST Kids become the organization we see today. And with your continued help, I believe we can thrive and grow in the years to come.
We will be sharing updates on this next journey and everything happening with BEST Kids in this newsletter. Thank you for reading!
My BEST Kids Journey
My name is Dorian Thomas. I came into BEST Kids Mentoring Program when I was about 16 on the verge of my 17th birthday. At the time I was in foster care and was not having the best time. My social worker connected me to BEST Kids because he felt like I could use the support. As I write this newsletter and reflect on my journey to this point I’m truly indebted to him for connecting with me BEST Kids because being a part of the program has changed my life.
When I came into BEST Kids I was going through a great amount of transition. Due to family conflicts and struggles with my mental health and trying to navigate life post high school, life was very hard at times. Having my first mentor helped me a lot. All things considered he was/is a great guy. I could tell he cared about me. I took issue with some of the times he wasn’t mindful of the words he used towards me, but he went above and beyond to support me. He tried to be a be there fore me through rough times, where in hindsight it is clear that he probably didn’t know how to be a support to me through some of my struggles. We had some fun times together, and to this day I still think about him from time to time and wonder if he’s okay.
After my first match unfortunately ended, I got matched with another gentleman who l got along with well. We had a great dynamic and talked nonstop practically the whole time we were together. Things were going so well that I thought we were going to be in each other’s lives for awhile. But he was supposed to come see me one day I never heard back from him. He is also someone that I wonder about if he’s okay.
After my last match ended the way it did, I honestly thought that I wasn’t going to get another mentor. But right before my 20th birthday I got matched with a new mentor, who I am still matched with to this very day. Having him in my life has done a lot for me. Even when he doesn’t talk much, I can tell he’s trying his best to engage with me and support me however he feels he can. He always leans towards what I want to do which has helped me so much. Too often in my life when I’m out and about I defer to others and don’t prioritize myself enough as I should. There have been nights/days where I was prepared to end my life, but my mentor knew how down I was, so he’d offered to take me out to eat and would encourage me that everything would be okay. Even if I didn’t feel much better afterwards just having that time to get out and not stew in the negative feelings I had in those moments stopped me from going to the point of no return.
While being with BEST Kids I grew from being a bipolar wallflower to a confident young man that can thrive in any situation I’m placed in. I was fortunate enough to be selected to be apart of the first iteration of BEST Kids Youth Advisory Club or YAC ( called the Youth Advisory Council at the time, and quite frankly it’s a better name). With YAC I was able to do meaningful community work with my peers, I went with my supervisor to events to advocate for positive change in the foster care system, and I took part in a documentary that will be used by the organization for years to come.
Throughout my time with BEST Kids, I helped however I can - whether it be with helping set up Peer Groups, to helping with the YAC, to being a support to my fellow BEST Kids family. I am truly thankful to God that this organization was blessed with great people like, my fellow staff members Saad Rehman and Carl Scott, that not only recognized the work I did for BEST Kids but advocated on my behalf to bring me on as a full-time staff member.
I am proud to say that I work for BEST Kids. And I feel so happy being able to show my peers that this is a wonderful organization that will always do their best to support their youth and put them in positions to succeed.
Happy International Women's Day! Today the BEST Kids team honors the amazing women that dedicate their time to volunteer in our mentoring program for youth in foster care. These women not only enact our mission in every interaction they have with the youth in our program, but also continue to inspire our staff and mentees on a daily basis.
Our mentors serve as coaches, confidants, role models, guides, and much more — but most importantly they become a friend to the youth they are matched with. By simply taking the time to be a listening ear or exploring a mutual hobby, our mentors build a lifelong connection with their mentees. "Thank you" is not enough to express how much gratitude we have for this dedication, but we'll say it anyway. To each and every mentor in our program, THANK YOU!
As we celebrate these amazing mentors, we encourage you to celebrate the women that serve as mentors and role models in your own life. Learn more about International Women's Day here. Learn more about mentoring with BEST Kids here.
Meet the Amazing Women who Made our 2021 Mentors of the Month List
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