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90 Arkansas foster children are recognized for reaching academic milestoneDate: 05/19/2017
The Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) recognized 90 foster youth Wednesday during the 2017 Education Achievement Ceremony held at Fellowship Bible Church.
The celebration paid tribute to the youths for defeating the odds and showcased the value of perseverance.
Each of the individuals honored have recently graduated or will soon graduate from high school. Or, they’ve earned a GED this year.
For Arlinda McDaniel, a graduate of Arkansas Christian Academy in Bryant, the ceremony was another reminder of how life has a way of working out – if the proper decisions are made.
“Once I accepted who I was and moved forward with my life, that made a big difference. Had I not done that, I’d still be stuck where I was,” she acknowledged. “I used my past homelife as an excuse to not do my best. The turning point was coming to Second Chance Youth Ranch and having a family that was willing to push me to succeed.”
Second Chance Youth Ranch, located in Paron, is a faith-based program designed for youth in foster care who are in need of a safe, stable environment. McDaniel, who is among the most recent success stories of from the ranch, will attend Christ for the Nations Institute in Texas this fall.
“I plan on going into youth ministry, but I’m also keeping my mind open on my major,” she said. “I’m going to keep my mind open for whatever God calls me to.”
Among the people who addressed McDaniel and her fellow honorees was Phyllis Bell, Senior Advisor on Child Welfare and Intern Director for the Governor’s Office, Bandi Hartsfield, the Arkansas Youth Advisory Board President, Milton Graham, DCFS Area 6 Director, and Jo Thompson, former DCFS employee and current SHARE Chief Operations Officer.
As the keynote speaker of the event, Thompson emphasized the importance of being responsible and striving for success.
“I know that it wasn’t easy, but you did it,” she enthusiastically told the graduates. “You’re winning. You’re winning for yourself. You’re winning for those around you. And you’re winning for the people who are following behind you.
“You remained focused on finishing your high school education. You focused – and you did it.”
The graduates deserve praise for the positive examples they’ve set, said Kandis Romes, DCFS Transitional Youth Services Program Specialist.
“It’s important to hold this Educational Achievement Ceremony,” Romes said. “We love to recognize our youth in foster care and show them a lot of people care about their well-being and are proud of the accomplishments they’ve made.”
McDaniel expressed gratitude for DCFS and the community partners who were involved with the ceremony.
“It feels great to be recognized. A lot of people place negative stereotypes on foster children,” she said. “They assume that foster children are the bad kids who will not do anything positive in life. So being recognized for doing well is really cool.”
DCFS is responsible for child abuse and neglect prevention, in addition to protective, foster care, and adoptive programs. For more information about the foster care system in Arkansas or to begin the application process to become a foster family, visit FosterArkansas.org or call 501-682-8770.
To get a complete list of DCFS programming, visit http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dcfs/Pages/default.aspx.
Cutline: Jo Thompson - the keynote speaker of 2017 Department of Human Services, Division of Children and Family Services Education Achievement Ceremony - passionately addresses the honorees.