April 15, 2019

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936 or (406) 461-3757
                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Individuals to be honored for efforts to support Montana children and families

Foster parents of the year to be awarded

Judges, foster parents, child protection workers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, youth, business leaders, and private and non-profit organizations will be honored at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 16 at the annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Helena.

The awards presentation will take place at the Delta Hotels Helena Colonial located at 2301 Colonial Drive.

Representatives from the Montana Children’s Trust Fund, Montana CASA/GAL Association, and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) will present the awards to individuals from Bozeman, Missoula, Helena, Malta, Miles City, Billings, Butte, Nashua, Kalispell and Hardin.

The list of awards includes the Jana Elliott Memorial Resource Parents of the Year. This award goes to the foster/adoptive parent(s) who are committed to excellence in working with birth parents and foster/adoptive children. The award is named after the late Jana Elliott, who served the Wolf Point community myriad ways as both a licensed foster parent and 6th grade teacher. In 2016 the Wolf Point community took a huge loss when Elliott tragically lost her life in a car accident helping someone in need.

This years’ recipient are Bryon and Lindsey Gustafson of Nashua. The Gustafsons have been foster parents for the past two years. During this time, they have fostered 11 children.

Jamie Helm, of the Child and Family Services (CFSD) Glasgow office, said the Gustafson’s are making a tremendous difference. “They truly go above and beyond in all aspects,” Helm said. “They provide a steady and positive influence to all children they foster, and they are leaders in the community.”

Helm said the Gustafson’s also actively encourage others in northeast Montana to become involved in helping Montana’s children through a program they started this year called Fostering Love. Once a year, the program brings together foster parents, those interested in fostering and several key stakeholders for a couple days of information sharing.

In January 2019, the first Fostering Love meeting was held in Glasgow and about 50 people participated. “We’re just trying to get the word out and promote foster care,” Bryon said. “And, it’s important for people to know there’s other ways to help besides becoming a foster parent, such as signing up to be a CASA. We’re trying to encourage people in the community to get involved, and help out.”

The annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference brings together hundreds of foster/adoptive parents, CFSD staff, tribal social services staff, county attorneys, judges, counselors, attorney’s and teachers for three days of training and breakout sessions. About 500 people are registered this year.

The following awards will also be presented:

Montana Children’s Trust Fund Awards

The Montana Children’s Trust Fund, administratively attached to DPHHS, strategically supports initiatives to effectively strengthen Montana’s families and keep children safe from abuse and neglect. The Trust Fund board honors those who have gone above and beyond to help strengthen children and families. The Children’s Trust Fund will announce the following awards:

  • Strengthening Families Award, Christina Powell, Bozeman Child Advocacy Center.
  • Pinwheels for Prevention Award, Heather Stenson and Barbara Fitzpatrick, Butte 4-C’s.
  • Nonprofit Organization of the Year Award, Watson Children’s Shelter, Missoula.
  • Outstanding Corporate Citizenship, Donation Warehouse, Missoula

Montana CASA/ GAL Association Awards

Every year, Montana CASA/ GAL Association recognizes outstanding people who have consistently demonstrated a special level of dedication to the CASA/GAL programs and the care and protection of abused and neglected children.

  • Judge of the Year, Honorable Judge Yvonne Laird, 17th Judicial District Court, covers Blaine, Philips and Valley counties.
  • Program Director of the Year, Glenda Noyes, CASA/GAL of Gallatin County
  • Advocate of the Year, Cathy Jenni, CASA of Missoula
  • Board Member of the Year, Cherie LeBlanc-Dyba, Executive Director of Eastern Montana CASA/GAL, Miles City

CFSD will also present the following awards to agency staff:

  • The Youth Achievement of the Year goes to a foster or adoptive youth(s) who exhibits a drive to be successful and makes positive changes in their life. Jasmine Gruber, Kalispell; Kelly Brown, Kalispell; Jazmyn Saunders, Missoula; Kayce Zachariasen, Missoula; Samantha Gloud, Helena; and Emmanual Eporu, Missoula.
  • The Engaging Families in Positive Change award goes to an individual or individuals who works with families to carry out the mission of CFSD in a manner that is positive and respectful of each family’s strengths. Kelly Slattery, Missoula and Jodi Christensen, Kalispell.
  • The Resiliency Award goes to an individual or team that displays traits that foster a supportive and positive work environment and that embody a healthy work/life balance. Deanna Hause, Helena, and Samantha Kitzenburg, Hardin.  

The Creative Solutions Award goes to an individual or team that utilizes creative problem-solving and resource allocation to better serve children and families. Kate Larcom, Missoula.