SFC Staff Profile: Kate Pogany

Kate Pogany, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruitment Specialist

 

One caring adult can make all the difference in the world to a child in search of a “Forever Home.” Kate Pogany believes that and loves working on behalf of each child. Working in the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) program at Spaulding for Children, she helps find the caring people and families who can give a waiting child permanence.

Ms. Pogany is a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruitment Specialist at Spaulding. One of two such positions sponsored and supported financially by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the WWK program helps find permanent homes for children with special needs and older children awaiting adoption.

“The missions of Spaulding and Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are very much aligned,” Ms. Pogany said. “Both were founded with the belief that there are no ‘unadoptable’ children. And both do all they can to make that a reality.”

What makes the work difficult is the sheer number of children awaiting families – about 300 in Michigan who currently are without an identified family, she said.

The WWK program follows a “child-focused recruitment” model. In the practice, the individual needs, specific circumstances and unique history of each child awaiting adoption provide the foundation for searching for the appropriate families – particularly for children most at risk of aging out of care.

The WWK program also helps Ms. Pogany and her colleague to focus less on the administrative tasks and to do what she does best: serve in the interests of a child by interacting on their behalf directly with individuals, families and children.

“Often, caseworkers are overloaded and overworked,” Ms. Pogany said. “Each person in the field has many obligations they have to meet. While we still complete reports and fill out paperwork, we can focus is on the child and the recruitment of an adoptive family. Even with so many children awaiting adoption, it’s just a matter of finding the right person and family.”

Ms. Pogany knows what to look for: loving, kind, thoughtful and determined people with a sense of humor. Adoptive parents also need flexibility to adapt to new circumstances and a desire to learn new ways of approaching parenting.

“We are searching to interview the right family,” Ms. Pogany said. “We want to help them see that they would not be alone in raising an adopted child. We are there to help them with resources, information, and the other tools they need, but also in that we are their partner in helping them when there’s a problem, as kids often experience as they go through their teen years.”

Finding the right person can be a most difficult assignment. Many prospective adoptive parents are stretched to the limit economically, taking care of aging parents and other family members, and may not see how they can introduce a new child to their home.

“Even if making the ultimate commitment – becoming a foster or adoptive parent – is outside your skill-set, you can still be in a position to make an enormous impact in the development and future life of a child by being a mentor or adult role model,” Ms. Pogany said.

Ms. Pogany recently celebrated her sixth anniversary at Spaulding for Children. She began her professional career in social work, then took a position in an unrelated field. After completing training as a volunteer in the Michigan CASA program – Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children – she was appointed to serve as the advocate charged with representing the interests of a 7-year-old child who was a permanent ward of the state of Michigan.

Within a year of beginning her work as a CASA volunteer, Ms. Pogany decided to return to the field of social work. Today, through her work and example, she is making all the difference for children and the world.

SFC Staff Profile: Kelly Burdell

Kelly Burdell, Foster Care and Adoption Supervisor

“When I first started, I saw that everyone here holds compassion for everyone else,” Ms. Kelly Burdell said. “They are always willing to help out, doing different things – for each other and for those we serve. And that includes the most important thing we do: Finding permanent home for children.”

Kelly Burdell had long known that children in Michigan and across the United States are in desperate need. And, so, she decided to dedicate her professional career to help them find safe, healthy and supporting homes as a practitioner of social work.

Ms. Burdell began her service with Spaulding for Children as an intern in 2012. The assignment was part of her Master of Social Work studies at Wayne State University. Upon graduation in 2013, Spaulding hired Ms. Burdell as a Foster Care Specialist, helping children and families find each other. In 2016, she became Spaulding’s Foster Care and Adoption Supervisor. Recently, she spoke with us about her work.

“It was surprising to discover that some children, youngsters ages 9 or 10, had realized that not being with their biological parents, sometimes, was the best option for them,” Ms. Burdell said. “That is a very young age for someone to realize that, ‘The foster home is better for me than going back home and being with my mother.’”

In addition to helping children find safe, healthy and supporting homes, foster care and adoption social workers help children and foster families deal with complex physical and psychological issues. Social work professionals also are called to represent and act in the best interest of children with teachers and schools, other health care providers, and with government and social agencies.

“It is not the child’s fault that he or she was brought into that situation,” Ms. Burdell said. “The child, however, is the one who is suffering. For whatever reason, it may be the parents who are at fault. We have to think about the child and help him or her get out of that situation in order for them to lead a productive, successful and happy life. If they remain in that situation, they will face multiple challenges. If that’s all they see in their life as children, that’s also probably what they also will end up becoming as adults.”

What does it take to become a foster care provider or an adoptive parent? Many people have misperceptions about the requirements.

“You don’t have to be rich,” Ms. Burdell said. “You don’t have to own a home. You don’t have to be married. The majority of people adopting today are single parents. And they are good hearted people who want to help others.”

Ms. Burdell invites people to learn more about adoptive and foster parenting. Spaulding for Children hosts information sessions and orientation programs where prospective parents can learn specifics. If they decide to continue in the process, prospective foster and adoptive parents are assigned a licensing worker who helps them complete their training, home assessment, and background checks.

“It’s all part of what we do here at Spaulding,” Ms. Burdell said.

Spaulding Board Member Profile: Verna S. Green

Verna S. Green,  Member of Spaulding for Children Board of Directors

A longtime and active member of the Spaulding for Children Board of Directors, Verna S. Green is the driving force behind Families in Bloom. The community focused event was held in April at St. John’s Banquet & Conference Center in Southfield. Ms. Green recently started preparing for next year’s event, tentatively scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend to honor all mothers. Among her goals for Families in Bloom II is for the event to spread awareness of Spaulding for Children and our work in the City of Detroit and throughout the metropolitan area.

While she seldom talks about her own accomplishments, we think you’ like to know more about Ms. Green:

Her eyes reflect the kindness of a grandmother. With her vision, Verna S. Green focuses on success like a CEO.

The former Senior Vice President and General Manager of Detroit radio giant WJLB FM 98 and sister station WMXD 92.3 FM, Ms. Green also is recognized by Michigan’s business community as the first President and CEO of the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Green started her career in the mailroom of Parke, Davis & Company, the pioneering Detroit based pharmaceutical giant. She later joined General Motors Corporation’s Corporate Identity Department, helping administer the standardization of signage throughout the various dealerships and other operating units of the corporation. She was later promoted to GM’s Organizational Development & Research Department.

Committed growing personally and professionally, Ms. Green completed a Bachelor of Science in Management and Labor Relations from Wayne State University. She continued her education, earning a Master of Business Administration in the Advanced Management Program of Michigan State University.

Seeking to expand her experience labor relations, Ms. Green accepted a position as Personnel Director with the Visiting Nurses Association, where she negotiated the organization’s first collective bargaining agreement with the newly formed nurses’ union.

She continued her transition from the automobile industry to the health care industry with a career move to what was then known as “The Health Care Institute of Detroit” in Detroit’s Medical Center, where she had a dual management role in marketing and patient information system management.  “It was a great experience working with president of the organization, a physician who understood organizational development and management.”   The organization, however, was later absorbed into the outpatient services of what is now Detroit Receiving Hospital.  In that new entity, Mrs. Green became the Director of Recruitment and Management Training & Development.  Along the way, Ms. Green became acquainted with a coworker whose husband was president of Booth Broadcasting Company, the owner of WJLB-FM.

“She knew about my background in human resources management,” Ms. Green said. “One day, she mentioned that her husband was dealing with some interesting employee relations issues at the station, primarily how to deal with new rules regarding maternity leave. Over the months, I provided her with some suggestions that she passed on to her husband.  The questions and answers expanded to additional discussions regarding operational concerns and several in-person meetings/consults and eventually a job offer to become the general manager of WJLB-FM, call letters that are the monogram of its founder, John Lord Booth.

“It was a great experience.  Our team was able to revitalize the station and take it to a number one position in audience ratings.  Equally important, we were able to maximize those ratings with advertising revenue.”

Ms. Green would serve as Vice President and General Manager for almost 19 years. She said her approach was to utilize the radio station to actively demonstrate concern for the needs of the City of Detroit. In addition to sharing information, views and music, the station helped raise public awareness of important issues that weren’t always explored in general market news.

“In the early ‘80’s, Detroit was really suffering,” Ms. Green said.  We were surprised to learn that a surprising number of school children in Detroit did not have sufficient winter wear and would either miss school on intensely cold days or would come to school with dangerously light-weight outerwear.

“At the radio station, we decided to enlist the public’s help to provide coats for children who needed them. We launched ‘Coats for Kids.’” Ms. Green said. “What we found was that the need for warm clothing was so great that adults also were coming in for coats. So, the project became huge. We had thousands of new and like-new coats in our inventory. At one time, we were storing – and dry cleaning – more coats than any department store in the city.”

Around that time, 1999, Ms. Green met local vocalist and co-owner of a Detroit jazz club, the late Ortheia Barnes, who had been working as a volunteer with Spaulding for Children. Soon, Ms. Green joined in the work. She would formally join the board several years later with the encouragement of the late John Barfield.

“We talked about the need so many children have, to be part of a loving family,” Ms. Green said. “Spaulding is an organization that really cares about families and children. It has been very exciting to see Spaulding grow and become more widely known. Spaulding today has a national reputation for its expertise in adoption and foster care. We as a board are constantly aware that Spaulding could benefit from having greater organizational visibility in more areas in the Detroit metro.  Spaulding board members and staff are eagerly working on making that happen.”