A Salute to Addie D. Williams

As we commemorate 50 years of service to families and children, we would like to thank one remarkable individual who dedicated two decades of her professional career to Spaulding for Children, our President/CEO from 2000-2016, Addie D. Williams. Recently, Ms. Williams described Spaulding’s life-changing story.

“I worked for the State of Michigan for 11 years, and had the opportunity to know first-hand the caliber of services provided by Spaulding, first as an adoption worker and then as the Adoption Coordinator for Wayne County,” Ms. Williams said.

“In my position as an adoption worker, my caseload consisted of children who were available for adoption, had been referred to private agencies for placement but for whom no placement was found.  These children tended to have more challenges.  When I could not place the children on my caseload, they were referred to Spaulding for Children.

“Spaulding started as an adoption agency that specialized in placing children with developmental disabilities. At the time, the State didn’t think these children could be placed in adoptive families, they were considered un-adoptable.

“To convince the State of Michigan that there were families in the community willing to adopt these children, Judy McKenzie, Spaulding’s then-president entered into a unique purchase of service agreement with the State. She said, ‘If we successfully place a child, this is the amount you will pay us; if we don’t successfully place the child, you don’t have to pay us anything.’

“That first year, Spaulding placed five children who had been believed to be ‘unadoptable.’”

In the past, children with challenges and disabilities often would have grown up in foster group homes or in another type of institutional setting, Ms. Williams said. Then, they would have aged out of the system on reaching their 18th or in the case of children with developmental disabilities, 26th birthday as adults without ever knowing the security and strength that comes from being part of a family.

During her first four years as President and CEO of Spaulding, Ms. Williams helped develop a sound financial basis for the organization, developing new relationships with organizations and individuals. She also worked with Mike Lucci, John and Betty Barfield, Bob and Marjorie Daniels, and others across Michigan and the U.S., to raise awareness of Spaulding’s mission and to develop financial stability for the agency.

As President/CEO, Ms. Williams led Spaulding to find and develop new and innovative ways to serve foster and adoptive families that promote permanence and ensure the well-being of children after they move to adoption or guardianship. And, under her leadership, Spaulding continued building on its international acclaim for its pioneering work as the first agency focused on placing children with disabilities and special needs. Spaulding became the first agency in Michigan to use video equipment to help place children with foster and adoptive families.

“If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how much is a video worth?” Ms. Williams asked.

In 1985, Spaulding received a federal grant to establish the National Resource Center for Adoption that has trained more than 200,000 professionals in all 50 states, each U.S. territory, and several Native American tribal nations. This program also served as the template for what is now The Academy for Family Support and Preservation. The State of Michigan also funded Spaulding for prevention programs for families with children ages 0- 3 that addressed family risk factors for abuse and neglect as well as provided parenting skills training and support for young teen-age mothers.

The Skillman Foundation was an early supporter of the work Spaulding was doing, Ms. Williams said, Skillman partnered with the agency to develop prevention programs to reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect in families served. Other foundations also saw the need to support child neglect and abuse prevention programs. In addition, faith-based and community service organizations, also stepped forward to provide critical assistance to Spaulding and the families we serve.

In looking back at her years with Spaulding, Ms. Williams said she recognizes there are additional challenges for SFC today. With increases in the number of children entering the foster care system who have more intense challenges, there is a need for a broader community support system. As the field gains a better understanding of the impact of trauma on children and families, we realize that our professionals and resource families need more training in how to address and accommodate children impacted by trauma. More and more families are being impacted by substance abuse, there is an increase of children born addicted to drugs, and a corresponding need for increases in the numbers of foster and kin families. In past years, families could find room for another child at the table. Today, typical families have both parents working jobs outside the home. Finding trustworthy child care and after-school programs can be expensive and of variable quality. These families feel foster parenting is not a role they can play.

Today an attorney in private practice and an educator at Wayne State University School of Social Work, Ms. Williams continues to support Spaulding in its mission to promote permanency for all children by educating the community of the continued need for foster parents, as well as couples who believe that as parents with two careers, fostering is not possible for them.

“The resources and services needed to support families who have children placed in the child welfare system cuts across the community and its numerous agencies and institutions. We must educate the community on the need for families, resources and services. We must also educate and train families and professionals on the impact trauma has on a child. Every child deserves a family capable of addressing their unique needs. If children are truly our future, we need to be preparing them today; providing loving, caring parents to children in need is step one.”