Ivana Maplanka

Meet Oakland County DHHS Director and MALDI Grad

In addition to serving children and families, the team at Spaulding is proud of our work to develop the professional capabilities and leadership skills of talented men and women.

This work includes initiatives to strengthen the representation of minority professionals working in the child welfare system across the country.

Ivana Maplanka credits one pioneering program, the Minority Adoption Leadership Development Institute (MALDI), a program led by Spaulding and funded by the Children’s Bureau, with helping her discover and develop her professional interests and competence. Today, she advances the interests of children and families as the Acting Director of the Department of Health and Human Services in Oakland County, Michigan.

Years ago, Ms. Maplanka was recommended for the MALDI program by a District Manager in her office at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Then a Supervisor with Child Protective Services, Ms. Maplanka was not sure the program with its focus on foster care and adoption was the right fit. As an investigator, she had gained extensive experience with foster parents and childcare institutions and, later, with adoptive families.

Ms. Maplanka attended the first MALDI meeting in Detroit and was excited by all the talent in the cohort. She knew that she had much to learn about the work and wondered what she might contribute. In answer, the team at MALDI showed her how she could make a difference. A distinctive and invaluable aspect of the program is the mentor each member receives.

While Ivana and her MALDI mentor then worked in the same department, Ivana had not previously worked closely with her at MDHHS. Through this experience, Ms. Maplanka not only gained great insight in the area of adoption, but established a great mentoring relationship that continues to this day. In addition to providing information and guidance, MALDI mentors were important for helping participants determine the focus of the yearlong program. The program’s other resources included consultants and advisors who each generously shared their knowledge and suggestions.

“I will always remember the support I received in the MALDI program,” Ms. Maplanka said. “With guidance from my mentor, and the support from MALDI, I was able to determine my focus for my project. As a worker in the child welfare system, I had not realized before the program how many decisions were made without the full realization of the impact on all programs. So, I took on the exploration of adoption through the Child Protective Services’ lens. I learned to ask what could have been done differently when a family came in contact with CPS.”

Ms. Maplanka incorporated the concept of the continuity of care into her MALDI project and ultimately into her professional career. With her research, she now sees the child welfare system through a different lens.

“Every professional in the system needs to understand their role and how it affects all other programs,” Ms. Maplanka said.

Following the program, Ivana’s career path continued to expand with new opportunities from Supervisor to Section Manager, District Manager and now Acting Director.

“I believe that because of the MALDI program and what I learned and the connections I made, I have greater insight into the field I work in,” Ms. Maplanka said. “The experience I gained through the MALDI program has put me on a different level in understanding the Child Welfare System.”

When asked what she would say to professionals considering the program, Ms. Maplanka replied: “It’s a lot of work, but it’s all purposeful. It helps us to always look for ways we can find meaning and improve how we can make a true difference in child welfare.”


The MALDI program has evolved into the current Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program. Learn more, including opportunities to join the coming cohort, below.


Minorities in Child Welfare Wanted for Leadership Development

Currently, the Minority Professional Leadership Development (MPLD) program is led by Spaulding and administered by the Adoption Exchange Association (AEA) as one of the components of the multifaceted AdoptUSKids project funded by the Children’s Bureau. As with MALDI, the MPLD program was established to develop the professional leadership skills of men and women working to make positive change through service in the child welfare system. Both programs have made major impacts in the child welfare system through the work and contributions of their professional alumni.

You and other professionals in the child welfare fields can develop new leadership skills, expand your professional network and gain transformative insights that MALDI and MPLD graduates have experienced when you sign up for the next cohort.

Please enroll by June 7. To do so, please click here.

Stephan Baker

It has been said, “Family means, no one gets left behind or forgotten.” One of our goals in foster care is to ensure no child is forgotten, by finding adoptive families. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK), a program at Spaulding for Children funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, supports that goal. The mission of the WWK is to find adoptive families for the children who have been lingering in the child welfare system for many years. In order to find these families, WWK Recruiters are given smaller caseloads and the opportunity to truly get to know the children. The concept is simple: If the recruiter is able to truly bond with the child, they will be able to find the perfect family for each child based on their specific needs.

The story of Stephan entails a long journey in the foster care, which has led to happiness and most importantly, family.

In 2002, at the age of seven, Stephan became available for adoption; and in 2006, a part of the WWK program. Details of Stephan’s journey included living in more than 10 different foster homes and residential facilities, being separated from his four younger sisters, and experiencing several disrupted adoptions, as well as a multitude of other losses.

Stephan was determined; he never gave up on the idea of having a family. Stephan was willing to participate in recruitment events; fortunately, it was just that, which led him to his forever family.

In 2012, Spaulding for Children began a mandatory training for all prospective foster and adoptive families, led by two experienced foster and adoptive parents. A segment of the training included a panel of youth from the WWK program, who spoke on their experiences in foster care as well as what they desired from foster and/or adoptive families. Stephan was on the WWK youth panel, each time he attended the training, he interacted with one of the foster parents who led the training and eventually bonded with her.

In May 2012, the foster parent expressed an interest in adopting Stephan, it was decided that it was not the best time; she was in the process of adopting four other children. It was also decided that reconsideration would be given after the other adoptions were finalized.

During that waiting period, Stephan was matched with another family, however, the match disrupted in January 2013; 6-months before Stephan’s 18th birthday. The WWK Recruiter contacted the initial foster parent about adopting Stephan, she was elated! The WWK Recruiter began facilitating visits; after the first visit, Stephan asked the foster parent if he could move into her home and if she would adopt him. In February 2013, Stephan moved into the foster parent’s home as a foster care placement. Five months later, only one day before his 18th birthday, Stephan’s adoption was finalized.

Stephan loves being a part of his new family and finally feels as though he belongs. He has made great progress since he has joined his forever family.

Share your stories with us

If you’ve had a rewarding experience fostering or adopting a child, Spaulding for Children would love you to share it with us.  We may use your story on our website so others can learn from it and be inspired by it. Click here to submit your story or email it directly to mystory@spaulding.org

Donate

Help us create more success stories by donating today!

Diontae

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) is a child-focused, recruitment program designed to enhance the search for potential adoptive families for children in foster care. Spaulding for Children is the recipient of two grants from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Each grant covers the salary of a WWK recruiter within Spaulding.

Parenting a youth who has experienced significant trauma can be daunting. Every year, WWK recruiters dig deep to find committed families for youths in care. When a potential adoptive family is identified, they provide support to the family and youth to make the relationship work.

A prime example of one of their success stories is Diontae, a soon to be 18-year-old adoptee.

Diontae came into foster care on Nov. 12, 2004, and became available for adoption on Dec. 3, 2007. He had more than 20 placements, including foster homes, treatment foster homes, residential and detention facilities. All of his siblings were adopted.

Diontae maintained that he wanted to be adopted as well. He had several disrupted adoptions with a relative, a recruited family, a foster parent and fictive kin (people regarded as family members although they are not related by blood or marriage). He became quick to anger and withdrawn, and he fell prey to peer pressure.

Despite this, Diontae remained open to recruitment. While working with his WWK recruiter, he spoke about his desire to become a part of a family and to have a place that he could call home. WWK assisted with a relative search and ensured that Diontae attended recruitment events. In November 2012, Diontae spoke on a WWK youth panel at Spaulding’s annual Adoption Day event. After the Adoption Day event, Diontae met a family that was interested in adopting him. They had been impressed with his presentation. He quickly connected with them, and they became his mentors.

But not even a month later, Diontae was arrested. This family continued to support him and to build their relationship with him. Diontae tested the limits with them. He stole, left their home, ignored rules, used harmful substances and violated the terms of his probation. He was arrested again and placed in a juvenile detention center.

With the support of the WWK team, this family did not walk away. They adopted him! After almost two years, his adoption was finalized at age 17 ½, while he was still in a juvenile detention facility. Now Diontae has a place to call home, a family, plus the support and commitment needed to help him become a successful adult.

WWK recruiters will continue to work diligently with the youths in their caseload so that every child can have a place to call home. In the words of the Dave Thomas Foundation: “Unadoptable is unacceptable.”

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten!

Share your stories with us

If you’ve had a rewarding experience fostering or adopting a child, Spaulding for Children would love you to share it with us.  We may use your story on our website so others can learn from it and be inspired by it. Click here to submit your story or email it directly to mystory@spaulding.org

Donate

Help us create more success stories by donating today!

Stephanie and Miranda

SPAULDING FOR CHILDREN DOES IT AGAIN!

It has been said that, “Having a place to go is a home.  Having someone to love is a family.  Having both is a blessing”. Every day at Spaulding for Children, we work to find this blessing for the abused and neglected children we are so proud to work for. Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) is a program at Spaulding for Children funded by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. The goal of the program is to find adoptive families for the children who have been lingering in the foster care system for years. In order to find these families, WWK Recruiters are given smaller caseloads and the opportunity to truly get to know the children they work with. The concept is simple: if the recruiter is able to really bond with the child, they will be able to find the perfect family for each specific child.

Stephanie and Miranda, 15 and 17 year old sisters, had been in foster care for three years before they were referred to the WWK program in 2010. They are very sweet and loving girls who have had a turbulent past. Both girls are cognitively impaired and had been waiting to find their forever family for nearly five years. They love being a part of WWK and especially enjoy “girl’s nights” with their recruiter.

On National Adoption Day in November 2011, Stephanie, Miranda, and their recruiter had one of these infamous “girl’s nights”. During the evening, Miranda was raving about one of her teachers. As Miranda beamed with a smile from ear to ear telling stories about her classroom experiences, a light bulb went off! The WWK recruiter searched for the teacher and made contact with him. After careful time and consideration the teacher and his wife decided they wanted to provide a forever family for these teenage girls.

The WWK Recruiter worked with the family and the girls over a lengthy visitation period, and in April, 2012 Stephanie and Miranda officially moved into their new home. Throughout the next seven months, the entire family was adequately prepared for adoption. On National Adoption Day in 2012, the adoption was finalized. After the finalization Stephanie and Miranda were told they would be celebrating at Disney Land, where they have dreamed of going since they were little girls!

The family continues to do very well and the bond among the entire family is so strong. Stephanie and Miranda continue to grow and develop more each and every day in their new home.

Spaulding for Children did it again! Stephanie and Miranda are just two of the hundreds of children your donation helps feel better while they wait for their forever family.

Share your stories with us

If you’ve had a rewarding experience fostering or adopting a child, Spaulding for Children would love you to share it with us.  We may use your story on our website so others can learn from it and be inspired by it. Click here to submit your story or email it directly to mystory@spaulding.org

Donate

Help us create more success stories by donating today!