The Triad Advocate of the Year Award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the adoption community as demonstrated by a specific accomplishment, project, program or milestone. Adoption Network Cleveland was pleased to honor three individuals this year for their contributions to the field including Representative Janine Boyd; Amber Donovan, Executive Director of Community of Hope; and Christie Manning, Senior Program Officer of Saint Luke's Foundation.
Representative Janine Boyd
Janine Boyd is a lifelong resident of Ohio’s 9th House District and followed her mother Barbara Boyd’s example of public service by becoming an Ohio State Representative. Janine has spent two decades devoted to health and human services advocacy and policy, and has actively championed programs that serve our community’s most vulnerable citizens – children and families facing poverty; children with special needs and mental health disorders, at-risk youth; and youth in foster care or who have aged out of care; among many others.
She sets a strong, positive example for others in advocacy – developing working relationships with statewide elected officials and lawmakers from all backgrounds and political parties to make change happen.
Over the years, Janine has been an avid supporter of Adoption Network Cleveland and the individuals we serve. She specifically has sponsored several bills to improve the lives of adoptive and kinship families including the Fostering Sibling Connections Act last year, an act to create a statewide system of Kinship Navigators, and an act designating November as Adoption Awareness Month in Ohio. She also served as an active member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Multi-System Youth, ensuring that young people have access to mental health, developmental disability, and welfare services.
Amber Donovan, Executive Director of Community of Hope
Amber is an incredible, passionate, powerhouse whose work has blossomed over the last two years. She is the founder of the local nonprofit Community of Hope which uses a team model to build community and mentor youth who have aged out of foster care. The model evolved from Open Table moving from “tables” to “communities” “because kids need people”. Amber’s work has been featured frequently in The Plain Dealer and on Cleveland.com, through a partnership with a long-term reporting project called “A Greater Cleveland,” raising awareness of the difficult realities faced by youth adults who have aged out of foster care. This project has truly taken the Cleveland community by storm.
Community of Hope’s mission is to build lasting relationships, nurture hope, and restore dignity by creating family-like relationships for Cleveland’s youth.
Since 2014, under Amber’s leadership Community of Hope has organized communities around more than 50 young adults who have aged out of foster care. Each community is made up of one young adult and 5 to 6 volunteers who are committed to that individual for one year, sharing with them their time and talent and creating a community of support for that young person. The impact this program has on these youth can be seen in the outstanding percentage who finish high school, who have stable housing, who continue to higher education and full-time employment and the number of communities that continue to meet after the requisite one year.
Amber’s motto at Community of Hope is “One-hour changes everything.” Amber’s persistence, dedication, and passion demonstrate that One Person can change everything.
Christie Manning, Senior Program Officer at the Saint Luke’s Foundation
Christie Manning has been instrumental in creating a Family Strengthening Community of Practice here in Cleveland. Over the past three years, Christie identified the need, queried organizations serving families, identified training opportunities and brought them to Cleveland. She provided the leadership needed to bring the Greater Cleveland Family Strengthening Network into existence and built it to a place where it would be sustainable. With a strong base and guidance from Christie, the GCFSN is now organizing a leadership and membership structure of its own. The GCFSN is part of the National Network of Family Support and Strengthening Networks and promotes the Standards of Quality for Family Strengthening and Support.
Christie’s dedication to pioneering the Family Strengthening Network in Cleveland made it possible for family support and child welfare organizations in our community to share best practices and identify opportunities for collaboration. It has increased our community’s capacity to serve families in need and has increased local recognition of Family Strengthening and Support as a field of practice. All of this together will strengthen the resilience of Cleveland’s families which will have a profound impact for generations to come.
Congratulations to all of our recipients. We are grateful to have a community of advocates that continue to be strong leaders in our community for the improvement of adoption and child welfare policy and the betterment of the lives of all those impacted by adoption and foster care.