Foster Care is Community – Everyone Can Be a Champion

The following article is reposted from the White House “Champion for Change” web site. To visit the original article, please visit

Hillcrest Center also offers services to foster children and families. To find out more, please contact us.


Nicole Dobbins is being honored as a Champion of Change for Foster Youth

The great Muhammad Ali said, “Champions aren´t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Reflecting on becoming an advocate for children and families, I’m reminded of my childhood. Growing up was chaotic, filled with instability, abuse, poverty, and a parent with long-term substance abuse challenges. I longed for a healthy family. I hoped my family would get the help they needed and life would become less stressful.

In elementary school I grew aware of the importance of education and I knew I didn’t want to grow up and struggle the way my mother did. Having never finished high school, she stressed the importance of education, but for me it didn’t feel attainable. Even when I was young, I was aware of my family circumstances and the cost of college felt insurmountable.

In 5th grade my elementary school principal changed this belief. In an assembly, she told my graduating class that all of us could make it to college if we did just three things: got “C” letter grades or better, didn’t do drugs, and didn’t get pregnant. She also said she would help us pay for it through a scholarship fund. My world shifted; I now had hope for a better future.

With this, I made it to college, but not before abruptly exiting the foster care system. I “aged-out” of foster care just one day after graduating from high school. My saving grace was that I was already accepted to Oregon State University. I had three months of summer to survive before I had stable housing in the dorms.

In college, I felt lost and alone. Various people helped me along the way, but there was something missing. I was navigating a challenging transition to adulthood, which included managing and healing from past trauma. I masked my emotions on the outside well, but secretly contemplated suicide often. I seriously lacked a support system.

In my junior year, a case-worker I came to know after foster care encouraged me to apply for an internship. It was one of the first times I felt someone believed in me. I interned and later worked for FosterClub, an amazing organization. It was an opportunity that gave me purpose in life. Discovering other young people who had experienced similar circumstances gave me passion to create change. I learned how to build what was missing, my supportive network.

The following year I became the director of the internship, and was responsible for training former foster youth to become young leaders, using their experiences to improve the lives of our peers.

All children need champions. Because of instability in care, my peers often lack an anchor. They lack consistent people in their lives to guide them, hold them accountable and love them beyond their mistakes. From a young age, my desire was to change my family’s trajectory. Today, my vision is clear: I have a dream that no more young people will “age-out” of foster care without committed people who love and support them in their transition to adulthood. With more than 100,000 children waiting to be adopted and nearly 23,000 youth who age-out of foster care annually, often to poor outcomes, we have work to do.

Maybe you can’t adopt or foster, but what about mentoring, volunteering, or even making donations to your local community organizations? There are so many opportunities to become champions for children in foster care.

Nicole is the Executive Director of Voice for Adoption. She is a graduate of Oregon State University. 

To Riot or Not to Riot? That is the Question!

National Guard Activated To Calm Tensions In Baltimore In Wake Of Riots After Death Of Freddie Gray


We’ve all seen it on the news – public displays of violence caused by negative thoughts and behaviors. But do you realize that the violence may be a distractor from underlying behavioral health concerns and/or unbearable social conditions?

The recent Baltimore Riots give insight into how experiences of anxiety (e.g., fear, panic, and uneasiness) and depression (e.g., anger, helplessness, hopelessness, and irritability) may lead to episodes of aggressive, antagonistic, defiant, and reckless behavior within communities across the globe. Some known social conditions that may also contribute to these episodes include:

  • Crime-stricken neighborhoods;
  • Low-income housing;
  • Rampant substance abuse; and
  • Increased unemployment rates

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.” So, take a deep breath for one moment. Let your mind drift. Imagine how it might feel to have your cries for help fall onto deaf ears. Focus on how your body might feel. Consider how you might respond.

One’s belief that their circumstances will never change may cause them to develop and utilize dysfunctional methods of getting their needs met. However, how effective are these methods? Studies have shown that although rioting may be thought of as a way of garnering unity within the community regarding a common concern, it may actually be counterproductive to the overall goal.

However, behavioral health interventions can protect against future emotional distress and reckless behavior by:


  1. Supporting the development of healthy coping skills to manage daily life stress;
  2. Replacing unhelpful patterns of thinking with more effective patterns of thinking; and
  3. Encouraging a more appropriate and effective communication style


For more information, please contact Hillcrest Center at (202) 232-6100 or email us at

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Amelia Hall, M.A.Amelia R. Hall, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student, with a special concentration in diversity and multicultural related issues.

Bicentennial Celebration Announcement


Contact: Debra Kilpatrick Byrd

Phone: (202) 262-3987



PURPOSE: To celebrate the resilient service of the Hillcrest Children and Family Center over 200 years among children and adults with mental illnesses, physical challenges, and life adversities while acknowledging the legacy of First Lady Dolley Madison.

BACKGROUND: Hillcrest Children and Family Center is a behavioral health care and social services agency. Hillcrest is a private not for profit organization established in 1815 by First Lady Dolley Madison that is committed to providing each client with the highest quality of service.   Hillcrest Center services approximately 900 consumers per month. The majority of our clients are residents of the District of Columbia. For more information, visit

WHAT TO EXPECT: Three pre-events and a bicentennial gala will be comprised of Celebrity Speakers, Community Leaders and Health Officials. All events will provide valuable mental health educational tools to improve overall lives of individuals or families living with mental health illnesses, adversities and physical challenges.

PARTNERS: Historical Society of Washington DC; James Madison’s Montpelier; The Octagon Museum; National First Ladies Library; The President Woodrow Wilson House


Thursday, January 15, 2015: Press Announcement & Hillcrest Exhibit Unveiling Event, The Octagon Museum, 1799 New York Ave, NW, WDC. Press Event at 11am; Exhibit Open 11am-4pm

Wednesday, May 20, 2015: Pre-Memorial Day Military Families Health Fair, TheARC, 1901 Mississippi Ave, SE, WDC. 9am-1pm

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: Youth Empowerment Summit, DC Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl, NW, WDC. 8am-3pm

Thursday, October 15, 2015: Bicentennial Symposium and Gala, Marriott Marquis, 901 Massachusetts Ave, NW, WDC. 8am-4pm


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