About Sue and Bernie Dondiego, Founders of FAFS

Along with Hattie Talley, Sue and Bernie Dondiego are the Founders of Foster and Adoptive Family Services, formerly known as the New Jersey Foster Parent Association

Remembering Hattie Talley

FAFS’ surviving founders remember co-founder Hattie Talley as vibrant and committed.

hattie talleyFirst and foremost, Hattie Talley was the right person at the right time. Not only was she a very caring individual, but she was also an outstanding advocate for foster parents.

Hattie’s strength was her understanding of the importance of collaboration and partnerships.

She formed successful working relationships with DYFS (now DCP&P), the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) and others.

She was instrumental in having DCP&P assign a Liaison to the New Jersey Foster Parents Association (NJFPA). That was our name before we became Foster and Adoptive Family Services, or FAFS. The Liaison attended our monthly Board meetings along with our State Officers and County Association Presidents. The Liaison would then bring the foster parents’ concerns and questions back to the DCP&P Director for a response or action.

By promoting the importance of collaboration and partnerships, Hattie Talley secured funding for our state foster parent representatives to attend national foster parent conferences. As a result, several state representatives served as Committee Chairs for the NFPA. That put the us in a good position to submit a successful bid to host the NFPA Conference in New Jersey.

Before hotels prohibited food from the outside being brought in, we had a “Hospitality Room” that was available to NJ representatives and others at the National Conferences. This led to a lot of interaction with foster parents and agency staff all across the US. As a result, ours was viewed as a progressive and well run organization.

Hattie Talley’s outgoing personality helped her secure donated space for our statewide meetings, where everyone would bring food and refreshments. While much work was accomplished, the support and encouragement received from networking with each other was invaluable to all the foster parents in attendance. Hattie always had a great sense of humor. It kept everyone going during the dark times.

Because she was so adept at partnering with others for the sake of foster families, Hattie Talley was the first foster parent to serve on the DCP&P Board of Trustees. Her leadership and organizational skills laid the foundation for many future accomplishments, including but not limited to:

  • FAFS becoming the first state association to be funded for recruitment, training and support
  •  Invitations from other states to speak to agencies and legislatures on our partnerships and ability to support foster parents
  • Monthly coordinating meetings, between DCP&P County/Local Office Managers and FAFS’ Board of Directors
  • FAFS’ recognition by the NJ Governor and NJ Legislature as the “go to” organization for information about foster care, and invitations to testify at Legislative Hearings

Without the good humor and commitment of Hattie Talley, FAFS would not be where it is today: one of the premiere foster care organizations in America celebrating forty years of service to foster families in New Jersey.

Foster Care Advocates Partner With State For Improved Services

Foster Care AdvocatesWhat started off as a partnership between three foster parents grew into a statewide group of foster care advocates.

One of the reasons Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) has survived and thrived for forty years is our unique perspective as an organization. Some foster care organizations tend to be in conflict with child welfare agencies. FAFS strives to work with our state’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P, formerly DYFS) as foster care advocates to make sure kids in foster care get what they need – including capable and caring foster parents. Continue reading

Milestones in Foster Care History The 1970’s | Free Training For Foster Parents in NJ

Free Training For Foster Parents in NJ Means Better Care For Foster Children in the State

When we started back in the early ’70s, there was no free training for foster parents in NJ offered or required by the State, nor paid training for that matter. But then, just like now, foster parents were taking children into their home who had experienced abuse and neglect, or had serious medical issues. Foster parents wanted to help the kids – and wanted help helping the kids – but there wasn’t anything “official” available. Many foster parents took trainings in one parenting skill or another from various sources, but there was no consistency. If you lived in Essex County, for instance, you might be doing something totally different than a foster parent in Mercer County. We’ve come a long way since then! (Click to learn more about currently offered free foster parent training in NJ.)

When we started the NJFPA, now known as FAFS, we knew we wanted to make free training for foster parents readily available and that we wanted to make it consistent throughout New Jersey. We also knew we wanted a foster parent to provide and present the training. We told DYFS (now DCP&P), “We have a foster parent that is very knowledgeable and knows a lot about training, and we would like that person to be in charge of the training.” Back then, we were met with some resistance – not so much to the training itself, but to having a foster parent in charge. But we told them, “I think they (the foster parents) want that, and that’s what we’re going to have to get.” Continue reading

Milestones in Foster Care History in NJ The 1970s | Formation of the New Jersey Foster Parent Association

Milestones in Foster Care History in NJ – The 1970s – Foster parents Sue and Bernie Dondiego and Hattie Talley sit at a kitchen table and discuss issues facing foster parents and how to work together to bring about positive change for the children in their homes. They create the New Jersey Foster Parent Association (NJFPA), known today as Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS).

Milestones in Foster Care History in NJ – The 1970s – Meeting with Hattie Talley and the Formation of the New Jersey Foster Parent Association

When we met at that kitchen table back in the early ’70’s, it was just a few foster parents talking. Hattie Talley, who went on to form the organization with us, Carol, and ourselves.  We were just telling war stories like we always did.  But then Hattie said, “This is how it’s always going to be if we don’t help one another. We have to support one another and reach out to one another.”  And that’s how it started that day. Continue reading