LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News Release) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Christie Erwin, Executive Director of Little Rock-based Project Zero, an adoption excellence award for helping children in foster care find permanency through adoptive families. Erwin is a long-time supporter and valued partner of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), which is committed to the vision that every child deserves a safe, stable, and strong family.
Arkansas DCFS staff nominated Erwin for the award.
The 2019 adoption excellence awardees were announced recently at an HHS ceremony as part of National Adoption Month in Washington, D.C. Vice President Mike Pence, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson and other leaders addressed adoption advocates, parents, and others in the field.
“We are extremely grateful to individuals for helping our youth achieve permanency through adoption,” HHS Assistant Secretary Johnson said during the ceremony. “Families and state and local child welfare agencies play an essential role in finding permanent connections for our youth and our agency would not be able to do this important work without you.”
The adoption excellence awards, given each year by the Children’s Bureau at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), recognize individuals, families, and organizations that have demonstrated excellence in making contributions to providing permanency for children in foster care. Erwin was among just five people across the country to receive the individual award in 2019.
“Christie is committed to the vision that every child deserves a family and a safe, loving home. She is a tireless and passionate advocate for waiting children and teens, and she literally works every day to find the right families and bring hope to those who are waiting,” DCFS Director Mischa Martin said. “Arkansas is lucky to have amazing partners like Christie and Project Zero.”
Erwin started Project Zero with the goal of having zero children waiting for adoption in Arkansas. She uses a mix of matching events, short films, and a Heart Gallery that features portraits and biographies of all waiting children to pursue this goal. Her approach has increased the number of finalized adoptions in Arkansas, helping to set statewide records the last two years. Erwin has established many activities and programs that impact the lives of children waiting for adoption including a scholarship fund, birthday parties for waiting teens, as well as a Disney extravaganza and a Candyland Christmas event that bring together community partners and waiting children and teens from across the state. She not only gives hope to those waiting but also inspires people to do something to meet the need for more adoptive homes.