March is Women’s History Month, a great time to honor the women who have had and continue to have an enormous positive impact on the lives of children in foster care at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Much like the larger history of child welfare, women have been one of the driving forces behind transforming children’s lives in foster care for over 30 years at SOS Illinois. This month, we celebrate the history, legacy, and current impact of these women.
History of Women Fighting for Child Welfare in Chicago
Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull-House, was a progressive reformer in the late 1800 and early to mid-1900s, and a pioneer of the family-based model of care similar to the model of SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. She believed that children should be kept in home environments and her steadfast efforts had a huge impact on Chicago’s orphanages, which converted from a system of housing orphans in large dormitories to moving children to smaller cottages to replicate a home setting. Eventually, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services recognized the many benefits gained by children raised in in home environments with familial support.\
Since the foundation built by Jane Addams, many women continue to work diligently and passionately to provide stability for the more than 450,000 children in foster care in the United States as foster parents and volunteers.
Women Remain Active in Child Welfare Nonprofits
Today, women make up more than 46 percent of the American workforce and nearly 75 percent of the nonprofit workforce. That’s reflected in the make-up of the SOS Children’s Villages Illinois where women employees usually outnumber male employees, working tirelessly to build and strengthen its legacy: to build Villages that unite brothers and sisters in foster care, surround them with a community of hope, and help them grow into caring and productive adults.
Women as Foster Parents and Staff at SOS Illinois
From the first Foster Parent hired at SOS Illinois, Michele “Mickey” Haldeman, who provided care for more than 20 children, many of them from infancy to adulthood, women have played a major role at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois.
Foster Parents are the very foundation of the SOS Illinois model and women make up more than 90 percent of the agency’s existing professional Foster Parents. Another Foster Parent who has been on the scene since the beginning is Sandra Marbeth, who has fostered 50 children at SOS Illinois Lockport Village and eventually adopted the first eight siblings who were placed in her care. Minnie Reed, who started as a traditional foster parent, joined SOS Children’s Village Illinois in 1994 and recently retired after 24 years of service providing stable, single-family homes for children in foster care.
Women also dominate the administrative, case management and clinical teams and serve as members of the board of directors. Many of these women also contribute in other ways. For example, board member Laurie Holmes has hosted a floral design workshop and supporter, Nancy Wolfe, has hosted a series of art classes for our children.
The Impact of Women at SOS Illinois
The support and guidance provided by these women and others have helped SOS Children’s Villages Illinois create an environment in which 100 percent of the children consistently complete high school compared to the national average of only 48 percent of children in foster care. Additionally, children in our care routinely attend college, succeed in careers, and go on to become supporters of our mission, such as Sandra’s foster-to-adopt son, Tevin Marbeth.
Join our Women in Building the Future of Foster Care
Help us celebrate the many contributions of women at SOS Children’s Villages Illinois by keeping the momentum going to change the foster care system by becoming a Foster Parent, Relief Parent, staff member, or volunteer.