/7 May, 2021

Introducing Foster America’s Newest Cohort of Fellows

Foster America’s sixth cohort of fellows officially started working in their new placements this past Monday, May 3. After a week of pre-service training, where fellows began to build relationships with one another and became oriented to the child welfare landscape, the eight fellows embarked on their journeys in agencies across California, and in Washington state, Oklahoma and Colorado.

From museum design to improving healthcare access, the Cohort 6 fellows bring diverse professional experience to their agencies, and many have lived experience with various aspects of the foster care system.

For this newest cohort of fellows, Foster America has expanded its team model, which will strengthen fellows’ ability to share results in the field in real time, and scale positive impacts beyond a single agency. One team is taking on a new body of work with older foster youth in California’s Bay Area. Another team of fellows will be working across states to improve the recruitment, licensing and support of kinship caregivers. Finally, a fellow in Colorado will be implementing a vision of prevention in Colorado. 

In the Bay Area, the team was created in partnership with Tipping Point, a nonprofit support organization that invests in poverty-fighting innovations. This team of fellows will promote equitable outcomes for young people who are or have been in foster care, and develop infrastructure to improve public sector collaboration. 

In Colorado, the fellow will be working to implement the national Thriving Families, Safer Children initiative, which is an effort to fundamentally rethink child welfare by focusing on prevention and creating the conditions for strong, supported families. Thriving Families is a partnership with the federal government, Casey Family Programs, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Prevent Child Abuse America.

In addition to the constellation of support that each fellow receives, which includes multiple coaches and a project specialist, Cohort 6 will also have team leads, who will help them navigate their support options, and liaise with the various agencies that comprise the team.

Read more about each of the fellows below.


Denicia Carlay is working with the Department of Children and Family Services, in Alameda County’s Social Services Agency. She will be creating design strategies and building coalitions to improve placement stability for commercially and sexually exploited children.

Connie Chung is in San Mateo County’s Children and Family Services department, overseeing organizational strategy to design integrated support systems for foster youth.

McKenna Cole is placed with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, where she will be leading program evaluation strategy to help design and implement evaluations of county programs that support foster youth education and achievement.

Royce Connor is working with Contra Costa County’s Office of Education, where he is focused on program design, and will build out an educational case management pilot program alongside community members, partners, and stakeholders.


Aanchal Dhar is working with the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families on change management to increase the percentage of foster youth placed with kinship caregivers.

Melisa Henry is placed with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Services division. She will be working on strategic planning to design a service model that will increase the number of children with high needs who are placed with kinship caregivers and other foster families, instead of institutions.

Mariah Williams will be working in San Diego’s Health and Human Services Child Welfare Services department, where she will focus on community design strategy to develop kinship engagement strategies to increase the percentage of foster children placed with kinship caregivers. 


Krishna Dahya will be working with Illuminate Colorado and The Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. She is tasked with implementing strategies that will advance a statewide collaborative that strengthens underserved families, and safely reduces the number of children who need to be placed in foster care.




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