Danielle Douglas (Ireland) – President

Danielle is an alumni of the foster care system in Ireland and a former relative foster carer. She holds a BA (Hons) in Social Care and an MA in Applied Social Studies (through research) and is currently in her final year of a PhD in Child and Youth Studies at University College Dublin. Danielle’s research interests are fuelled by her multi-faceted experience of foster care and her areas of expertise include resilience, identity, children’s geographies and alternative care systems.

Danielle is a lecturer in Personal and Professional Development, Applied Social Studies, Youth at Risk and Sociology on the Social Care courses at Waterford Institute of Technology. She has been an active member of IFCA, IFCO, Power4Youth and Eurochild presenting plenaries and workshops at various national and international events.

However, Danielle’s greatest passion is working with and advocating for young people and she has dedicated a considerable part of her life to improving alternative care for children. She has designed and facilitated training for young people, foster carers and social workers both at national and international level. Danielle sits on research advisory groups for the Irish Foster Care Association and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency Ireland. She also represents IFCO in the Opening Doors Campaign and the European Children in Alternative Care (CiAC) research group.

April Curtis (USA)

April Curtis is an alumna of the Illinois child welfare system and a graduate University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. April works to help youth in care solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives, and is a strong advocate for sibling rights and advocates so that other youth will be spared the pain of sibling separation that she endured while in foster care. She successfully advocated for a law preserving sibling relationships. She presents nationally to child welfare audiences on the importance of sibling bonds, life-long connections, and permanency for youth in care older youth.

Honors April has received include Hispanic Advisory Committee 2001 Youth Advocate of the Year, Chicago Area Project Exemplary Leadership 2001, and Child Welfare League of America’s 2002 National Service Award, and North American Council on Adoptable Children 2003 Youth Advocate of the Year. April currently sits on the IDCFS Latino Advisory Committee and is fluent in Spanish.

Jo Derrick (Scotland, UK) – Vice President

Jo Derrick has more than 15 years’ experience in the fostering and children’s services sector both at an operational and, more recently, strategic leadership level. She has extensive experience in supporting foster carers and staff to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of children and young people.

In 2011 Jo became a registered foster carer with her local authority. Since then, she has worked with a number of families providing respite for Looked After children to support their placement with foster carers and as part of ‘edge of care’ support to families. For the past year Jo has been a full-time foster carer.

In October 2019 Jo took up the post of CEO for Scottish Throughcare and Aftercare Forum (Staff), a membership organisation for all of those involved in the lives of young people in Scotland leaving care.

Jo completed a post graduate certificate in ‘Child Protection and Welfare’ in 2017 and is currently completing an MBA with a Specialism in Leadership studies. She has been a Director of IFCO since 2017 and is a Director on the boards of various child-focused charities/organisations, enabling cross-fertilisation of best practice in strategic performance and good board governance.

Lacy Dicharry (USA) – Secretary

Lacy Dicharry, MS, MBA is the Chief Strategy Officer at Youth Era. She is an internationally recognized expert in youth engagement.

Over the past 15 years, Lacy’s work has impacted more than 250,000+ individuals in more than 40+ countries all over the world. She’s had the privilege of supporting youth, judges, foster parents, state administrators, and social workers through more than 130+ presentations, workshops, webinars, and conferences.

Lacy was honored with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration VOICE Award for Consumer Advocacy and National Association of Professional Women VIP Woman of the Year, and her goal is to share her story and serve those who are focused on recovery. She continues to advocate for positive changes for youth through sharing her story and consultation for local, state, and national programs and initiatives. Through coaching and mentoring other young people, she hopes to inspire them to do the same.

Carrie Wilson (England, UK) – Treasurer

Carrie Wilson grew up in the care system in England from the age of 11, with Social service support ending at the age of 23, when she completed her degree in International Relations. As a student Carrie was a mentor for those still in care. During her final term of University, Carrie started to Kinship care her younger brother, keeping him within family based care.

Once graduated, Carrie worked for a year at Sheffield Hallam University leading the Care Leaver project, aimed at involving more Care experienced young people in Higher Education. Once the work was embedded, Carrie moved on to her current role as Young Peoples Project Coordinator at the Care Leavers Association, the foremost user-led national charity in England.
Carrie works directly with those at the leaving care age, up to the age of 30, to improve the current system and to support those going through the transition process. This includes advocacy, mentoring programs, helping to create national networks of best practice and consulting on issues affecting those leaving care.

Carrie led the 2016 European IFCO Conference in Sheffield and went on to support the 2017 Global IFCO Conference in Malta. As well as contributing to the IFCO Youth track before joining IFCO’s board, Carrie has since co-run the Youth Track at IFCO’s conferences.

Carrie believes that every child in alternative care and beyond should be provided with the safe space to explore their experiences, and be supported to realise their potential. She also believes that carers should be recognised and supported through the sometimes very taxing support they provide young people and children.

Dr Stacy Blythe (Australia)

I have 14+ years of experience as a foster carer. I currently provide care to an Aboriginal sibling group of four children/young people. In addition to this practical experience, I have an extensive research background in the area of out-of-home care (OOHC).

My doctoral thesis (2013) investigated the experiences of long-term female foster carers. One recent project investigated permanency options for children in OOHC, the results of which are being launched at the Australian Parliament House in November with a call to reform adoption legislation. Other projects include an investigation of infant feeding in OOHC, oral health of children in OOHC, how children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds maintain culture and identity in OOHC, and foster carers experiences of caring for a child in OOHC who is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In addition to my research, I also develop and provide training. In particular, I train foster carers caring for infants and children who were born substance exposed. I also provide training to school teachers in relation to managing a child in the classroom who has a trauma history. I have a Graduate Certificate in Teaching and in Developmental Trauma. I am currently halfway through a Master of Business Administration (MBA) due for completion in June 2021.

Veronica Gabriel Buchumi (Germany/Tanzania)

Since October 2017 to present I am pursuing my PhD studies in Law at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. My PhD project focuses on the Law and Practice of Foster Care in Tanzania. From the time I embarked on this project, I have developed a strong interest to equip myself with knowledge and participate in activities related to child care and protection. Though I do not have practical experience in the field of alternative family care, my research project is building in me a strong foundation to pursue my academic career in dealing with children and to stand to speak for the protection and enjoyment of their rights.

Besides that, I am a lawyer by profession holding a Bachelor of Law degree (LLB)- 2013 and Master of Laws (LLM) – 2014 both from the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I am an Assistant Lecturer of Law at the University of Dar es Salaam School of Law where I was retained as a tutorial assistant since December 2013. However, I am currently on PhD study leave. In December 2015 I was admitted to the bar as an Advocate, Notary Public and Commissioner for Oaths, however due to my teaching responsibilities at the University of Dar es Salaam I have not been involved in active practice of law as an advocate.

Melanie Doucet (Canada)

Melanie is a former youth in care who has been working to improve the lives of children and youth in and from care for more than 15 years through her academic work and community engagement. Currently, Melanie is a PhD candidate and Sessional Instructor at McGill University School of Social Work and a member of the Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF) where she has worked on multiple local initiatives to make a difference for youth in care.

In fall of 2017, Melanie led and facilitated a collaborative doctoral project titled Relationships Matter for Youth “Aging Out” of Care, with former youth in care from Greater Vancouver, which takes a closer look at supportive relationships in their lives through the power of photography. As part of the project, Melanie mounted a successful photo exhibit, which drew the attention of government policy makers and community based organizations. In collaboration with her co-researchers, she compiled an extensive report, which was released in 2018 through the BC Representative for Children and Youth and received national attention. Her efforts have also received high-level acclaim including SSHRC and Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Doctorial scholarships and awards. Melanie’s research aims to provide a platform for the voice of youth from care in proposing specific recommendations relevant to child welfare policies, programs and intervention strategies targeted to young people in care transitioning to adulthood.

Melanie has been involved in various youth engagement initiatives and child welfare focused organizations in her home province of New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia, and nationally. As part of the NB Youth in Care Network (NBYCN), she presented at the first N.B. Youth in Care hearings in the provincial legislature in 2012, and is working with the Department of Social Development on child protection services policy reform efforts. In 2015, Melanie co-founded a peer support group for former youth in care pursuing post-secondary education, the Montreal Youth in Care Alumni Student Association (MYCASA). She is also currently a Board Member of the International Foster Care Organization (IFCO) and past Board member of C.A.R.E Jeunesse. Prior to relocating to Montreal, Melanie was a Project Officer for the Government of N.B.’s award winning Integrated Service Delivery (ISD) project for children and youth with emotional, behavioural and mental health issues and was pivotal to its province-wide implementation.

Melanie is a frequent public speaker on the importance of relationships and fostering resilience for youth in and from care, and has organized multiple panels with other youth in care alumni in various academic and community settings across the country. She continuously aspires to become a university professor, a research consultant, an author, a motivational speaker, and a mentor to and advocate for youth involved in the child welfare system.

Vasundhra Om Prem (India)

I have 20 years of work experience focused on child protection, foster care and rehabilitation. My organization Centre of Excellence in Alternative Care (CEAC) is into Knowledge enhancement, policy recommendation, training, development of resources etc on family based care.

Since 2015, we have trained more than 10,000 government officials, judges, policy and social workers. To enhance the working knowledge of implementors we have produced “User Guide on Foster Care” for National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and “FAQs on Alternative Care”.

Martine Jones Foundation, Key Assets, UK are our knowledge partners. With their support, we are creating South Asia Network to promote family-based care in the region.

I am Consultant to Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family, Mauritius. We also train judges and Probation officers on foster care in Sri Lanka.
I am a law post graduate and pursuing Ph.D (Law) from NorthCap University, India.

I have worked with Employees State Insurance Corporation, Prayas and Tata Consultancy Services.

Lanto Robivelo (Madagascar)

Lanto Robivelo from Madagascar is currently on the approval and advisory committee for the country’s first national and legal foster care framework. He received his Masters Degree in Social Work in 2014 and after this worked as a Child Protection Consultant.

In 2016 Lanto became Operational Manager for Madagascar’s first foster care charity, Famadagascar. He completed the ‘Skills to Foster’ Training Course in the UK in 2018 and he is currently studying for his PhD entitled “The evolution of informal “Taiza” into formalised Foster Care in Madagascar”.

Lanto’s roles, both as Operational Manager for Famadagascar, and as a foster care consultant for the government, has involved developing ground-breaking public polices and resources for foster care, as well as delivering foster care training to some of the country’s first foster carers.

John Role – Malta

I trained for the profession of Social Work in the UK and I have been working in the area of children in Out of Home Care for the past 43 years. I started my work in a residential care facility which back then, catered for 130 adolescent boys. Throughout the years we worked hard to change the service from an institutional set-up to family-based care.

ln 1996, I was appointed to set up a new foster care system in Malta. At the time, there were only 29 children placed with foster carers who had no training, no support and no financial help. ln the 20 years that followed, together with my team, I worked hard to establish a good fostering service by introducing new practices, policies, legislation and raising awareness about the need for foster care. Over the span of another 20 years, the number of fostered children/young adults had increased to over 500. The outcomes have been very positive.

At present, I am working with homeless youth. I am also a committee member of the Maltese National Foster Care Association.