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October 8, 2010

Contact: 609-633-8507
Lauren Kidd

DCF’s Adoption Operations Director Honored as an Angel in Adoption
Ellen Kelly Recognized at National Event in Washington, DC

TRENTON – For her outstanding advocacy of adoption issues, Ellen Kelly, Adoption Operations Director for the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) within the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), has been selected by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) as a 2010 Angel in Adoption. The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in Adoption program, honored Kelly, along with more than 190 Angels, at an awards ceremony and gala event in Washington, DC, October 6, 2010. 

“Ellen’s passion and belief in the importance of the work she does on behalf of New Jersey’s children is an asset to our state,” said Frelinghuysen. “Her decades of service prove that she is a leader in the truest sense of the word, committed to improving the lives of New Jersey’s children and families.”

“Ellen Kelly is passionate about connecting children with forever families. Her leadership has resulted in countless New Jersey youth – including teens, sibling groups, and medically challenged children - being connected to their forever families through adoption,” said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake. “Ellen continues to play a vital role in improving the way DCF achieves permanency for youth involved in the child welfare system.”

“The person we grow up to become has so much to do with the people and events we are exposed to in our childhoods, as well as the people who are around us throughout our lives,” said Kelly. “It saddens me when people are without families, and that drives me to work harder to find forever families for children in our care. I genuinely love this work, and to receive recognition for doing work I love to do is a special privilege.”

Between 2004 and 2005, the number of foster children who were adopted in New Jersey had fallen more than 14 percent, leaving a record backlog of 2,300 children who were legally free and waiting to be adopted at the beginning of 2006. Since 2006, with Kelly’s assistance, DCF rebuilt the state’s dismantled adoption infrastructure by establishing specialized adoption practice units in DYFS offices and investing in additional resources to achieve adoption targets. Kelly was also instrumental in establishing statewide post-adoption counseling services and led the development of an adoption certification program with Rutgers University School of Social Work to ensure the ongoing education of adoption professionals.

As a result of those efforts, New Jersey has achieved significant progress with record numbers of adoptions – over 5,600 former foster children adopted between 2006 and 2009. In 2009 alone, more than 1,400 children were adopted into forever families. For the first time since the data have been tracked, these same years witnessed an overall decrease in the number of children waiting to be adopted, which in 2009 dropped to approximately 1,300 children, the majority of whom were in the process of being adopted by their foster or kinship parents. With approximately 1,200 – 1,300 new children becoming legally free for adoption every year, DCF has significantly increased the number of children who join their adoptive families in a timely fashion.

Kelly, who resides in Morris County, is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked for the Division of Youth and Family Services for over 35 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Montclair State University and her master’s degree in social work from New York University.

For more information on adopting a child from New Jersey’s child welfare system, families can visit or call 1-800-99 ADOPT.

The Department of Children and Families (DCF), New Jersey’s state child welfare agency, was created in July 2006 as the state’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in New Jersey. DCF includes the Division of Youth and Family Services, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, and is focused on strengthening families and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for New Jersey's children.