Spaulding for Children’s Melinda Lis honored for work with foster and adoptive families

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published December 8, 2020

 Melinda Lis is pictured with the 2020 National Adoption Excellence Award. Lis accepted the honor Nov. 17 at a virtual National Adoption Month Celebration.

Melinda Lis is pictured with the 2020 National Adoption Excellence Award. Lis accepted the honor Nov. 17 at a virtual National Adoption Month Celebration.

Photo provided by Melissa Bunker


SOUTHFIELD — The year 2020 has been very hard for a lot of people. Perhaps one of the groups that has been hit the hardest are those who work in child welfare services, specifically those who do direct work in the Child and Family Services Unit at the Southfield-based company Spaulding for Children.

Spaulding has spent the year working to increase the number of children from foster care who are adopted and placed in other permanent homes. Melinda Lis, Spaulding for Children vice president of the academy for family support and preservation, has played a large role in working to improve the lives of foster children and foster parents, and as a result, was honored with the 2020 Adoption Excellence Award.

“Melinda Lis has motivated and inspired the child welfare community and people around her to accomplish more than they would have normally,” Spaulding President and CEO Cristina Peixoto said in a press release. “With the right mix of positivity, the amazing ability to tap into others’ strengths and thinking outside of the box, Melinda has successfully contributed to inform and transform the views and understanding about the role played by child welfare systems and communities in supporting post permanency family.”

The Adoption Excellence Award is given annually by the U.S. Children’s Bureau to recognize individuals, families and organizations that have demonstrated excellence in making contributions to providing permanency in foster care.

“It feels great,” Lis said. “I’ve worked in this child welfare field for over 30 years. To me, it’s a profession. I’ve never wanted to do anything other than child welfare. I went to school to do that and have stayed in it. I feel strongly in general about it — it’s not just a job. It felt wonderful to receive a reward after working so many years in the field and being really passionate about it.”

Lis received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and her master’s in social work from the University of Chicago. By accepting the award, Lis joins a long list of current and former Spaulding employees who have also been honored. In 2016, then President and CEO Addie Williams was recognized for professional leadership and pioneering work with special needs adoption. Natalie Lyons and the National Resource Center for Adoption were recognized in 2012 for professional leadership and honored with the Centennial Adoption Excellence Award. In 2006, Paul VanderVelde, who served as a member of Spaulding’s National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption, was honored for devoting his professional life to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families.

Finally, Drenda Lakin, former vice president at Spaulding, was honored in 2004 for her leadership in special needs adoption and contributions to the profession of child welfare.

While Lis is proud of the work that has been done at Spaulding, there’s still a lot left to be done. Lis said there are roughly 122,000 kids across the United States waiting for families. Through winning this award, Lis hopes to put a bigger spotlight on the work at Spaulding and any agency working in child and family welfare.

“I have a strong feeling that we’re only as fortunate as what we’re brought into this world in,” Lis said. “Some of us have the luxury of having stable, nurturing families. Some of us are brought into situations that are not anywhere close to that. To me, it felt like I was given a real stable upbringing and I was always very aware of others than didn’t and the impact that had on them.”

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