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Foster Care Alumni Award


Each year, we recognize and honor the important contributions child welfare system alumni in Maine with the Foster Care Alumni Award. We will strive to award to a male and female alumni each year.

The recipient must be a former youth in care, 22 years old or older, who has demonstrated that he or she has:


  1. Made a strong commitment to helping youth currently in care.

  2. Advocated on behalf of youth in care.

  3. Practiced effective leadership within change efforts (such as youth leadership meetings, work groups, committee work, projects, etc.).

  4. Acted as a positive role model for youth in care.

Alumni Award Recipients
2018: Tia Knowlton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater
Tia Knowton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater

Chance Isazu
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Chance Isazu attended her first YLAT meeting over 6 years ago and has continued to participate in YLAT meetings and events as her schedule allows. Chance earned her bachelor’s degree at USM and is currently pursuing her MSW at UMO while working full-time at a residential program for young people in care. Even with this very full schedule Chance joins the Bangor YLAT meetings and virtual events whenever she can. Chance brings warmth, a great sense of humor, authenticity, and encouragement for other young people whenever she connects with other young people.


Chance arrived in the US as a teen and had to learn English very quickly to graduate from high school and pursue her goal of enrolling in post-secondary program.  While attending college, Chance continued to take part in panels and other speaking events highlighting the needs of older youth in foster care. A systems partner noted “I am always impressed with her communication skills as well as her warmth and sincerity when she presents.”


Chance is a strong advocate for issues that impact older youth in foster care. In the summer of 2021, Chance completed the Jim Casey Youth Leadership Institute and was invited to become a Fellow. In the 2021, Chance wrote personal testimony in support of legislation that extends voluntary foster care to age 23, which passed and will go into effect in August 2022. Chance also presented at the 2022 Youth Caucus about key issues for youth in care.

Leah Cleland
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Leah is an amazing advocate who attended her first YLAT meeting in the early 2000’s and she has been an active member and mentor ever since. Leah helped build energy in the Aroostook YLAT group and began to participate in public speaking events to educate providers on how to better support older youth in foster care. Leah is thoughtful, curious, and quick to point out the strengths of her peers. Leah has been an Alumni Co-Facilitator for the Lewiston YLAT group where she supported each member to fully engage and contribute. In addition, Leah was Maine’s first youth in care to attend the Foster Club All-Stars Internship program in Oregon.

Leah continues to make time to join YLAT events to share what she has learned and is learning from her journey. Recently Leah helped facilitate the Rising Leader cohort in partnership with the Telling Room and YLAT staff. While planning and facilitating Rising Leaders, Leah made thoughtful and deeply empathetic connections between her experiences—both as a young person in care and currently as a parent and an employee—and the many varied experiences of the Rising Leaders participants. Leah’s reflections open space for other participants to share, and when others share, Leah celebrates them in a way that invites more openness and engagement. Leah continues to share her warmth, sincerity, and curiosity to support the YLAT community.

Foster Care Alumni Award Recipients:

2021: Tiffani Melia & Jacob Hills · 2020: Mariah Knight & Edward Schnopp · 2019: William Bradford & Amber Munson · 2018: Tia Knowlton-Basford & Huyanna Clearwater · 2017: Kyle Snyder & Stephanie Gerard · 2016: Jessica Harris & Sierra Reed · 2015: Cheri Crossman & Carleigh Lynn Boston · 2014: Josh Magaw & Jill Esty · 2013: Denise Altvater & BJ Kitchin · 2012: Michael Augustine & Kesha Shelton 

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