As it continues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its treatment foster care program in 2020, The Barry Robinson Center (BRC) welcomed Dr. Patricia Saunders-Madison this week as the new executive director of foster care.
Saunders-Madison comes from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area where she spent many years leading an award-winning program for The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh that serves children with special needs and their families. Since 2000, she’s also maintained a private counseling practice and consulted with the Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute.
“Pat’s dedication to children in need throughout her career makes her a perfect fit for our treatment foster care program,” said CEO Rob McCartney. “She brings a wonderful combination of passion and experience to this role. We’re so pleased she’s part of our team as we make strategic moves to grow our program to serve more children and families.”
Saunders-Madison’s interest in foster care began early in life as she learned from her parents what it means to open homes and hearts to children.
“My parents would host children who lived in orphanages to celebrate holidays with us since they had no family to go to. It gave the children a home, if only for the holidays, and it certainly taught me from a very young age how good it felt to give back,” she explained. “That was my first introduction of realizing all children don’t have permanency in their lives, and for some that’s all they want is a family to call their own.”
Several factors influenced her decision to accept the position at BRC.
“I believe in the mission. Moreover, the staff I met on my initial and second visits met me with warmth and an openness to their roles and the work they are tasked to do. I felt the staff was genuine in their presentation, and I recognized their compassion for the children and youth served at BRC,” she said. “BRC’s leadership was also impressive, led by CEO Rob McCartney. It was obvious from the first time I met Rob, he was loyal and committed to BRC – the children, families and and all the staff. Who wouldn’t want a boss like that!”
During her few days on the job, Saunders-Madison has been meeting with the foster care team and employees from other departments. Due to current conditions, all of these meetings are taking place via videoconference. She’s eager to meet people in person and explore the campus soon.
“My first impression of BRC was the campus. It sits just far enough away from the street so not to be bothered by traffic noise,” she said. “At the same time, any passerby would drive by or walk by and wonder just what goes on there given the peacefulness of the campus.”
As executive director, Saunders-Madison oversees all administrative aspects of the program, as well as increasing participation. This means increasing the program’s visibility and training new foster families.
“I wish more people would realize that opening their heart to a child, a sibling group or a teen could mean everything to them. It sometimes could mean life or death for a child,” she declared. “Fostering can be a challenge, but at the same time it’s rewarding for the child who comes into a placement and for the family who made a commitment to the child by fostering and bringing a child into their family. It really can be a win, win for all!”
Saunders-Madison earned her doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Surprisingly, she started college at 25 after marriage, three children and home ownership by the tender age 21. She received her Ph.D. when she was 35.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the BRC family,” she said “And, I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for me and my team as we move the treatment foster care program into new opportunities for growth and sustainability.”