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Azia Ruffdegale


You might know Degale Cooper: She was the very first Hub Home provider back in 2004 and has served as Director of Family Programs the last four years, overseeing and supporting the delivery, growth, and sustainability of the MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™. She recently spread her wings to YouthCare, where she continues her work in the community as Chief Programs Officer.

Before leaving, Degale shared with us her journey with Mockingbird, and some of the many gifts she leaves behind.

Degale found her way to The Mockingbird Society through her own feelings of frustration as a foster parent. While a social worker at Children’s Administration 15 years ago, Degale came across a young woman who was deemed by many as “unadoptable,” set to spend the rest of her life in institutions. In an interview, Degale told me “if her social worker had lost hope for her already, who is gonna hold that hope?” In Degale’s mind it would be her, leading to an immediate path of fostering.

She was determined to support her new daughter but found it harder than anticipated. As a new foster parent, she wasn’t connected to resources that could support her while she supported this youth. The Children's Administration office offered her little resources and she had no mentor she could go to for advice and encouragement. This left her juggling the costs of services and extracurricular activities out of pocket and feeling like many foster parents: isolated, unsupported, and alone.

Come 2004, Degale was exhausted and close to ending her license. It was then that she met Jim Theofelis who was looking for a Hub Home Provider to support foster families in the very first MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™constellation. It was everything Degale and her partner had wanted as a foster family. With little debate, they agreed to become the first Hub Home Providers.

In 2006 Degale’s commitment to MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ grew. While being a Hub Home and working as a Director at Treehouse, she was hired as a part-time Director of Family Programs at The Mockingbird Society

After 7 years Degale finally decided to end her time as a Hub Home, but she couldn’t stay away for long. In 2014 Degale returned full time to Mockingbird as the Director of Family Programs. With her powerful arsenal of social work and foster care experience Degale grew MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ to greater heights.

What started with a handful of constellations in Washington state, working to demonstrate the benefits for foster parents and children to CA, grew internationally. Degale has guided organizations in Australia, Canada, and Japan over the years to prepare for their first Constellations. She trained and led groups in the United Kingdom who have now over 25 Constellations (soon to double), making MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ their main delivery of foster care. To do all of this takes skill, tenacity, flexibility, and spirit. Qualities that Degale has in spades.

However, Degale insists that community is what makes MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ successful: "I could not have done any of this without the support of those who I met in the foster care community." It’s community that’s helped me make MOCKINGBIRD FAMILY™ successful. That’s what’s kept me here and has moved me along.”

Mockingbird is grateful for the support and care she has created in the global foster care community. We have her to thank for our successful practice advocacy, and we will strive to continue the legacy she has created: of intentional care, community, and partnership for the sake of our kids and their future. Thank you Degale, for everything and good luck on your next chapter!

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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.