Mary Louise Marois
For years, Mary Marois has led or participated in community approaches to child safety and family well-being in the State of Michigan. With her community partners, Ms. Marois has been a recipient of the United Way of America Community Builder Award. In bestowing the award, the United Way recognized that the Leelanau County Family Coordinating Council had successfully used collaboration and consensus decision-making to strengthen communities in ways that benefit children, youth, and their families.
Ms. Marois piloted the Family Group Decision Making Model with Native American families in Leelanau County, which resulted in stopping the flow of Indian children into the foster care system. She has been a strong supporter in the local United Way of "Give 'em 40 24 7." (Give our youth 40 Developmental Assets, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.) With other community partners, Ms. Marois has begun a local initiative called Youth Friends, modeled after a program in Kansas City that matches adult mentors in the community with children in schools. She also initiated a multi-county collaborative effort to provide Life Skills classes for [hard to place in employment] TANF recipients called PEG (Personal Enrichment and Growth). In addition, Ms. Marois serves on the Advisory Board of Grand Valley University School of Social Work, where she ensures appropriate educational opportunities for future social work practitioners.
Ms. Marois has significantly changed the way services are delivered to residents of Leelanau County through community partnerships and by focusing resources on successful programs. Her efforts include the creation of a staff of "family advocates" instead of caseworkers in an attempt to change the paradigm between client and agency staff. In addition, Ms. Marois funded a School/Community Assistance Project and Parenting Communities to work with families with young children.
Ms. Marois has long been a champion of cultural diversity, particularly with the Native American and migrant populations in Leelanau County. She actively participated in a statewide initiative that seeks to ensure that the Indian Child Welfare Act protects the rights of Indian children throughout Michigan. At every opportunity, Ms. Marois reminds practitioners of history, in which the State of Michigan took away the rights of Native American families to raise their own children. She insists that history will not repeat itself on her watch.