By Muriel J. SmithRED BANK – Susan Barker Smith was named Volunteer of the Year in the Junior League of Monmouth County’s annual Women Making a Difference award luncheon. The event was held last week at the Oyster Point Hotel, with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno making the announcement and presenting the award.Smith was particularly recognized for her work as a child advocate. She and her husband Doug were foster parents for three siblings, one of whom had multiple needs; the couple eventually adopted their son. The experience and assistance the couple received in meeting their son’s needs led to Smith’s volunteerism with Monmouth Cares, Inc., a private nonprofit agency which is part of the state Division of Behavioral Health Services System of Care for Children.Presenting the award to Smith brought tears of appreciation from Guadagno, who pointed out she had particular appreciation and admiration for Smith’s fostering three children, all birth siblings. The lieutenant governor herself had a foster son whom she and her husband adopted.Junior League President Shannon Dolan made the presentation to Smith with Guadagno and praised each of the 16 volunteers nominated by their organizations for the honor.Smith, who last May also received the Tony Dowling Child Advocacy Award, has been involved with Monmouth Cares since they began assisting her family in 2004, helping the family need, understand and overcome the special needs of their son, Keith, challenged in emotional, behavioral and developmental development.Participating in the family team effort which enlists all the formal and informal supports in the youngster’s life to create a comprehensive plan for his success resulted in a favorable outcome for Keith. The experience led to Smith’s becoming a community spokesperson for the Wraparound approach used by the state system.(Wraparound is a philosophy of care used by Monmouth Cares that focuses on the family, ensuring that a community-based system of care will exist for the child when involvement with the formal system ends.)Termed a “powerful communicator” by Kathy Collins, executive director of Monmouth Cares, Smith brought the message of her own family’s experience and its success to the community, explaining the steps and phases of the program and highlighting the unique partnership between care manager and family.Both Doug and Susan Smith were invited to join the board of Monmouth Cares in 2005 and have been active every since.In nominating her for the award, Collins wrote that Smith’s success as a child advocate is due to her “low-key style and persistent approach, which attracts and engages people in all sorts of roles within the system. Her desperate need for help led her to membership roles in committees, boards, coalitions, councils and workgroups. Her growing knowledge, confidence, combined with her formidable social skills, resulted in a talented leader.”Smith accepted the award at the luncheon, saying she was delighted yet humbled by the honor, and congratulating each of the other nominees, praising their volunteers in the variety of fields in which they served.Monmouth Cares, Inc., is a private nonprofit agency whose mission is to facilitate positive change so that children with emotional and behavioral challenges along with their families have the greatest opportunity to live, thrive and develop in their communities. Their work includes helping families build Child and Family Teams to help identify strengths and develop strategies to meet each family’s individual and specific needs.In addition to Smith, volunteers nominated for the Junior League honor were: Cathy Beck of Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Linda Carvalho of Coastal Habitat for Humanity; Joan Ferraro, Go Red for Women; Linda Friedman, Monmouth Day Care Center; Kathleen Gasienica, American Littoral Society; Codi Gill, Ignite the Night Gold for Pediatric Cancer; Patrician Githens, Monmouth County Historical Association; Tease Gould, Mary’s Place by the Sea; Marilyn Pearlman, HABcore; Gina Petillo, Parker Family Health Center; Michelle Rogers, The TEARS Foundation; Denise Walker, LADACIN Network; Lee Weber, Family and Children’s Service; and Patricia Wotton, Holiday Express.