Leader of Child Welfare Website Wins Online Journalist of the Year

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The leader of an advocacy media organization dedicated to coverage of child welfare is the Los Angeles Press Club’s Online Journalist of the Year.

Daniel Heimpel, a freelance journalist who started covering foster care in Los Angeles in 2006, was honored at the club’s 53rd annual SoCal Journalism Awards this week. Heimpel founded Fostering Media Connections in spring 2010 to “utilize media tools to influence and improve public policy and practice” in regard to child welfare.

FMC’s work has focused particularly on implementation of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008. The act requires states to ensure certain educational and health services for youth involved in the child welfare system, and it mandates the development of transition plans for those children who will age out of foster care. The law also enables states to share the cost of expanding foster care options with the federal government.

“That a journalist who uses his words to impel change on behalf on children is recognized at this level will hopefully encourage other journalists to always create stories that give solutions,” Heimpel said. “With a large enough chorus of journalists engaged in solution-based coverage, the Fourth Estate could greatly contribute to improving foster care and thus our country's future.”

The website includes a blog and links to other youth-related websites; a news ticker that features recent child welfare articles and opinion pieces; and a connection to FMC’s video productions on YouTube.

FMC also partners with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute to brief journalists and policy makers around the country on child welfare issues. Recently, the two groups held a forum at Harvard University to discuss how the looming rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act might include particular services for foster children.

FMC is currently working on a report around the education of children in foster care, Heimpel said.

Heimpel and FMC were also nominated for best website and in the advocacy journalism category. He beat out Sachi Cunningham of LATimes.com and three reporters from Truthdig.com – Bill Boyarsky, Chris Hedges and Robert Scheer – for Online Journalist of the Year.