Kenosha County has honored a man who has assisted dozens of troubled teens, protected children with the help of foster parents and empowered families for the past three decades.
Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser presented Byron Wright with the prestigious Connie Reyes Award Tuesday at a recognition ceremony at the Kenosha County Job Center.
Wright is the former executive director of Kenosha Human Development Services. Wright, who came to Kenosha in 1982, began his career teaching parenting at Phoenix House, a group home for adolescents operated by development services. He retired April 3 after 35 years with the county agency, including 17 years as executive director.
The Connie Reyes Award was established in 2015 in remembrance of Reyes, a county social worker who was killed April 12, 1990, in retaliation for placing a child in foster care.
The award presentation was held in conjunction with Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, which is observed each April. County agencies, businesses, schools and residents are displaying blue ribbons this month in support of children.
“This award honors her (Reyes) and recognizes individuals today who continue to keep her memory alive through diligently working to protect children from abuse and neglect and work to strengthen families,” said Ron Rogers, director of the county’s Division of Children and Family Services.
Rogers said Wright positively affected the lives of the many served by the agency he led with “innovative, creative, forward-thinking programs that treat clients with respect and focus on meeting families where they are now in order to engage them and help improve their lives and move their lives forward.”
Wright led the development and expansion of programs for adults with persistent and severe mental illness, including the Community Support Program, Comprehensive Community Services and the CARE Center, providing psycho-social rehabilitative services.
“He has been one of the most instrumental figures in the Kenosha community in bringing family based programming that effectively addresses the needs of families,” Rogers said. “These services have helped Kenosha become a safe and stable community that cares for all of its children and citizens and reaches out to those most in need with support, empathy and compassion.”
Kreuser called Wright a soft-spoken team player with a sense of humor who made the community stronger “in ways I will never know.”
“It’s not all the programs he did; it’s the teams he assembled,” Kreuser said.
Wright, who had known Reyes, said he was honored to have been selected.
“To have the award named after Connie means so much,” Wright told more than 140 people in attendance, including Reyes’ sister-in-law and nieces.
Wright thanked those who nominated and selected him, but he also deferred to all those who have supported KHDS.
“What we do is a community effort and it takes us all,” he said.
Among the many programs Byron Wright, this year’s Connie Reyes Award recipient, established under his leadership include:
— Juvenile Crisis Intervention,
providing child protective services, emergency mental health response for children, outreach for runaway and homeless youth, conflict mediation between adults and teenagers among others.
— Specialized Foster Care,
which trains foster parents in the “Teaching Family” model
— Long-Term Support Waiver
, a Medicaid program that supports children with severe physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities
— Community Options Program
, which supports families with children who have with a significant/severe disability.
— Independent Living Program,
providing support services for older adolescents to live independently as young adults
— Homeless Youth Program,
offering support to young adults struggling to successfully transition into adulthood.
— Terry Flores