What Makes My Social Worker special
Essays from Youth in Foster Care

When agencies evaluate child welfare social workers, they seldom ask for input from children and youth in foster care. Yet many are only too qualified: they have seen enough child welfare professionals come and go to know what good social work looks like.

In an effort to draw on this untapped expertise and to celebrate the successes of North Carolina’s caring professionals, Fostering Perspectives’ latest writing contest asked kids in foster care if they ever had a social worker they really liked, and what made that person special.

Their responses were enlightening. In addition to telling us about some special people—including Catawba County’s Beth Feimster, Durham County’s Filicia High and Carol Allison, Haywood County’s Amanda Emery, and Randolph County’s Kim Scruggs—the letters we received painted a clear picture of what children value in social workers, such as:

Staying Power. Kids liked social workers who stuck by them and supported them year after year.

Commitment to Family. Many praised social workers for keeping them connected with their siblings, birth parents, and extended family.

Dedication. Kids valued workers whose actions (e.g., sending birthday and holiday cards, taking them out to eat) showed they really matter to them.

Connection. Children loved social workers who were accessible and engaging. Some saw their workers as friends who appreciated them for who they were. Others loved their workers for being role models and counselors who helped them develop the skills they will need to succeed as adults.

If you spend time with kids in foster care, this list probably holds no surprises for you. Still, we hope it is useful. Next time you evaluate yourself, think about your work in terms of the qualities that matter to children and youth. As these young people have shown, your performance in these key areas can make a big difference.

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First Place

I am about to be adopted and that's because of Beth helping me.I have been in foster care for about three years. My first and current social worker, Beth Feimster, is great. She was great in the beginning and even better now.

She had to stop being my social worker for a little while…. but then she came back. She is just as nice, funny, and outgoing as I remembered. A time I will always remember is when Beth introduced me to my dad. At Christmastime Beth really set me up with some great Christmas presents. She also helped me decide the right family to live with. I am about to be adopted and that’s because of Beth helping me. I have really liked having her as my social worker because she seems to really care about me.

David, age 13, received $100 for taking top prize in the writing contest.

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Second Place

Kim Scruggs cared for me. When I was having a bad day she would make it better.Kim Scruggs was the best social worker I had when I was in foster care. . . . When I had team meetings I used to bake all sorts of stuff like brownies and cakes for her and my team. She helped set up all the visits with my biological sister, which I am grateful for. In 2017 she put my name in a contest to win a complete bedroom theme makeover of my choice. She is the best and I miss her so much. She also finalized my adoption on February 13, 2017. Without her I don’t know where I would be. . . . What made Kim so special was that she cared for me. When I was having a bad day she would make it better. She made my adoption go through—it took a long time, but she did it. She never forgot my birthday.

Brittany, age 17, received $50 for taking second prize in the writing contest.

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Third Place

Ms. Jasmine makes me feel safe.My favorite social worker is Ms. Jasmine because she makes me feel safe. She also makes me feel happy. . . . When I first moved to my foster home she took me out to eat so I could feel comfortable about living in my new foster home. Now I feel better and the foster
home is fun and we do fun projects.

Shatavia, age 9, received $25 for taking third prize in the writing contest.

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Special Social Workers

She encourages me to join the Foster Care 18 to 21 program so that I canhave the best future possible.My current social worker is my favorite. She expects only the best out of me and …. doesn’t let me slack off and inspires me to do what is best for me. I don’t always agree with her, but she has helped me become a more independent young woman. She’s honest with me and supports me in every way possible. She encourages me to join the Foster Care 18 to 21 program so that I can have the best future possible including a great college education. She is the reason I want to be in a social work field to help other children just like she does so well. She is an amazing role model and what every social worker should strive to be like. — Jesse, age 17

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She helped open communication between my siblings and me and with my birth family.Ms. Nicki she was so considerate and relaxed. I really liked her because we could relate. I almost always felt so special as I sat beside her. She used to come to my house and we would do cartwheels in the hallways and splits in the kitchen. When she left I felt kinda angry and sad. I will remember her forever. She was also really good at calming down my brother, which is very good because I love my brother and he gets angry very easily. I also cherish the way she listens and then tries help. — Anonymous, age 14

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My dad wasn't able to come eat lunch with me...so Mr. Macon came.Mr. Macon was way more than a social worker. He was my friend and even a father figure at times. My dad wasn’t able to come eat lunch with me…so Mr. Macon came. He came to school events and sometimes we would go to the park and talk about how we were doing. He helped me through a lot when things where rough. When I was in the process of being adopted, he even came to see my new house and my new family. He will always be special to me. — Makayla, age 14

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Amanda Emery is amazing. She changed me as a person. . . . She always wanted my opinion before she made a choice. . . . Amanda would always look at me as her friend, not as her client. She was and still is my favorite friend and social worker. — Carli, age 12

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I can call her anytime and she will pick up.My favorite social worker is Christy Furr. There are a lot of things that make her special. For one, she helps me the best she can with anything and everything. She also is very nice to me but corrects me when I do something wrong. She has done a lot for me….I can call her anytime and she will pick up. Well, at least most of the time. She loves to help people the best she can and I love that about her….She is the best social worker to me and I hope she knows. — Damien, age 13

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Filicia is always happy to see my family and me.Filicia High and Carol Allison….were always there for me. Carol would always like to laugh and have fun when she visited my foster families and me. She always made me want to look forward to her next visit. Filicia has been my social worker for a while and I just love her so much. She is very kind and sweet. I think Filicia is always happy to see my family and me and that makes me happy. She has always treated me as family and I treat her the same.
— Eva, age 12

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She was always there for me, even when her own family needed her. She always treated me like I was her own. When it was time for me to leave one foster family to go to another one she promised me she was always going to be my social worker. She never let down a promise. When I finally got adopted she always came to check on me and was always there for me, even when I wasn’t her client anymore. — Katrina, age 14

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My social worker hasn't given up on me, even when I gave up on myself.My social worker works day and night for us and I am so appreciative! She helps my mom get back on her feet and gives her tips and tricks to get us back. She sends me cards every holiday! She’s like family to us. She even comes to my foster home and stands 6 feet apart [because of COVID-19] to talk to me and see how I’m doing! It’s really funny when Christmas comes around—she will dress up as a reindeer and sing Christmas songs to us! My social worker is caring, loving, and [has been with me] the longest! . . . . My social worker hasn’t given up on me, even when I gave up on myself. I know one thing: my social worker is the best dang one out there! — Trinity, age 15

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There she was with Burger King. That was the best day of 4th grade.One who really stood out to me was my guardian ad litem, Mrs. Beth. She was always so nice, generous, and genuinely cared about me. Once I was in school and I got called to the office. When I got to the office, there she was with Burger King. That day was the best day of 4th grade. Amazingly, she always got me Christmas and birthday presents. My birthday is four days after Christmas, so most people would get me one present for both. Every Wednesday, we would go to Wendy’s and get Frosties and fries. We called it “Wendy’s Wednesday’s.” What made all of these moments with Mrs. Beth special is that she never forgot me and treated me like I was the most important person in the world when we were together.

I have been adopted for two years and still talk with her about school, my interests, and what I got for Christmas. Through all the pain I experienced, she was one of the people who helped me find good things every day. — Brandon, age 13

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I was in foster care between 5-6 years and was taken from my mother and separated from my sisters at 7 years old. . . . . Throughout the years I needed a social worker that was straight up with me. A few years later it was a miracle because I got what I needed, not what I wanted.

My social worker put me in a Level 3 group home where I stayed for almost four years. As the years passed, I got more support. I couldn’t go back home. Do you really know what I mean by support? I mean God had a plan for me that was going to change the ways that I was living. He told me that it wasn’t my mom’s fault.

It wasn’t only God who had a plan for me, it was my social worker. I thought it was strange to be adopted by a different colored family, but as the years passed my life changed. If my social worker would not have been there for me I wouldn’t be living this wonderful life. — Ahngel, age 14

The young people above received $20 for having their essays published.

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