Shamira Bennett is a social service caseworker in a foster care permanency unit in Birmingham, Alabama. A mother suggested that we feature Shamira as an Outstanding Caseworker. The mother wrote:
“Shamira was our son’s worker for a year, and she always did her best to make sure he was cared for…She did everything she said she would on time. She would ask by name about all the other kids in the home out of genuine love and concern for them…I was sad at adoption I wouldn’t get to see Shamira anymore, but she still checks on the boys because she truly loves each child.”
What attracted you to this work, and what do you like best about your job?
I love helping people, and people who know me best always said that I should look into working with children because I’m so good with them.
I work with kids of all ages, but most of them are younger—between 1–3 years old. I really like the bond and the attachment that I form with them. It might take a little bit for them to warm up, but once they do, it’s a wonderful feeling. Sometimes during home visits, they don’t want me to leave!
It’s amazing to me that you can go from being a stranger walking through the door to someone a child looks up to in a month’s time.
What do you tell kids who’ve lost faith in finding a family—or think they don’t want to be adopted?
Some of the kids I work with wait a long time to be adopted. And you know how even a short time can feel like forever to a child. The worst thing is having a child asking why they aren’t being adopted—to tell me that they wonder if they’ll ever have a family.
When kids have been in care for a while, they start to think that nobody wants them. I tell them: “Someone is waiting for you, just like you are waiting for them. It’s just a matter of time.” And then I work to make sure that is true!
It’s different with kids who don’t want to be adopted because they miss their birth family. I try to explain to them that their parents love them even though they cannot care for them. And that they’ll continue to love them and be happy for them. The counselors we work with help a lot with these difficult conversations.
It sounds like you get very invested in children’s lives. How do you balance your work life and personal life?
I am a very emotional person. When I started doing this work, I got too involved and wasn’t good at balancing. But I’ve learned how to take care of myself. If I feel overwhelmed at work, I’ll stop by the mall or go to the nail salon or talk to family, friends, or my supervisor. Having someone reassure me that I’m doing a good job makes all the difference.
I love working with children and families. There’s no place I would rather be.