This month, we spent some time getting to know Founder/Executive Director, Caroline Neal and learned more about how Worthdays came to be. Read the Q&A with Caroline below, and feel free to pop into the Walker House on the Richmond campus to say hello and welcome her to the UMFS family of champions!
Hometown + College/University:
I grew up right here in Richmond City and received an MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University and BSW from Longwood University.
Describe Worthdays in 2-3 sentences:
In everything that we do at Worthdays, our message to those impacted by the foster care system is “you are so worth it”.
Celebrating youth in foster care on important days in the lives, spreading awareness to the community about how to get engaged in making an impact in this system and creating opportunities for normalcy to those impacted by the child welfare system are the 3 pillars of what we do.
Depending on the day, this may involve us replacing a trash bag with a duffel bag, celebrating the 21st birthday of a young person aging out of care, providing a bed for a child transitioning to the home of a relative, hosting a cooking class for older youth or providing resources and support to local social workers.
What prompted you to start Worthdays?
As a former public child welfare social worker, I saw kids and families journeying through the foster care system without basic needs being met.
I worked with kids who might not hear the words “happy birthday” on their birthday or whose primary mode of transporting their belongings was a trash bag. I wanted to have a tangible way to make an impact on the system.
As someone whose own family has been impacted by the system, I know that any opportunity to remind someone of their worth can go a long way and make a difference. I once worked with a young man whose therapist said “we need to remind him all day that he’s worth it because all day he’s reminding himself that he’s not” which has been my driving force for the many youth in Virginia’s foster care system.
When you think back on your years with Worthdays, what is your proudest accomplishment?
It’s the small moments for me like giving the opportunity to and then seeing the confidence on the face of a young woman who aged out of the foster care system being able to educate legislators about the challenges she faced in the foster care system.
It’s hearing from local social workers that the youth had never been celebrated for their birthday and how much remembered on their big day meant..
Describe your perfect day off/vacation?
After graduate school, I went to Costa Rica for a Spanish & Cultural Immersion program for social workers. I loved it so much that it’s now my dream to return with my kids and husband to experience the culture and community of this country.