During his thirteen years as a caseworker, Mike Smith has placed only a handful of children in foster care. It is certainly not because he gets the easy cases. Rather, he sees hope where others might see insurmountable problems. He focuses on finding strengths in his families and persists in encouraging them to get services and make changes themselves. Because of Mr. Smith's involvement in one particular case, after the failure of their lawyers to negotiate a visit, a teenage boy and his adoptive father agreed to give it one more try. The meeting melted barriers and led to weekly visits.
While family reunification is Mr. Smith's goal, protecting children is his first priority. Nothing stops him, not even the threat violence. When the Agency received reports that a father had been shooting a gun inside the family's trailer home because he was mad at his children, it was Mr. Smith who went to investigate. He is bold and firm with perpetrators, but sensitive and caring with children. This attitude helps ease them through difficult family situations and helps him to earn their trust.
Within the community, Mr. Smith has appeared on local radio talk shows to promote child abuse prevention. Court personnel, law enforcement officials, school principals, teachers, and guidance counselors respect him. He left the "front lines" once to try his hand at supervision, but in a matter of weeks, he chose to return to casework . . where he shines and where he is needed most.