I am pursuing my Master’s in Social Work because I am a product and a beneficiary of the system. I truly believe that it is my charge and my calling. I am the youngest of 8 children born in Brooklyn, NY. Due to unfortunate circumstances I was separated from my family when I was just 2 years old and placed in my first foster home. It was a very traumatic, painful, and horrible time in my young life.
Shortly thereafter I was rescued from that terrible experience by a Social Worker and a beautiful, loving, caring woman. I remember the day like it was yesterday. The woman I was staying with took me downstairs and left me out on that stoop in Brooklyn and went back in her house, not even a goodbye. I remember sitting on that stoop and thinking how cold and heartless the world was, and how no one really cares about you, and how I would never be able to count on anyone. Then after what seemed like an eternity, a cab pulled up a Social Worker came and got me off the stoop and walked me to the car. He opened up the door to the back seat and there she was, Mrs. Ruth Alexandra Cox. She was my new foster mother and my saving grace, the woman who would save my life, heal my wounds, and shape my future. She is the reason I am the man I am today.
She instilled in me the desire to help people whenever and wherever I can, and at the end of the day Social Work is the most noble of the “Helping Professions”. She also helped me not to become bitter and she even saw to it that I never harbored any ill-will towards my biological parents, especially my mother. Also in that back seat was the youngest of my older siblings, my brother, Paul Kelly. He and I, the two youngest siblings, were reunited once again, thanks to the power of Social Work and the dedication of Social Workers. He and I grew up in the same foster home and had a wonderful family life with Mr. and Mrs. Cox in the Long Island suburban town of Amityville, NY. My foster father instilled a work ethic in my brother and I and taught us to be men.
None of that would ever have happened if it wasn’t for that Social Worker in general and the Profession of Social Work specifically. The profession was there with me every step of the way through my recovery from that awful period in my life. Social Workers and the Profession of Social Work were there to help make my 1st Christmas in my new home memorable, to make sure that I received proper medical care, making sure I was adjusting well to my new surroundings, and providing whatever support my foster parents needed to help my brother and I. The profession got my brother and I full equipment and gear to join the boy scouts, made it possible for my brother and I to go away every summer for two weeks to camp in the Poconos (Camp Moodna, Stroudsburg, PA), and purchased drumsticks and a drum pad when I expressed an interest and showed a talent for playing the drums.
As a teenager when I had a misstep with the law, my Social Worker was there with me in court, and when I had to go visit a college for the weekend in upstate NY in my senior year in High School, that same Social Worker, Mr. Dalton Merchasin actually drove me upstate to the college and left me with spending money and a bus ticket to get back home. I will never forget him for that. I also fondly remember going to agency holiday parties and a wide variety of summer activities like concerts, boat rides, plays, and steakhouse lunches after the play. That’s the power of Social Work that I remember.
So because of my background and the blessed outcome I have experienced I feel that there could be no more fitting a tribute to my Foster Parents, especially my Mother, and the profession of Social Work than to give back by becoming a Social Worker. I think that would be a magnificent way to say thanks and pay it forward.
By: Silas W. Kelly, MSW
S: Adelphi University, NY
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