It’s no secret that social workers are the unsung heroes of the foster care system. From making tough decisions that will change the course of a young person’s life to advocating for that child’s best interests, these stellar men and women often don’t receive the recognition they deserve.

That’s why each year, we ask foster youth to nominate a social worker who stands out among the rest. We select one award recipients from the dozens of nominations we receive and present him or her with the Masters of Change Social Worker Award. This year, we’re thrilled to honor Andrea Valverde from Catholic Charities, for her relentless commitment to foster youth.

Andrea was nominated by former foster youth, Noor Flanagan-Almusawhi. After recently graduating from college with honors, Noor says, “Andrea Valverde is my Mother Teresa. Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.”

“When I met Andrea four years ago, our relationship did not start out smoothly. I did my best to be difficult and rude to her, but it didn’t change her reaction to me. She persisted and was always sweet. Eventually, I started to trust her and through her, I learned that I do have a network of people behind me who encourage me, push me, love me and are there to give me a hug when I most need it. She is the epitome of love, persistence, and compassion,” says Noor.    

Andrea challenged Noor to self-care and stay focused on the academic commitments he’d made to himself. He remembers, “Sometimes she would come across as really strict, but I realize now that Andrea was keeping me accountable for the choices I was making.”  

We’re honored to recognize Andrea Valverde as a relentless champion for all foster youth and a model of excellence for other social workers to follow.