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Alumni Profile

Advocating for children

michelle watson

“Children are our society’s most vulnerable population, but they’re also our future,” says Michelle Watson, BA ’00, who advocates for foster care children in St. Louis. 

Michelle Watson is responsible for 27 children. They don’t live with her, but she does help determine where they call home. As a child advocacy specialist for Voices for Children in St. Louis, Watson, BA ’00, of Florissant, Mo., works with children in foster care.

Their stories can be heartbreaking. Watson recalls one girl whose parents were both homeless and living in separate shelters with the children. When the mother was hospitalized with cancer, the daughters had to be placed in foster care because the shelter where the father was staying wouldn’t accept girls. “Personally, it’s really hard,” Watson admits.

By law, each child who enters the foster care system is appointed a legal representative to ensure the state’s decisions meet the child’s best interests. But due to high case volume, these representatives may not have the time or resources to thoroughly investigate each case and develop personal relationships with the children they represent.

Voices for Children helps make personal relationships with foster children possible. The nonprofit organization, associated with National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), supplies volunteers who assist attorneys representing children in court. Because there are not enough volunteers to meet the needs of the 2,000-plus St. Louis city foster children, Watson assists attorneys on cases without volunteers.

Most of Watson’s children have been in foster care for several years. But despite the challenges, Watson finds fulfillment in her job. She proudly recounts the time she successfully advocated for ACT prep classes for a student who wanted to go to college. “I always get asked, ‘Why did you become a social worker?’ ” Watson says. “This is a job I was called to do.” 

— Angela Dahman