Shelly Adkins, endearingly called “Squirrel” by her work friends, has been a Foster Care Case Manager in Huntington, WV, since 2021.
Shelly's journey into foster care first started after a tragedy. The death of her older brother made Shelly decide that it was time to find a purpose in her life. With help from Vocational Rehabilitation Services, she was able to enroll at Morehead State University and get assistance with tuition and housing.
"I had tried college before and failed miserably," Shelly said. "[M]y entire life I have struggled with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which always felt like a barrier and made any hopes I had about finishing college seem impossible." She added that her brother's passing, though tragic, helped her mature and gave her the self-discipline she needed to stay focused and take responsibility for the future.
Shelly graduated from Morehead State University with honors in 1997 and began working with the Huntington Housing Authority. After 15 years in that community, Shelly said the "humbling, empowering, and amazing" experiences and lessons she learned are still with her today.
In 2007, Shelly graduated from West Virginia University, also with honors. She shared that although public school was not the best experience for her, she had finally surpassed her dreams and overcome trauma.
"While self-doubt is still a part of my life, I now have the tools and support needed to overcome it," Shelly said.
For a few years, Shelly worked for River Park Hospital where she said she learned some of her greatest lessons.
"The biggest lesson learned on a personal level is that I do not have to allow another person to dictate how I feel about myself," Shelly said. "Professionally, I brought away so much it still surprises me today, many of these skills are especially useful in my position at Necco."
When Shelly was recruited to work for Necco in September of 2021, she said her life changed forever.
"I found open arms, hearts, and minds with my work family," Shelly said about her peers at Necco Huntington. "When I struggled to understand something, I was held up until I could stand on my own."
She added that not only are her fellow case managers a major source of support, but also the leadership - the team leads and Huntington Program Director Gina Brown.
In 2022, Shelly won the Corporate Culture award for Individuality. "There could not have been a more appropriate award for my personality. I tend to be outspoken, and even loud at times." She added that the best part is being accepted, encouraged and celebrated by her coworkers and leadership.
"I am more than blessed to have the opportunity to work for Necco," Shelly said. "It is home."
Shelly has had many experiences that have continued to inspire her career as a case manager, but she recalled the story of a boy that holds a special place in her heart.
“[H]e had burned all his bridges in homes and respite placements.” Shelly said that case managers often refer to these children as “Paper Monsters,” kids that are unfairly disadvantaged based on previous actions or rap sheets. “These children are what give my life purpose, I love every one of them.”
Shelly added that she saw a ‘spark of hope’ in this boy and knew she had to do everything she could to find him a loving and accepting home. After several months of unsuccessful searching, the child’s elementary school cook told Shelly that she and her husband wanted to welcome him into their home.
After confirming that the couple would be willing to go through Necco’s foster parent trainings to become certified, Shelly worked with her leaders at Huntington and DHHR, the Department of Health and Human Resources in West Virginia, to inform them of the potential placement.
“I stayed in contact with this family until they were able to certify as a Necco home,” Shelly said. “This little feller is now back on my caseload, and I get to continue being part of his life. This makes my heart so happy!”
When asked to give advice to current and future employees, Shelly offered up some great tidbits.
"Do not over think things, trust your instincts, and most importantly, believe in yourself because your kids need you to be confident so you can better serve them!" Shelly shared. "Lastly, never be afraid to ask for help."
People like Shelly are what make Necco special. Our employees work hard to give each kid what they deserve and more. If you'd like to join our team of awesome individuals, check out our job board!