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Deborah Vires

Social Worker | MA Department of Children and Families

Deborah Vires believes every child deserves a family that will love them and care for them.

She works in a specialty unit at the Department of Children and Families, to recruit and train foster and adoptive families for children in Massachusetts. She also develops and finds resources for adoptive and foster families, making sure the families and children get the support they need.

The Worcester resident has been a social worker for 34 years and counting, using innovative ideas to help children find families that best meet their needs and bond with them. She was part of a team that created “Wednesday’s Child.”

With the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, the program was featured on WBZ TV in the early 1980s, interviewing children who were up for adoption and encouraging viewers to consider adoption.

“We had trouble finding families, and this gave us a broader reach,” Ms. Vires said. “It was a radical approach, it was considered heresy to put the children on TV. For every child in the system I believe there is a family that wants them, it is just up to us to find them.”

Many states now use a similar program to raise awareness about adoption.

Ms. Vires received her Associate from Quinsigamond Community College in Liberal Arts, she jokes that allows her to think more liberally. She then went on to attend Assumption College for her bachelor’s degree in social rehabilitation.

“Quinsigamond was a friendly school, very welcoming with an open atmosphere, which promotes learning,” she said. “You can look at all your options and find out your skill set. I had exposure to the early childhood program there, then went to Assumption and did an internship and realized I wanted to be a social worker.”

During her tenure at DCF, Ms. Vires has faced many challenges. In the early 1980’s, when HIV first hit the area, she said the state had a problem with sick and dying babies and they didn’t know what was wrong. They created a team approach, with a pediatric AIDS task force, working with UMass Medical Center and families to care for the babies.

“In the beginning it was quite an accomplishment, there was a huge fear, we didn’t know how it was transmitted and people were afraid they would get it or their other children would be exposed. We still need medical homes occasionally, for children who are sick, or babies going through drug withdrawal, so we find foster parents with a medical background who can handle the situation.”

The program was recognized as one of 1,000 Points of Light by the George H. Bush Foundation.

“It has been my passion for 34 years to find families for the children of the Commonwealth,” she said. “We have more kids in care than ever before, with unemployment high that can lead to drug and alcohol abuse which leads to family issues and domestic violence.”