Steamboat Springs Linda Andrews directly impacted the lives of many children in Routt County, placing 50 children with new adoptive parents during her 29 years as a social worker in Steamboat Springs.
Andrews' gift was in her tenacity to ensure a child had a good home.
"She got to know a child, studied them and their history to know their special needs and matched their needs with a prospective home," said Bob White, director of human resources.
Andrews' efforts to get to know a child and the prospective parents is one reason, White said, she never had an unsuccessful adoption.
Most adoptions have a 50-percent failure rate, which makes Andrews' success with adoptions remarkable.
The magic of Andrews' success was in her hard work, honesty, straight-forwardness and ability to take legal action when it was necessary for the well-being of a child, White said.
He said Andrews would make extra visits to the home of prospective parents and give them a realistic perspective of the challenges they would face raising a child that had been neglected.
Andrews specialized in adoptions through her college studies but worked in all aspects of social work during her beginning years as a social worker in Routt County.
When Andrews started her position 29 years ago, she was the only social worker employed in Steamboat Springs.
"Linda was a pioneer in social work," White said.
Andrews' close work with children included not only adoptions, but situations where parents were receiving help to better raise their kids, foster home placements and cases where the welfare of a child was questioned.
Andrews said the adoptions were the most rewarding aspect of her job, while managing cases where children were being abused and had to be taken from their birth parents were the toughest.
Andrews went to lengths to understand the children and parents she worked with.
"The last couple years of my job were more frustrating; it seemed there were more and more alcohol-addicted parents," she said.
She said she couldn't understand why a person would not be able to quit drinking once their children had been taken away.
To help understand alcoholism, she sought out a friend who had been an alcoholic.
"I went to him and said, 'Help me understand this.'"
She also attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to deepen her understanding of alcoholism and how it affects people and their family members.
The years Andrews put into working with the families of Routt County allowed her to see many children grow up over the years.
A number of people who worked with Andrews in cases of adoption and foster care have come back to see her and tell her how their life turned out. Some people visit her as a starting point to trying to reunite with their birth parents.
There have been some positive reunions with children and their birth parents, she said, but a child's perspective of their birth parent is usually very idealistic and often they are not the people they imagined.
The emotional attachment Andrews had to the children she worked with in Routt County is something she'll take with her.
Although Andrews is retiring from the Department of Human Services in Steamboat, she is not going too far from the field of social work.
She has accepted a new position working for the State Department to help get financial resources for children who qualify and are in an out-of-home placement. By recognizing children who qualify for aid, money collected will help implement children's programs throughout Colorado. Andrews said that a lot of local human services agencies in Colorado are unaware of the paperwork procedures that have to be followed for them to receive aid.
Andrews said she wasn't looking for a new job, but she realized the new position would allow her to see her children more. All three of Andrews' sons, Teddy, Joel and Randy, live in Denver, and through the traveling required with her job, she plans to see them more regularly.