Features, On-Campus Profiles, Profiles

Transforming Children’s Lives: Victoria Tucker’s Career in Adoption and Foster Care

As a freshman at Boston College, Victoria Tucker thought she wanted to become a teacher, but her academic advisor disagreed.

He was like, ‘Victoria, you don’t want to be a teacher … You sound like you want to be a social worker,’” Tucker, BC ’12 and SSW ’13, said. 

When her academic advisor first proposed the prospective career switch, Tucker was hesitant—she knew she wanted to help children, but she wasn’t certain if social work was the right path to do so. 

But when she interned at an adoption agency the summer after her freshman year, she knew social work was the career for her.

“When I came back that sophomore year, I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Tucker said. 

From there, Tucker applied for BC’s dual degree program to receive her bachelor’s degree and master’s of social work on a five-year track.

“Working with kids just sort of became my passion,” Tucker said. “I started off as a teacher and ended as a social worker.” 

Today, Tucker supervises the adoption unit at The Home For Little Wanderers (HLW), a nonprofit child and family service agency in Boston.

The HLW was also where Tucker got some of her earliest experiences in social work—her first field training as a student was at the HLW, where she supported parents at risk of losing custody or whose children were returning home from foster care.

During her practicum experience, one of the mothers Tucker worked with asked her to come to her child’s medical appointment. At this appointment, the child was given a life-changing diagnosis. 

“I will just always remember that I was the person that was there to support her with that,” Tucker said. “Not her family, not anyone else in her life, but it was me.” 

After graduating from Boston College in 2013, Tucker worked at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange. 

Caryn Lister, who has worked in the adoption field for 28 years, knew Tucker through both jobs. Part of Tucker’s work involved referring children in the foster care system to adoption agencies, one of which Lister worked at. Through this process, Lister said Tucker became a friendly face. 

When Lister switched to work at the HLW, she encouraged Tucker to apply for the open position as the organization’s adoption supervisor. 

“[I] really respected her work and the way that she manages a team,” Lister said. “So I always sort of had a vision of working with her directly on a team.”

In 2021, Tucker got the job and began her new role at the HLW.

“What I always say to people is that you never burn a bridge,” Tucker said. “Connections that you make in life, you never know where they will lead,” Tucker said. 

One of the main parts of Tucker’s job is supervising staff at the HLW. Lucy Collins, one of these staff members, works to recruit, train, and overess new foster parents. Collins said she appreciates Tucker’s approach as a supervisor throughout this process.

“She doesn’t try to tell me how to do things,” Collins said. “She helps me work through so that I can learn how to do it. She helps me problem-solve. She’s good at that. ” 

Collins and Tucker work together to facilitate Massachusetts Approach to Partnerships in Parenting training, a 30-hour course that potential foster and adoptive parents are required to take before beginning the foster or adoption process. Through this partnership, Collins said she notices Tucker’s strong communication skills with the families they work with. 

“When she’s meeting with somebody, she really has good intuition as to where their strengths lay or what challenges they will have,” Collins said. 

Tucker also completes assessments of children hoping to be adopted and home studies of the families who want to adopt. She then decides whether to approve a family, deny them, or put off adoption due to unmet criteria.

Tucker said she is able to recognize the impact of her BC education in the work she does. During graduate school, one of her professors told students to go around the room and pretend to greet each other as if they were greeting the children they would work with.

“The first interaction we have with families and with kids can sort of set the tone for how your experience is going to be with them,” Tucker said. “That was something that I really hadn’t even thought about, but it was something that came up in class and just has stuck in my head ever since.” 

Throughout eight years of working and partnering with Tucker, Lister said she has picked up on Tucker’s special understanding of the adoption process and strength of gauging prospective parents, preparing families who are adopting children with trauma, and expressing the needs of a child through written reports. 

“She’s just an authentic, good social worker,” Lister said. “She gets it.” 

Some adoptions, though, are easier than others. When a child has extensive medical needs, Tucker said finding a family for them can be more difficult. Despite this, Tucker said she is proud of the way she has been able to aid these children. 

“I do take a lot of pride in how some of those turned out,” Tucker said. “There were a lot of barriers and we were able to sort of overcome them and have the child be adopted.” 

One difficult adoption process involved a 17-year-old boy who had not been adopted yet, Tucker said. All he wanted before his 18th birthday was to have a family, Tucker said, but those around him had already lost hope. Counting down the days, Tucker scoped out families, and he was adopted just two days before his birthday. 

“The kids that really, truly want to be adopted when they’re older, and want that family, and when it happens for them … those are the kids that I think about a lot,” Tucker said.

In the future, Tucker said she hopes to learn more about genealogy and DNA searches to help adoptees know who their biological parents are. She said she feels passionately that if children are curious about their biological family, they should have the opportunity to learn about them. 

Though she works with families throughout the adoption process, Tucker said the best part of her job comes at the end—checking kids into their new homes. 

“[I love] seeing kids just get to be kids, despite all the trauma that they’ve gone through,” Tucker said. “You walk into the home and you would never know because they’re just comfortable.”

April 26, 2024