La-Keir Morris has devoted her career and life to working with victims of domestic violence and serving as a foster parent. Now she's entered Adelphi's graduate program in social work with a goal of starting her own youth development organization.

After nearly 20 years working for one of the largest nonprofits in the country, La-Keir Morris is preparing to open her own. Morris has devoted her career and her life to community service, working with victims of domestic violence and serving as a foster parent to dozens of children. Now she’s heading back to school to earn her graduate degree in social work at Adelphi. Ultimately, she hopes to use that degree not only to provide counseling to her current clients, but to start a nonprofit that will focus on providing critical resources and supports for at-risk children, teens and families.

“I’m at that point where I’m thinking, ‘Now is the time. I have to do it.’ And I’m excited about doing it,” said Morris, 42, who was born and raised in New York.

Even with the COVID-19 crisis, Morris is ready to take the next step in her career.

“This pandemic has really highlighted how people in Black and brown communities are at a disadvantage,” she said. “Some of these communities were the last to have access to testing. That just motivated me even more to get my degree and make a change.”

Morris is currently a manager at Safe Horizon, which provides social services to victims of abuse and crime. Having started as a case manager, she’s conducted home visits and worked with the Queens County Criminal Court program to provide safety resources, emotional support and crisis intervention to victims of domestic violence. She is now a manager of the Crime Victims Advocate Program, a partnership between the New York City Police Department and Safe Horizon that places two advocates in every precinct in the city. She supervises advocates in four Queens precincts.

Morris has also been a foster parent for 11 years, which she credits as one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

“Many people acknowledge foster parents for the work that we do, but the truth is the kids have taught me a lot and are so courageous,” Morris said. “All they need is for someone to love them and provide some type of structure in their life.”

Through this work, Morris has seen firsthand how much the child welfare system needs to change. If foster parents don’t advocate for these kids, many may never be able to access the skills and services they need to learn and grow.

“I’ve had kids who were in the third grade but reading at the kindergarten level,” Morris said. “When I went to the school to advocate for evaluations and resources, I was told, ‘Ms. Morris, sometimes you have to know when to throw in the towel.’ But if I throw in the towel, where are these kids going to be? Who’s going to help them?”

Morris will continue fostering children and working full time at Safe Horizon while studying part time at Adelphi. There, she hopes to learn more about the clinical aspect of social work and human behavior so she can eventually earn her clinical license.

“As a manager who supports advocates that work directly with victims of crime, if I had the clinical background, I would be able to provide more services, such as counseling, to youth enrolled in our programs,” she said.

Morris will further use this knowledge to build her own youth development nonprofit organization.

“My goal is to empower youth and families by helping them develop the necessary skills to be productive at school, home and in their communities,” she said, citing potential programs in financial empowerment, nutrition, job training, parenting and self-care.

Children in foster care can also benefit from these services, especially if they haven’t received them at school or home.

“Many kids who have entered my home don’t have a basic understanding of how to survive independently once they age out of the system at 21 years old,” Morris said. “Skills such as budgeting and cooking were once a part of the Department of Education home economics curriculum but are no longer available and are not part of the foster care transition plan. These are some of the key areas I will try to help youth develop.”

Above all, Morris will continue on her mission to help underserved communities access critical resources for survival and success.

“I really want to provide more support to those that need it most,” Morris said. “That’s my goal.”

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