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New Beginnings’ Home Study Social Workers

May 3, 2016

A home study is much more than just a background check. A home study is necessary before an adoption can take place, whether your adoption is facilitated by an agency, the foster care system or an attorney. At New Beginnings we offer this service to adoptive parents, regardless of whether they work with us as their primary adoption agency.

During the process, our social workers will write an in-depth evaluation of your family and living conditions to help determine the best adoption match for your family. Our social workers guide potential adoptive parents through the home study process and travel all across Mississippi and Tennessee to complete the residential inspection part of the process. They work efficiently and carefully to make it as convenient for the adoptive parents as possible.


Leah Ritter Graham

Leah Ritter Graham has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and has been working as a Licensed Social Worker for five years. Four and a half of those years have been with New Beginnings. She told us she chose social work because she wanted a career that made a difference in the lives of others.

“After earning a degree in Christian Education from a Bible college, but only getting the chance to use it in the realm of volunteer service within my church, I truly wanted my career to also be a ministry.  When I was offered the opportunity to receive two years of college education free, due to my job being moved offshore, it was an answer to prayer.  I had been teaching a weekly anger management class to court appointed individuals through my church for around eight years, and it had completely taken me outside of my comfort zone and opened up a new aspect of ministry.  I had wanted to go back to college to get a degree in counseling, but soon discovered that the best route to achieve what I wanted was through a degree in social work.  So at the age of 42, I took a brand new course in life and have been blessed beyond measure,” said Leah.

Since coming to New Beginnings, she has guided many prospective adoptive parents through the home study process, but the most rewarding experiences come at the end of the process when children are placed with their forever families.

“The emotions and experiences that an adoption social worker encounters are numerous and so varied. I love that I can use my background in education to share and teach to varied audiences what adoption is truly all about. I love the beautiful, divine moments when you are able to witness the birth of a child who was given a chance to breathe his or her first breath because of a birthmother who unselfishly chose to give the child life. I love the joy and tears that come with being there to support both the birthmother and the adoptive family and helping them to understand that I truly care and empathize. There are times of joy and times of sorrow when working with numerous home study families that you have completely invested in helping to bring their child home. Seeing the sweet faces of beautiful internationally adopted children, who just needed someone to love them and be their family, you realize that what you do every day (and night), making an eternal impact in lives, is a huge responsibility and is unbelievably memorable and rewarding,” she added.


Renae Vallas​

Renae Vallas​ has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and has been a social worker at New Beginnings for eight and a half years. She chose social work because she wanted a career of serving others.

​”I wanted to go into a service-oriented profession – one that allowed me to help people who needed it.  I looked into a few different options and decided that social work was the field through which I wanted to pursue that desire,” Renae said.

Vallas has been with New Beginnings for the entirety of her career.  She states that memorable experiences happen every day at New Beginnings.

​ “I absolutely love my job and feel so blessed and privileged to be able to be a part of families coming together.  Adoption is an extraordinary thing, and its beauty continually amazes me.  To see a birth mother who loves her baby enough to choose adoption if it is what she feels is best, despite the grief she faces – that’s a humbling thing to witness.  To see children who were formerly sitting in orphanages across the world adopted into families who love and want them with their whole hearts – there aren’t words to describe the beauty and joy of it,” she added.


Annice Simmons

Annice Simmons is a Master’s level social worker with 33 years of experience in children/family services, public health, and adoption.  She has been affiliated with New Beginnings for the past 15 years.  Annice has a long legacy in public service and social work.  Her mother, grandmother, and uncle were all long time employees of the Mississippi Department of Human Services.  She stated, “I was certain that I never wanted to be a social worker, even though I had heard about the importance of services my entire life.  In fact, I completely resisted the profession until a college professor pointed out that I seemed to have a natural understanding of the needs of individuals and social work policy after I had submitted a paper describing the importance of social work.  As I had a deep respect for this teacher, I felt that I had been called.  As it has turned out, I have been richly blessed by the opportunity to help others.  The most satisfying outcomes I have experienced involve completing families through adoption.  Those adoptive families that open their hearts and homes to parentless children are among the most generous people that I know.  Additionally, birth parents are selfless in that they most often have placed the needs of their children above their own.  Over the years, my primary objective has developed into a personal philosophy that drives me to be the best support I can be for all those I have served.”


Debbie Velie

Debbie Velie has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and has been at New Beginnings for 27 years, since the founding of the agency.  She chose a career in social work because of the blessing adoption has been in their lives. Tom and Debbie have two daughters adopted internationally. Their daughters are now grown, married and each have two beautiful children. She loves and believes in the beauty of adoption, and it has touched her life in so many ways. In looking back on 27 years of adoption work, it would be impossible to pick a most memorable event, but the reward has been in working with many courageous birthmoms, their beautiful babies and the wonderful adoptive parents.