One woman’s story shows how people need people. Meet Courtney Hagen, the Training & Development Manager of Foster Care at Caritas, the agency that changed her life. Courtney’s story embodies Caritas’ values and mission of creating a legacy of love.
Her journey with Caritas began the day she was born. Her birth mother was a young woman who had just started college and was not ready to be a mother. She wanted to provide Courtney with the best life possible and knew there were families out there ready, willing, and able to give her every opportunity they could. Choosing adoption was the most difficult and selfless decision she could make. Because of that decision, Courtney was raised with all the love in the world by two doting parents that cheered her on at sports games, smiled through tears at her graduation, and gave her a lifetime of unforgettable memories.
Now, years later, Courtney’s giving back to the agency that changed her life and is inspiring others to do the same. Her story shows that even in difficult circumstances, there is always hope and a chance for a better life. She said, “I wanted to help create those fairy tale endings for others; I knew how important that work was. So that is where I ended up 24 years later- fresh out of college, five days post-graduation, applying for a case manager position with the agency I was adopted through, then known as Christian Social Services. And so began a new chapter in my life, one I had no idea would change me forever.”
Courtney quickly learned that being a case manager is not for the weak. As the backbone of child welfare, they are road warriors who work countless hours with children and families in the field. The fairy tale ending happens due to blood, sweat, and tears from all involved. As a case manager, Courtney has seen it all, “I have picked children up in the middle of the night after weeks on the run and sat with them at the office while we looked for a home. I’ve watched a child find his forever home after too many years in care, I watched children celebrate birthdays and holidays, building new relationships with people who were previously strangers welcoming them into their home. I’ve clapped in a courtroom after families are reunited, and when new families are created. I have sat with a child receiving chemotherapy and then sat with his mother to console her after he passed away. These are a few of the stories, some happy, some sad, but all remind me that people just need people—and because of that, child welfare became my passion.”
That passion drove Courtney to continue her education, eventually earning a Master’s in Psychology. By January 2021, she had worked her way up to Foster Care Supervisor and opened a new office in Sparta to assist the Belleville and Carterville regions. Shortly after, in April of 2022, she was promoted to Training & Development Manager of Foster Care, where she helps train and develop Caritas’ future generation of foster care staff with the same acceptance and compassion that was ingrained in her, allowing more case managers to go on and make an even bigger impact and so Caritas’s legacy grows.
We’re so grateful to Courtney for sharing her story and allowing us to witness the legacy of love come full circle. To close out this year, we want to leave you with a quote from Courtney that describes Caritas and all the people involved. “Our legacy has not been created alone on the passion of its case management staff or its fearless leadership. It has grown to be the agency it is in large part due to individuals willing to support Caritas’ mission of building healthy relationships, loving homes, and stronger communities in hopes that just one more life changed has the potential to impact so many more.”