Betti Watters was the recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi Chapter.
This award goes to Mississippi NASW members who have made significant contributions to the field of professional social work throughout their professional careers in Mississippi.
A native Jacksonian, she has served as a professional social worker in numerous capacities in both public and private settings.
In a career spanning almost 50 years, Watters has worked tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable children and youth by developing innovative programs in the areas of foster care and adoption.
The Northsider started her social work career at was then the Mississippi Department of Public Welfare. She is proud of the excellent work they did, and specifically mentions having her own mentor, Sarah Caldwell, to guide and support her. Watters developed the program of foster care for infants awaiting adoption. She placed a large number of African American children of all ages who had languished in foster care, and began a program for foster children with medical needs.
At Mississippi Children’s Home, she was the director of adoptions and maternity. She started a program to place infants from the agency nursery into foster homes, developed a program to place older children and those with special needs for adoption, and began strong recruitment for African American families to adopt. She also began a support and advocacy group for adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents, which led to legislation allowing adoptees to search for their birth parents.
At Catholic Charities, as the director of Adoptions, Maternity and Infant Foster Care, she began a residential program for drug-addicted mothers and their children. She developed contracts with Illinois, Texas, and Minnesota to place their children with Mississippi families and she also began a move to place international children for adoption. She continued to expand her work with adoptees and birth parents. Watters retired from Catholic Charities, and went on to her next venture. She saw the need for an evidenced-based teen pregnancy prevention program in the state and put significant energy and resources into developing the Mississippi Campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention, where she served as board president.
She has received numerous awards, including the Excellence in Placing Children with Special Needs Award by Adoption Options, the Adoption Service Award given by Wendy’s Children’s Day of Hope, was a 2007 Southern Christian Services for Children and Youth Hands of Providence awardee and was chosen for the Congressional Angels in Adoption Award sponsored by Senator Thad Cochran.
Watters continues to volunteer with her church, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, where she is involved with Stewpot Community Services and the Meals on Wheels program. She also participates in St. Andrew’s Sudanese Ministry and works with church missions.
She is married to Walker Watters and has four children and eight grandchildren.