Category Archives: Foster-Adopt

May is National Foster Care Month!

May is National Foster Care Month! With many children and youth facing increased isolation over the past year, it is more important than ever for communities to work together to establish meaningful connections for children and youth in care. Learn more. #NFCM2021 #FosterCareMonth https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth

There are over 423,000 children and youth in foster care. Over half have a case plan goal of reunification with their parents or primary caregiver. 

Juvenile and family court systems can influence whether children are reunified with their families or reenter care.

Meaningful and appropriate involvement of youth in their own court hearings and case planning greatly benefits all participants and leads to more favorable outcomes for families.

Competent legal representation for parents is associated with the achievement of timely reunification.

A strong support system of professionals and family can help young people address the challenges they face during their transition to adulthood. Virtual engagement tools can be used to establish and maintain that support system by enhancing connectedness for all involved.

In addition to supporting brain development, encouraging young people to be active participants in planning their own lives supports the development of leadership skills, improves self-esteem, and helps form critical social connections. 

September is…Kinship Month

What is Kinship Care?

Kinship care is a term defined in the Code of Virginia as “the full time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives.”

Informal Kinship Care

Informal Kinship Care refers to an arrangement made by parents or other family members without any involvement from the court or child welfare system.

Formal Kinship Care

Formal Kinship Care is when legal custody is granted by a formal order of Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge to the kinship care provider or the local Department of Social Services. If the Department has legal custody of the child, the child is in Foster Care.

When the child is removed and placed into Foster Care, the agency may place the child with a relative or non-relative approved foster family. Once a child enters Foster Care, they can only be in an approved foster care placement. Relatives wanting to become a Foster Care placement option for a child in care should contact the Department of Social Services to begin the approval process.

In addition to working a Return Home or “Reunification” goal with the birth parents, Virginia law requires agencies to consider relatives as a short term or permanent placement option.

Why is Kinship Care so Important?

When children are placed in Kinship Care, they experience greater continuity of care and family preservation. Children living with kin have a greater sense of permanency, nurturing, safety and well-being. Kinship care also provides an opportunity to continue family connections, culture, traditions, values and goals.

Waiting Children

There are 515,000 children in Foster Care in the United States. There are approximately 5,000 children in Foster Care in Virginia. Of these children, more than 600 are waiting for adoptive families.

See our list of waiting children here.

Meet Issabelle

Meet JoRyan

Meet Alea

Meet Brien

Meet Sade

Meet Amber

Meet Fusion

Meet Kayla

Meet Michael

Meet Savannah

Meet William

Children who age out of the foster care system , those who reach age 18 without achieving a permanent home environment, often face lifetime challenges, including homelessness, incarceration, and a lack of educational attainment.

Could you be someone’s forever family? 

Get to Know… Foster Love Ministries

Foster Love Ministries provides ministry and support to the local foster care community.  We envision a community where foster families and children experience God’s Love through relational support, education, and tangible needs.

Foster Love Ministries wants to spread our message of hope and compassion. We believe that a single action can make a difference in the community, and that collective action can greatly impact the world. Through advocacy and outreach activities, our team works tirelessly each day to contribute their part to the greater good.

Visit this link to learn more about them:

https://www.facebook.com/Fosterloveministries/

JOURNEY BAGS

Did you know.. sometimes when a child enters foster care a trash bag is used to hold their personal belongings?  A TRASH BAG!  This is unacceptable.  For very little cost, you can show a child they are loved and not forgotten.  Perhaps you feel called to help, but feel that taking on a foster child is too difficult at this time.  This is an easy way to brighten a child’s outlook.  

Seeking a Permanent Home

‘I know I deserve a family,’ teen in Virginia’s foster care system still waiting after dozens of moves

By K. BURNELL EVANS • Richmond Times-Dispatch October 27, 2017

Dymond doesn’t unpack.

After 36 moves in five years, the 16-year-old has learned not to hang up her clothes or tuck them into the drawers of the place she’ll leave next. She moved four times over a two-week period this fall. She feels numb, and misunderstood.

“It’s the unknown,” she said of what eats away at her. “You don’t know where you’re going next. You don’t know where you’re going.”

Dymond and hundreds of other teens in Virginia’s foster care system hoping to find a permanent home last year faced tough odds.

Parents looking to adopt often have younger children in mind. The median age of the 747 children adopted last year was about 7, according to state data for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Sixteen-year-olds accounted for only 21 of those, or about 3 percent of overall adoptions.

Although the number of teens entering foster care declined 10 percent between the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years, from 887 to 798, Virginia recently has ranked the worst in the country for the percent of children who turn 18 and age out of the foster care system without being adopted.

Dymond was among the 80 percent of eligible 16-year-olds who did not find a family last year. Krista Watson has been working to change that from the moment she walked into Dymond’s bedroom at an area group home nearly a year ago.

“She can read people really fast,” said Watson, a grant-funded worker at the Children’s Home Society of Virginia who specializes in picking the right family for older children and children with special needs.

Watson’s approach is child-focused and begins with interviews, a daylong review of her client’s file, and the question, “Who in your life makes you feel loved?”

It’s an intensive approach that leads her to track down former teachers, coaches, childhood friends and extended family members with whom a child feels a connection.

Watson, one of three Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters the Dave Thomas Foundation sponsors in Virginia, came to the Children’s Home Society in August 2009. In that time, her work has resulted in 79 successful adoptions.

Her first meeting with Dymond was full of long silences. Now, the teen said she counts Watson among the two people in her life who make her feel loved. The other is a social worker.

Dymond knows she deserves more: someone to watch “Law & Order” with; someone who will join in her irrepressible fits of laughter; someone who won’t try to change her and, most importantly, someone who will keep her safe.

“I’m loving, I’m loyal, I stand up for myself,” she said. “I know what is and what isn’t.”

She wants to be a mother one day in a way the woman who gave her life and left her with post-traumatic stress disorder never was.

Dymond said the abuse, born of alcoholism, began when she was 5 and ended at 12.

“I had to raise myself,” Dymond said. “At 9, I knew. They said something along the lines of, ‘We can hurt you, but no one else can,’ and (I decided) … I’m not going to let nobody else run over me.” The

Times-Dispatch agreed not to use Dymond’s last name or locality of residence to protect her privacy. Dymond agreed to share her story to combat misconceptions about teens in foster care and to raise awareness ahead of November, which is National Adoption Month.

One out of five kids in Virginia’s foster care system turns 18 and ages out of the system without being adopted, according to the Children’s Home Society of Virginia, a statewide organization with offices in Richmond and Fredericksburg.

Those teens who are not adopted face an uncertain future, according to the agency, which estimates 25 percent will become involved with the justice system in two years; 42 percent will drop out of high school; and 20 percent will become homeless after age 18.

Those challenges compound prior trauma that children entering Virginia’s foster care system typically face.

Neglect was the most common reason children were removed from their homes across the state in the fiscal year that ended June 30, followed by a rising number of cases involving a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse, according to data provided by the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Many of the 2,641 cases reported include more than one reason for removal. Physical or sexual abuse was a factor in a combined 487 cases, and inadequate housing contributed in 434, the agency said.

People “think we’re all troublemakers, that we’re uncontrollable,” Dymond said. Many foster care youth struggle with feelings that they are to blame for their circumstances, she added.

Dymond has learned to advocate for herself in situations where she feels out of place or unsafe, telling social workers, lawyers and judges what she is and is not willing to put up with. She said she has defended herself in six instances that ended in assault and battery charges against her.

“Those were about me protecting myself,” she said. “People put their hands on me, pushed me. When I responded, I took it too far; my senses are heightened because of what I’ve been through.”

She is working through it. The last time a woman grabbed Dymond’s arm, she walked away; out of the group home and into the world, until she found herself in a church whose leaders encouraged her to return to the residence. She did.

Prospective adoptive families who work with Watson and the Children’s Home Society of Virginia take classes to prepare for the life experiences teens will be bringing through their doors, and have follow-up care and resources available after children come home.

No class can fully prepare you for what a child has been through, said Kim Spencer, an adoptive mother of two children in foster care who are now 23 and 15.

“You can’t go into it expecting the relationship to be, ‘You’re my mom and I love you,’ ” Spencer said. “The main thing to remember in working with teens is that you need to meet them where they are, accept that your world is going to change and pick your battles — allow them to have some control.”

She learned the latter lesson when she and her husband, Jim, went to pick up their first child, Aubry, then 14½. The three had spent time together leading up to that day, but Aubry ran when it was time to go home, which then was her general response when things became overwhelming, Spencer said.

“She took off, and we asked when we found her: ‘What would it take for you to come home with us?’ She said she wanted to say goodbye to her friends,” Spencer said. “So we said, ‘OK, we’ll come back (in a few days),’ and it worked.”

Aubry had already moved 10 times, Spencer said. A child in the foster care system will enter an average of 2.5 homes before being adopted, according to the state.

“You have to come into this with your eyes wide open because it’s not for everyone,” Spencer said of adopting older children. “But it’s so, so worth it.”

She laughed, recalling a friend’s admonition against adopting a child over age 10 before even Aubry had entered their lives. The couple are thinking of adopting a third teen from the foster care system.

There were nearly 800 teens in foster care, including Dymond, as of this summer. The number of those who were available for adoption was not immediately available.

The wait takes its toll.

“Eventually, you feel like giving up,” Dymond said. “I’ve been told so many times, ‘You’re going to find a home; we’re going to find you a family.’ ”

“I know I deserve a family.”

In bad moments, she blocks out her feelings and, in good moments, she waits for the bad ones to return. In between, she writes poems, reads James Patterson, and listens to hip-hop and R&B.

Dymond doesn’t share her writing, but she did share her dreams for the future: a strong support network, three children — including a pair of boy-and-girl twins, and a job in government, helping people.

“Maybe a corrections officer,” she said. “When I was locked up, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Maybe I can be that person for someone else.”

For now, she will continue to keep her clothes in a suitcase where they shouldn’t belong.

How Foster Parenting Has Changed Me

How Foster Parenting Has Changed Me

Dr. John DeGarmo Leading expert in Parenting and Foster Care Field.

“How has your life changed while being a foster parent?”

It was a question I had been asked a great deal of late. Recently, I had been doing the rounds of radio and tv interviews while promoting my newest book, Faith and Foster Care. Like most people, many of the radio and tv hosts had very little knowledge of what being a foster parent is really about. I would imagine many of your own friends and family members don’t really understand what you do, either. Additionally, they likely do not understand how your life has changed.

I have said it many times, in many places; foster parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. It IS hard work. At the same time, it is also Heart Work. It is the most important job I have done, as well. I have been able to watch the lives of over 50 children change while living in my home.

Yet my life has changed, also, in so many ways, in so many areas. Of the 50 plus children that has come to my home, come to live with my family, each has made me a better person and has made an impact on my life in some way.

I have learned to love deeper, more openly, and without abandon. I have learned to love each child that comes into my home in an unconditional manner, and without reservations. I am no longer ashamed to tell people that I love them. I cry openly now, and am no longer embarrassed when it happens. The saying that “real men don’t cry” is rubbish to me. I have become an emotional cripple in that manner, yet in a healthy way. In a way that I embrace.

Foster parenting has created a sense of urgency within me to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Perhaps it is due to the children’s horror stories that I have been witness to, and have watched come through my home. I now am able to see the pain and suffering in others, and am better equipped to help them. To be sure, I have always been one that has wanted to help others, but since I have become a foster parent to children who have suffered from abuse, from neglect, and from being abandoned, all by those who profess to love them the most-their birth family members, I have felt compelled to help even more.

I have learned to forgive more. Love and forgiveness are two actions that are intertwined, and cannot be separated. If we truly love others, then we need to forgive, as well. Without forgiveness, there is no love. When I was angry towards our foster teen’s mother, I was in no way sharing love. Instead, my stomach was in knots, and I was one tense parent. I was shackled by my own inability to forgive someone, a prisoner to a debilitating emotion. Yet when I did forgive her, it felt like a weight was taken off my own shoulders. One of the amazing things about the act of forgiving others is that it allows us better use our energies towards something that is more constructive, more positive. Forgiveness frees us from the forces of hate and evil, and instead allows us to draw closer to others, and gives us more strength to do the work we are called to do. When we forgive the actions of our foster child’s birth parents, not only are we showing love to them, and empowering ourselves, we are also honoring our foster children.

Foster parenting has transformed me into becoming a better parent to my own children, husband to my wife, and citizen to my community and the world. For each child that has come through my home, I give thanks. For each child that has allowed my family to grow, you will always be part of my family. For each child that spent time in the foster care system while living with my family, I shall always love you.

To my fellow foster parents, thank you for what you do. Thank you for making sacrifices in your own life to care for those in need. Thank you for loving children without abandon, and as family. Thank you for changing the lives of those in need. May your own lives be changed, as well.

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 14 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including Faith and Foster Care: How We Impact God’s Kingdom, and writes for several publications, including Fostering Families Today. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.

 

 

Little Known Facts About Fostering

Little Known Facts About Foster Parenting

 

  • Single individuals as well as married couples can become foster parents
  • Over 80% of Virginia’s foster parents adopt a child who they fostered
  • There are national organizations that provide training, support and advocacy for foster parents
  • Foster parents have a right to attend court hearings on their foster child and can discuss their concerns with the judge
  • Foster parents also are expected to help develop the service plan for the child with the social worker

We Never Outgrow Need for Family

A message from the Commissioner of Virginia Department of Social Services:

Right now in Virginia, nearly a third of the 869 foster care youth awaiting adoption are teenagers.  This is why I am so excited about this year’s National Adoption Month theme: “We Never Outgrow the Need for Family”.  This year, as the Virginia Social Services System continues the hard work of identifying permanent, loving families for all of Virginia’s waiting children, we will work especially hard to emphasize the need for permanent families for older youth in foster care.

Throughout the month of November, our website and social media sites will feature adoption information to assist families and adoption professionals on a weekly basis.   On November 21, in honor of National Adoption Month, many local departments are hosting adoption celebrations throughout the Commonwealth.  These and other events are so important because child welfare professionals, as well as prospective and current adoptive families, need relevant information regarding waiting children, the adoption process and post adoption services.  Awareness is a critical component of increasing interest, understanding, and ultimately the connections made toward the goal of foster care and adoption.

Last year Governor McAuliffe appointed Debbie J. Johnston as the State Adoption Champion.  This past spring, Ms. Johnson established Connecting Hearts, the Debbie J. Johnston Charity, to bring awareness to the number of foster care youth available for adoption, and the need to recruit foster-to-adopt families across Virginia.  In just a short year, Connecting Hearts visited all five regions across the state to gather feedback from public and private child welfare professionals regarding barriers to adoption.  Today, VDSS’ Division of Family Services, in collaboration with Connecting Hearts, is hosting the first annual Adoption Summit for adoption professionals.  The summit will provide workshops on successful recruitment efforts and strategies as well as testimonials from former foster youth.  Governor Terry A. McAuliffe and Secretary William A. Hazel, M.D. are attending this special event, to applaud adoption professionals for their work in finalizing adoptions for 620 children last year, and support our efforts to find permanent homes for the 869 children still awaiting adoption in Virginia.

Thank you for your efforts to help raise awareness about the adoption of children and older youth from foster care!  I encourage you to visit the National Adoption Month 2015 website https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/adoption/nam/, which has adoption resources for a variety of audiences, including prospective and adoptive parents, birth parents, adopted youth and adults, and child welfare professionals. The website contains resources, stories, and videos on topics including ways to recruit families for older youth, outreach tools, and information for prospective adoptive families.

For more information about National Adoption Month and to learn about local programs and activities in your community, visit the Adoption Event Calendar, http://spark.dss.virginia.gov/divisions/dfs/ap/festivities.cgi, or contact Sondra Draper, Adoption Specialist, at sondra.draper@dss.virginia.gov.

I cannot thank you enough for your diligence in identifying lifelong connections for our waiting youth.  This is special work that affords children the love and support they need to achieve successful outcomes as they enter adulthood.  Have a great and productive National Adoption Month!

Christmas Project

Each year as autumn begins, we match Christmas gift donors (church, civic organization, business or individual) with children in care. Each child submits a wish list and donors buy and wrap several items from the list (within limits of affordability and availability)

Christmas Project 2015 has begun… letters have been sent to local churches and to interested businesses and individuals… later this month we will ask children to send in their wish lists… as we get wish lists we will match them to donor groups (early to mid November)… that will give donors time to coordinate their activities, buy, wrap and deliver gifts to our Verona office between December 14 and 18.

Wish Lists are arriving… being matched to donors… Thanks to all who are participating!

Send your mailing address to  Heather Hudnall at  heather.hudnall@dss.virginia.gov for more information.

Get to Know CRAFFT

CRAFFT:   The Consortium for Resource, Adoptive and Foster Family Training

CRAFFT promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children by helping shape stronger foster, adoptive, respite, and kinship families (collectively referred to as resource families) who serve local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) to meet the needs of children and youth in Virginia’s child welfare system.

CRAFFT’s goals are:

  1. to increase the knowledge and skills of prospective and currently approved resource families through the development and delivery of standardized, competency- based, pre-and in-service training, as required by VDSS; and
  2. to build capacity among (LDSS) to train and assess their own families.

Learn more by visiting http://www.crafftva.org/

There is a CRAFFT Coordinator assigned to each of the five VDSS regions to respond to the pre-service and in-service training needs of LDSS resource families and LDSS staff. Most of the trainings offered by CRAFFT are open to all LDSS resource families and staff in the assigned region. However, occasionally trainings are limited to resource families and LDSS staff from one agency/locality.

Or contact our Coordinator directly:

icon three circlesPiedmont Region CRAFFT Coordinator
Susan Taylor
Radford University
School of Social Work
Box 6958
Radford, VA 24142
staylor22@radford.edu
804-347-4095

Current or prospective resource families interested in participating in a training provided by CRAFFT should contact their LDSS worker to express their interest. LDSS will contact CRAFFT to schedule trainings and to enroll prospective parents.