The Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHS) is a leading innovator in finding loving families and support for children whose birth parents are unavailable or unable to do so. Innovation sparked the creation of CHS in 1900 when it was formed to place children in permanent homes as a better alternative to the orphanages of the day, which often failed to provide adequate basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter, or higher-level needs, such as emotional support and life-skills training.
In the nearly 120 years since its founding, CHS has been at the forefront of crafting solutions to the evolving challenges these kids face. Today, in addition to facilitating private adoptions, CHS specializes in finding permanent homes for harder to place teens or children with physical or emotional challenges, often due to abuse or neglect. Our social workers are specially trained on the effects physical and emotional trauma have on childhood development and on techniques for dealing with those issues. Trauma informed care guides how we match children with adoptive parents and how we educate and support families with children who have been through trauma to ensure they thrive post-adoption.
CHS’s entrepreneurial spirit lives on today in My Path Forward (formerly The Possibilities Project,) a program we started four years ago to address a serious unmet need – the high number of children aging out of the foster care system without being adopted and without the resources or life-skills needed to make the adjustment to adulthood. These young adults experience significantly higher rates of school dropouts, unemployment, homelessness, teen pregnancy, incarceration and other problems. Informed by the latest best practices research on how to serve this population, CHS partnered with the Better Housing Coalition to provide these young people assistance with housing, transportation, life-skills coaching and a sense of permanent support and connection. In its first four years, the program has successfully enrolled over 30 young people and has recently graduated several participants who are now independent adults. In addition, in conjunction with several partners, our advocacy work on behalf of children in foster care and those who have aged out has resulted in sweeping new legislation beginning the transformation of the foster system and we will continue that work in the coming year with recommendations for further systemic changes to help youth who have or who are about to age out.
The amazing CHS staff embody our culture of empathy and entrepreneurial spirit. They drive us to find and support loving families for kids with the most challenging needs and to envision creative new solutions to address the unmet needs of those aging out of foster care. Their knowledge and enthusiasm are inspiring. Their efforts are supported and overseen by a diverse, talented board of directors with a wide variety of experiences and perspectives. Our board members represent the race and gender of the children and families we serve, and include adoptees, adoptive parents, experts in child psychology, child social services, business, finance and law, and other community volunteers.
It is a pleasure serving with such a devoted group and a truly rewarding experience to witness the life-changing impact CHS has on the children we place in forever homes or support as they transition into adulthood.
Carlon R. Zanders
2020-21 Board of Directors Chair