May is Foster Care Month
By Laura Pitts
Foster Care Adoption Program Manager
A lot of our CHS families get questions from their friends and family about how the foster system works and why kids need to be adopted. Below is an easy guide to learn more!
Why do kids enter foster care?
Children of all ages, 0 to 17, enter the foster system through no fault of their own. Social services intervenes to bring a child into foster care when there is an unsafe situation with the caregivers in the home, such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Caregivers are often struggling with substance use, mental health, and/or instability of some sort (financial, housing, etc.). Children might enter foster care on an emergency basis, but often a judge will order the move to foster care if concerns have not been resolved after a period of services to the family. At this time, the Department of Social Services becomes the legal custodian of the child.
How long are they in care? Why do some kids need to be adopted?
Children and youth are in foster care for the length of time it takes to reunify them with their birth family, or move them into the care of safe relatives. This can be a few months or almost a year. If Social Services has not witnessed improvements after about 13 months, they will consider termination of parental rights and begin to plan for other permanent arrangements. Sometimes, permanency comes in the form of adoption. Depending on how long it takes to identify an adoptive family, some youth are in foster care for many years.
How does adoption happen?
Children’s Home Society is a private agency that partners with Social Services to help find adoptive families for waiting youth. We primarily help children over the age of 12, since they are at higher risk of leaving foster care without a permanent connection. CHS helps recruit, train, and approve adoptive families and then assists in the process of matching parents and kids. Adoption is a legal process that happens in court towards the end of a supervisory period. We love celebrating new adoptions!
What does it mean when a child “ages out” of foster care?
If a young person is not adopted, he or she will eventually “age out” of the foster system sometime between age 18 and 21. This means they are out on their own in the world, often without a strong, safe family connection for support.
How can I help?
You can adopt! You can foster! Or you can donate to our amazing programs geared towards helping find permanent families for foster youth and support those who age out. Read more about our programs on our website: chsva.org