Did you know next month is Foster Care Awareness Month? Each May we take the time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
Today, there are nearly 1,000 children in Virginia’s foster care system awaiting adoption.
In this blog, we discuss why foster care is so important and how you can help make Virginia a better place.
Foster Care Awareness Month
Children of all ages, 0 to 17, enter the foster system through no fault of their own. Social services intervene 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 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 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.
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.
If a young person is not adopted, he or she will eventually “age out” of the foster system at the age of 18. This means they are out on their own in the world, often without a strong, safe family connection for support.
“Go the Distance” Challenge
For more than 120 years, the Children’s Home Society of Virginia has walked side by side with youth in foster care who have no one to call mom or dad.
Kids in foster care need our support. This May, you can “Go the Distance” with us to support Virginia’s children, families, and youth.
Our “Go the Distance” challenge allows you to choose the distance you’ll go or the challenge you’ll make—whether walking, biking, swimming, volunteering, etc.—to demonstrate your commitment to Virginia’s at-risk children.
The “Go the Distance” challenge is an easy, fun, COVID-safe way to support Virginia’s at-risk children and youth. Just sign up as a “Go the Distance” ambassador, choose a distance you pledge to cover over the month of May and ask your friends and family to join the fun by becoming an ambassador themselves or sponsoring you by making a donation to CHS.
CHS has been going the distance, creating permanency for Virginia’s at-risk children and youth, for more than 120 years. Your participation as an ambassador will help us continue for the next 120 years in finding adoptive families for children and youth in foster care, supporting those families as well as supporting youth who have aged out of foster care without a permanent family. Your commitment as an ambassador or sponsor will truly make a difference for the children, youth, and families of Virginia!
Throughout the month of May, you’ll log your progress toward your goal and share your event participation with friends to raise awareness and financial support for children, youth, and families in Virginia.
If you are a business or organization, you can join too!
- Organizations can support the event by becoming financial sponsors or by creating a team of employees to participate.
- Challenge another organization and see which can log more distance or raise more funds.
- Share your team’s total distance or funds raised with your customers/network to help educate and increase awareness.
- Boost team participation by covering registration fees, matching a portion of funds raised, holding a prize drawing amongst participants, or creating internal competition for most funds raised.
Did you know that Virginia ranks last in the country for the rate at which youth age out of our foster care system?
My Path Forward
In Virginia, more than 400 youth age out of foster care each year.
The outcomes for youth who age out of foster care are bleak:
- 1 in 4 are incarcerated within two years.
- 1 in 5 are homeless within two years.
- Only 3% will graduate college.
My Path Forward provides housing and wrap-around services for aged-out foster youth in Virginia. My Path Forward offers housing and high-quality, evidence-based services, settings, and policies to support this population and to empower them to become engaged and productive members of our community. Our goal is for each young adult to achieve independence and to build healthy, permanent connections to adults who will provide a lifetime of support and guidance.
And we are proud to say our program works!
- 100% of MPF program participants are in safe and affordable housing
- 85% of our participants are working 20 hours or more a week
- 66% have maintained the same job for three or more months
- 85% have completed or making progress towards completion in vocational training
The strength of the My Path Forward program lies in our focus on the unique needs and goals of our participants. Our individualized case management and life coaching are provided through a trauma-focused lens that allows our staff to understand the behaviors, emotions, and needs of our clients.
Sign Up for Our “Go the Distance” Challenge
Please consider being a “Go the Distance” ambassador to support Virginia’s youth in May!
Whether you walk, run, hike, bike, swim, or whatever you like, you can make a difference! You could also pledge to complete a certain number of acts of kindness in your community, read a certain number of books, or any other creative idea you come up with.
The fee is $15, and registration ends May 31. To register, click here.
One of our adoptive families, the Matthews, who embarked on a lifetime journey of adoption three years ago, has stepped up again to take on our “Go the Distance” challenge. You can join their team or support them with donations here.
“CHS has meant the world to us in our adoption journey. Their training and support have allowed us to develop the critical attachment with our son Alston that has truly changed his life and ours. Please join us in going the distance by supporting our team in the “Go the Distance” Challenge.”
You can also just donate financially to our challenge if you feel inclined. Every dollar makes a difference in the life of a child, and no amount is too small.
Please share this blog to get the word out about our challenge!