May is National Foster Care Month!
National Foster Care Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau. Each May serves as a time to acknowledge and recognize foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help youth in foster care find permanent, loving homes.
In Virginia, when a child is abused or neglected in their home, they are oftentimes removed from that home and placed into foster care. This means they are placed in a temporary home either with a family, in a group home, or in a residential facility until they can safely be reunited with their family, adopted by another family, or turn 18 and age out of foster care.
At Children’s Home Society, our teams work directly with the children and youth in foster care to find them permanent adoptive families or to help them transition into adulthood if they age out of foster care without a permanent family. On top of that, we also do statewide advocacy to improve the foster care system.
While it is crucial for our teams to help each individual child or youth touched by the foster care system, we also recognize that the system itself is far from perfect and we want to directly impact improvements to that system – improvements that will affect every child touched by foster care.
One of the key issues with the foster care system we’ve identified is a lack of kinship support for relatives who might be able to care for children in foster care.
This year, the National Foster Care Month initiative aims to shed light on the importance of relative and kin connections.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of relative and kin connections as well as more about our advocacy efforts.
National Foster Care Month
Relative & Kin Connections
Currently, there are more than 407,000 youth in foster care. Of the 407,000 youth in foster care, 34% were placed with relatives or kin.
The term kin simply means those related by blood or marriage. There is also “fictive” kin, which refers to those who are unrelated but have such a close emotional relationship that they are considered like family to the youth.
When youth cannot remain safely in their home, placement with relatives and kin can increase stability and help youth maintain a sense of family, belonging, and identity.
When in-home care is not feasible, the inclusion of kin and extended family members in case planning expands placement and permanency options for youth.
Kinship care can also reduce the trauma that youth face, preserve cultural identity, and has a higher likelihood that siblings will remain together.
The Importance of Advocacy
In addition to a lack of kinship supports, other key issues with the foster care system that our advocacy team has identified include an unstable workforce and a lack of workforce development supports for youth that age out of foster care. While our team simultaneously works with each youth and family to address these issues on an individual level, our advocacy team works to reduce these issues at a statewide level, removing barriers to healthy, happy families who can help children heal and grow into independent, successful adults.
We work with community partners, other advocacy groups, private providers, leaders at the state and local levels, and children and families to identify what needs to be fixed at a systems level. We then identify how we as a state can fix those problems.
Children in foster care will always need our social work team to help them navigate the system, but our goal is that our advocacy team reduces a lot of the barriers the social work team faces on a daily basis – barriers that affect the lifelong outcomes of children in foster care.
The General Assembly
Our biggest foster care advocacy work happens at the Virginia General Assembly. The Virginia General Assembly meets in January of every year. In even years, the session is 60 days. In odd years, the session is typically 46 days.
During the General Assembly, our Advocacy Program members meet with legislators from both the House and the Senate to discuss policy changes.
During the General Assembly session and throughout the year, we also invite families, youth, and social workers to talk to these legislators as well. The most important day we bring youth and social workers to talk with legislators is during Advocacy Day.
During Advocacy Day, we coordinate with families and have several meetings with legislators throughout the day. We break up into groups and each group meets with two or three legislators.
The Children’s Home Society of VA | Supporting Virginia Foster Care & National Foster Care Month
One great part about our advocacy work is that anyone can get involved! If you are not in a place to adopt a child right now, you may still be in a place to meet with your legislator, let them know that children in foster care need our help, and ask them to prioritize legislative issues related to foster care and to increase funding for the system itself.
You can write “letters to the editor” to publications to help us spread the word about the foster care crisis in Virginia and get even more of the community involved in solving these problems. You can also join us on our legislative Advocacy Day to show your support for children and youth in foster care. If you want to learn more about raising awareness, please reach out to Cassie Baudean for more information: 804-353-0191, ext. 334 | firstname.lastname@example.org
In Virginia, there are nearly 5,400 children in the foster care system, and 700 of those youth are ready to be adopted. If you are thinking about adoption, CHS is here to help you through the whole process and even after with our Post Adoption Programs.
These are some of the waiting children currently looking for a permanent, loving home. If you would like to learn more about adoption, click below!
Please help us spread the word about National Foster Care Month by sharing this blog! Be sure to like us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to always stay up-to-date on advocacy news! We will be providing information from this year’s General Assembly in the coming months.