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National Foster Care Month: Engaging Youth. Building Supports. Strengthening Opportunities

National Foster Care Month, observed every May, spotlights the thousands of children and youth in foster care across the United States. It is a poignant reminder of their critical need for safe and loving homes. Foster Care Month is a call to action to raise awareness about the challenges children face in foster care and the crucial role of supporting foster families and advocating for policies that enhance the foster care system.

National Foster Care Month - a small set of child's hands on top of a set of parent's hands. There is a white paper family cutout on the hands.During National Foster Care Month, communities celebrate foster children’s resilience and honor the dedication of foster families, social workers, and advocates who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of children in care. It’s a time to acknowledge the unique needs of foster children, including stability, nurturing relationships, and access to educational and mental health services. By raising awareness and encouraging involvement, National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity for individuals and organizations to positively impact the lives of foster youth, helping to create a brighter future for all children in care.

Since 1900, the Children’s Home Society of Virginia has served more than 17,000 Virginia children, youth, and families. Our mission today is to find permanent adoptive homes for children of all ages throughout the Commonwealth and to provide critical support services to birth families, adoptive families, and past and present adoptees.  

Since 1998, our nationally recognized Foster Care Adoption program has been committed to finding permanent, loving homes for Virginia’s children in the foster care system. Virginia has more than 700 youth waiting to be adopted, and we partner with local departments of social services to find families for older youth and sibling groups in foster care. 

Keep reading our blog, discussing why children enter foster care and how we can support foster care youth and help them successfully transition to adulthood.

May is National Foster Care Month

Youth get placed in foster care due to a variety of reasons, all stemming from circumstances that threaten their safety, well-being, or ability to thrive in their biological homes. Among the most common reasons for placement are neglect, abuse, and parental substance abuse. Neglect occurs when caregivers fail to provide for a child’s basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, can lead to traumatic experiences that require removal from the home to ensure the child’s safety.

Parental substance abuse is another significant factor contributing to foster care placements. Addiction can impair caregivers’ judgment and ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their children. Additionally, children may get placed into foster care due to parental incarceration, mental illness, domestic violence, or death. In each of these situations, the primary concern is the safety and well-being of the child, prompting child welfare agencies to intervene and seek alternative placements where children can receive the care and support they need to thrive.

This year’s theme for National Foster Care Month is “Engaging Youth. Building Supports. Strengthening Opportunities.” This campaign, sponsored by the Children’s Bureau, acknowledges the vital contributions made by individuals across various child welfare sectors in supporting children, youth, and families. This year’s theme also underscores the need to establish a child welfare system that genuinely involves and uplifts young individuals who are transitioning out of foster care.

Foster Care System Key Statistics

There are more than 365,000 children and youth in the United States foster care system, including nearly 5,400 in Virginia’s foster care system. These children range in age from birth to 17. Of these 5,400 Virginia children and youth, 700 are ready for adoption right now.

  • Approximately 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year without a permanent family.
  • Once in foster care, older youth spend more time in care than their peers who enter care before age 14.
  • In 2021, an estimated 77 percent of eligible foster care youth, ages 14-21 years old, left care without receiving the federally funded services necessary to prepare them for adulthood and independent living.

Data shows extended foster care is associated with improved access to services and positive outcomes for older youth ages 18 to 21. Foster youth who transition out of care without strong connections are more likely to become homeless, be diagnosed with mental health disorders, suffer from substance abuse, and become involved in the juvenile justice system. 

About 22 percent of employed youth who have experienced foster care do not earn enough to rise out of poverty – 71 percent earn less than $25,000 a year.

Supporting Foster Care Youth As They Transition to Adulthood

Supporting foster care youth as they transition to adulthood ensures their success and well-being. We can provide assistance and guidance in several ways during this pivotal phase of their lives.

Firstly, mentorship programs can be invaluable in providing foster youth with positive role models and guidance. Mentors can offer emotional support, practical advice, and encouragement as youth navigate the challenges of adulthood. By forming meaningful connections with caring adults, foster youth can develop confidence, build life skills, and expand their social networks.

Young female barista working at a coffee shop making a cup of coffee.Education and employment opportunities are also essential for fostering independence and self-sufficiency among foster care youth. Access to quality education, vocational training, and job placement services can empower youth to pursue their academic and career goals. Scholarships, tuition waivers, and financial aid can help mitigate the barriers that foster youth often face in accessing higher education.

Additionally, providing stable housing options is critical for ensuring foster youth have a safe and supportive environment as they transition to adulthood. Housing assistance programs, transitional living arrangements, and supportive housing services can help youth secure stable housing and develop the skills necessary for independent living.

Furthermore, comprehensive support services that address the unique needs of foster youth, including mental health services, healthcare, and life skills training, are essential for their successful transition to adulthood. These services can help youth overcome past traumas, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and acquire the practical skills needed to navigate the challenges of independent living.

Supporting foster care youth transitioning to adulthood requires a coordinated effort from communities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals. By providing mentorship, education, employment opportunities, stable housing, and comprehensive support services, we can empower foster youth to achieve their full potential and thrive as they transition to adulthood.

My Path Forward

My Path Forward is a collaboration between the Children’s Home Society of Virginia and the Better Housing Coalition. This community development organization provides high-quality, affordable housing and helps build vibrant communities.

My Path Forward provides housing and wrap-around services for aged-out foster youth in Virginia. Our experienced staff tailors plans for each youth to meet their unique needs and develop their talents, ensuring they are getting ahead in life and achieving the independence they seek.

My Path Forward has two main programs: a licensed independent living arrangement for youth ages 17 to 20 and an extended services and apartment program for youth ages 21 to 25.

Independent Living Arrangement

My Path Forward-Independent Living Arrangement (MPF-ILA) is an innovative program serving young adults ages 17 to 20 who have aged out of foster care and are participating in Fostering Futures. MPF-ILA is a more structured program with increased supervision and more intensive services. ​

Our goal with MPF-ILA is for each youth to reach independence and successfully navigate the increasingly complex world of adulthood. 

The strength of the MPF-ILA program lies in our focus on our participants’ unique needs and goals. Our individualized case management and life coaching are provided through a trauma-focused lens, which allows our staff to understand our clients’ behaviors, emotions, and needs.

Currently, the MPF-ILA program has one opening in Chesterfield, Virginia. If you would like to refer a young person to our program or if you are a young adult between the ages of 17 and 20 who has aged out of foster care and is participating in Fostering Futures and would like to apply to the program, please fill out an MPF-ILA program application form:

For more information, please contact Kristina, Admissions & Outreach Specialist, at [email protected] or (804) 353-0191 ext. 310.

Extended Services and Apartment Program

This housing program is for young adults, typically between the ages of 21 and 25, who are prepared to transition into a more independent lifestyle while utilizing case management and life skills coaching to reach their aspirations.

For both programs, each participant has access to critical basics, including transportation, medical and mental health services, life skills training, support, and essential living items. We coach each youth as they pursue their educational, career, and personal goals to ensure a smooth transition into independence.

We further engage our program participants by encouraging their input into the program design and empowering them to advocate for systemic social service change.

Foster Care Adoption

If you are interested in foster care adoption, you’re in the right place. We dedicate our time to finding permanent adoptive parents for children of all ages throughout Virginia and to providing ongoing post-adoption counseling to maintain successful family relationships well after we have finalized an adoption. You will never be alone on your journey.

Our adoption process typically looks like this:

  1. Attend an orientation to learn more about the adoption process.
  2. Fill out a registration form.
  3. Finish a three-week training class to help prepare you for the unique challenges of parenting a child or teen who has faced childhood trauma such as abuse or neglect.
  4. Complete a home study and receive approval.
  5. Complete the matching process with a child or teen.
  6. Make preliminary visits with your child.
  7. Welcome your child home and begin the six-month supervisory period before finalizing the adoption. The state requires six months of supervision before legal adoption. During this time, you will also receive post-placement services.

A father with his arms around his two sons. They are all smiling.Many people have misconceptions about the adoption of an older child from foster care, but the process is easier than you think. We also strive to maintain reasonable costs to the family when adopting children and teens. Learn more about program fees here.

Adopting from foster care is a profoundly compassionate act that remarkably transforms the lives of children and families. It’s a journey filled with hope, love, and the understanding that every child deserves a stable and nurturing home. When you open your heart and home to a child in foster care, you’re not just providing a forever family; you’re offering the invaluable gift of belonging and security to a child who may have experienced hardship and uncertainty. In embracing adoption from foster care, you become a beacon of stability and unconditional love, shaping a brighter future for a child in need and enriching your life in ways you never imagined possible.

Meet Children in Foster Care Waiting for a Family

Meet our wonderful kids waiting for a permanent, loving home like yours. 

In response to new national safety and security guidelines, we can no longer publicly share photos or videos of waiting youth. If you want to become an adoptive parent, please reach out for more information on the process! 

Waiting Children

For more information on adopting from foster care, contact Justina, Foster Care & Adoption Program Manager, at [email protected] or (804) 353-0191 ext. 290.

Support Virginia Adoption This National Foster Care Month

Supporting adoption is paramount in creating stable and loving families for children in need of permanent homes. Adoption provides children with the opportunity to thrive in a nurturing environment, offering them stability, security, and the chance to build lifelong bonds with caring parents. 

By advocating for adoption, we can help ensure that every child can experience the love and stability of a forever family, regardless of their background or circumstances. Supporting adoption also benefits birth parents, adoptive parents, and the broader community by promoting compassion, understanding, and the belief that every child deserves a safe and loving home. 

Through our collective efforts to support adoption, we can make a profound difference in the lives of children and families, fostering a brighter and more inclusive future for all. If you want to support our mission financially, you can donate today.

Donate Now!

Every dollar makes a difference in the life of a child. Here are some ways we put your gifts to work building strong adoptive families in Virginia.

Please share this blog post to spread the word about the importance of supporting youth in foster care!