By Morgan Goad, Associate Director of Development, Jewish Family Services
November was Adoption Awareness Month, and it’s always the busiest month on JFS Connecting Hearts’ calendar!
Every November for the last five years, we have partnered with WTVR CBS 6 to present “A Hand to Hold”: a multimedia campaign that puts the spotlight on children and teens in Central Virginia’s foster care system. Nearly 800 kids of all ages and backgrounds in our community are awaiting loving families, and the pandemic makes their dreams even more difficult to achieve.
We kicked off the campaign with CONNECT, a virtual beer, wine, and cider tasting event co-presented alongside Garden Grove Brewing Co. and WTVR CBS 6.
Longtime Connecting Hearts events emcee, CBS 6 anchor Bill Fitzgerald, reprised his role as host and enthusiastic advocate. The event featured interviews recorded with three teenagers who experienced foster care. Each shared their answer to a simple question: what can adults do to help kids like them? Fitzgerald echoed one of the most powerful answers: “to catch me when I fall.”
JFS Connecting Hearts connects potential foster, adoptive, and kinships parents year-round to local Departments of Social Services across Central Virginia, with the goal of finding loving families for every child in foster care.
‘A Hand to Hold’
But nothing attracts more attention to the needs of kids in care than the “A Hand to Hold” campaign. Three times a day for every day in November, CBS 6 features the voices and stories of children in foster care.
The children featured are often the most difficult to match with a loving home – teenagers, groups of siblings, and kids with complex needs – giving thousands of potential parents a unique chance to connect with a child they might never have gotten the opportunity to meet.
Here’s just a few highlights of the “A Hand to Hold” campaign’s 2021 impact:
- 94 families contact JFS Connecting Hearts to learn more about specific children or the foster-to-adopt process in general.
- So far, 10 families have already begun working with their Local Department of Social Services or a Licensed Child Placement Agency to begin the process for fostering or adopting a child.
The campaign’s audience numbers also reached new highs:
- 883,000 viewers on television.
- 707,000 social media engagements.
- 3,000 visitors to the JFS Connecting Hearts website.
We also heard many stories from adults who knew one of the featured children.
One caller said, “One of the children was a member of our church youth group, so it broke our hearts when we saw him on the news. We’ve been praying for him.”
Another shared how she’d grown up with two boys’ mother and was interested in adopting them.
A third person told us, “I was surprised to see her on CBS. We always had a great relationship: I’m an author and she loved reading my books. I would love to adopt her.”
To everyone who tuned in to CBS 6, shared the posts on social media, or attended CONNECT, thank you! It is truly an honor to share our mission with you. JFS Connecting Hearts is also profoundly grateful for all our CONNECT sponsors – Debbie Johnston, Eric Shoenfeld, Sandy Sisisky, Hirschler, Truist, Carroll Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Susan Brewer, and Nancy and Tom McCandlish.
Your compassion for children and teens in foster care in our community is humbling, and we hope to CONNECT with you again soon!
For more on JFS visit jfsrichmond.org/connect
Jewish Family Services is supported, in part, by a generous annual contribution and programming grants from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.