By Morgan Goad
May is National Foster Care Month, and every year JFS Connecting Hearts takes this opportunity to raise awareness about the nearly 1,000 children in central Virginia’s foster care system.
Local youth spend more than two years in foster care on average; most wait almost three years to be adopted. In the last year, almost as many “aged out” as were adopted or reunified with their families. About 20% of children who “age out” become homeless; half develop a substance dependence; only 3% ever earn a college degree. But, a positive relationship with just one loving, supportive adult can change a child’s life forever! Several studies have found that, with a caring adult in their lives, youth in foster care grow up to become healthier, happier, and more successful.
There are many different ways you can help support local kids and teens in foster care! This year’s theme for National Foster Care Month is “Keeping Families Strong,” highlighting the important role that other caregivers beyond birth or foster families – relatives, mentors, family friends – can play in a child’s life, and how they can all work together to raise a child. There’s no reason for children to have to choose when everyone works together for them!
Maybe you know a foster family in your neighborhood? Just a little support can go a long way to help the children in their care! Whether it’s as a formal, trained respite parent or just informally as friends, there’s lots of things you can do. Maybe bring them your favorite casserole, offer to host a playdate, or be a calm voice of advice over coffee. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a cliché for a reason – it’s true!
Another way to help is as simple as remembering kids in foster care as you participate in your normal activities. Maybe you’re already a volunteer coach, a Sunday school teacher, or involved in a PTA. In almost every group of kids, one has likely experienced foster care. Something as simple as a little extra attention can make a difference in a child’s life in ways you might not expect.
Have you ever thought about becoming a foster parent? If so, get in touch with us! JFS Connecting Hearts can help answer your questions and support you on your journey. The next training classes start May 17 – if you’re interested in signing up, contact Denise Wise-David at email@example.com or (804) 349-0786.
We are also humbled to partner again with WTVR CBS 6 to spread our message during National Foster Care Month! This year, you can tune in to hear from several foster families about their unique relationships with birth families and how they work together to give children the brightest possible future. Be sure to follow JFS Connecting Hearts on Facebook – facebook.com/ConnectingHeartsVA – so you don’t miss the features!
Jewish Family Services is supported, in part, by a generous annual contribution and programming grants from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.