A child I know has been taken into foster care. Can I help?
How can I help a child who has entered foster care, I know?
You do not need to be a blood relative to help a child who has entered foster care
There are times that the foster care system comes into contact with our lives on a personal level. A child of someone you know, but are not related to, has entered or is about to enter into foster care. What’s next?
The first question you may want to ask yourself is: “How do I want to help?” Do you want to help support the biological family? Do you want to have sole custody over the child or children?
If you want to help support the biological family, you can work together with them as their “natural support.” Each family has different needs that could have lent themselves to the child being removed. A need could be as small as helping a family with reliable transportations to their appointments or as large as providing regular care for the child while the parent works.
If you want to be involved in getting either legal or physical custody, there are a few options:
A Parental placement
This occurs during the removal process. The family member that the child is being removed from will be asked if any people would care for the child instead of the child coming into foster care. Financial or case management support is minimal.
This transfer of custody can be temporary or permanent.
Becoming a kinship placement
After the child enters foster care, the courts and Department of Social Services (DSS) can grant custody to kin. Though you may not be blood-related, the state recognizes “ fictive kin ,” which is a person who is a non-relative but has ties to the child. Fictive kin could be a teacher, a neighbor, or a friend of the family.
You would petition for custody and go through the home study process.
You may work with Departments of Social Services to ensure a child’s needs are being met.
If the child is already in foster care, the courts and Departments of Social Services will work toward reunification with the biological family first while also going through the home study process with you. Should the family not be able to regain custody, you may then be considered a placement option.
More services for Kinship Guardians are becoming available through the Family First Prevention Services Act – designed to keep children out of foster care.
Becoming a licensed foster parent
Before or after the child comes into care, contact us at FosterVA to chat about your options. You can contact the DSS in the city/county the child resided in and go through the home study process to become a licensed foster parent with them so you can provide temporary care for the child. At the same time, the courts work toward reunification with the family. You can also contact a Therapeutic Foster Care Agency (TFC)to become licensed. Still, the local DSS will often prefer to go through locally licensed foster parents first and then go to TFC parents if the child has demonstrated extraordinary need.
If you are already a licensed foster parent
If you are licensed through a different locality than the one the child has entered care through, then the child’s locality can “borrow” you to use as a foster placement.
If you are licensed through a Therapeutic Foster Care Agency and want to foster a specific child who came into care, it can be tricky. Often, localities will prefer to go through a local social service department before contracting with a TFC agency, especially if they do not consider the child to have therapeutic needs.
Should you be concerned about a child under 18 who may be experiencing abuse or neglect, please contact the Virginia Abuse and Neglect Hotline to make a report. If you’re In Virginia, call (800) 552-7096, and if you’re out-of-state, call (804) 786-8536. If you choose, you can remain anonymous.