Taking a chance on teenagers in Virginia Foster care in 2022
Being a teenager is hard. They are stuck between childhood and adulthood. They have to balance responsibilities in the home and at school, extracurriculars, and even a job. All this on top of trying to figure out, “Who am I, other than what my parents have taught me?” Let’s also add social pressures and social media to their mix. What teens don’t need in addition to these stressors, is the lack of a safe, supportive home environment, which is what many teens in our Commonwealth are currently experiencing.
According to a monthly snapshot from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) written in January 2020, most youth who came into care were between the ages of 13 and 15, when last removed from their homes. And as noted in VDSS data taken from March 2020, just over half of all youth in care are between the ages of 13 and 21. In the central region of the state, the majority of youth in care are between the ages of 16 and 18 youth who turn 18 while in foster care are eligible to receive services through Fostering Futures.
Recently, something remarkable happened. A teen in need, searching for support, stumbled across the very website you’re on now and called to state that they needed help, that they thought they needed to be in foster care. This teen left a reportedly unsafe situation with one parent in another state, making their way across several states and sleeping on friends’ couches to get closer to a system they are familiar with. The youth reported that their sibling had been in foster care and could get the support they needed. Our family advocate contacted Child Protective Services for the county that the youth was calling from, and the next day that teen came into foster care.
The foster parent who agreed to open her home to that teen received three pieces of information when she got the call for placement: the youth’s gender, age, and initial call to advocate for their own needs. Four hours later, that teenager walked through her front door and changed both of their lives.
While this is just a chapter in the story of this young person’s life, this situation could have gone so many different ways. Because this teen saw the success of an older brother who had been placed in the foster care system and received services through Fostering Futures , they trusted that they would be able to obtain similar success. Because this teen reached out for help, they don’t have to couch surf and end up in a potentially dangerous situation. It was also a reinforcement of their belief that adults will be there when they need them. Because a foster parent was willing to open her home to a teenager based on very little information, looking past all of the “what ifs.” That may cause concern regarding teen behavior, and the teen can be in a family environment rather than possibly being placed in a group home setting.
Take a chance on a teen. You could change both of your lives for the better.