The State of Foster Care in Virginia
An Overview of the Foster Care System in Virginia
As of October 1st, 2021, there are a total of 5,299 children in the foster care system in the state of Virginia. Finding suitable foster homes and foster families for this diverse group of children is a constant uphill battle. The needs and circumstances of each child makes long-term solutions difficult to find.
In the United States, children enter the foster care system when their biological parent are unable to care for them. This usually means the child's welfare was in danger, involving abuse or neglect.
Many family members and caring individuals are eager to make a difference in the lives of these children, so why can't every child's needs be met?
Sometimes the prevalence of mental and physical health needs may be more than an available foster home is able to accommodate. The mental health needs of foster children can be challenging to manage. Though, foster homes are able to receive special training to expand who they are able to host in their homes.
Other times it has to do with the limited preferences a foster home may have on the age or gender of the youth, they are willing to host. The foster family can also change their mind about the age range or gender they are willing to accept into their home.
As you can see from the charts below, there are over 1,500 teens that are in need of a home. These children are just a couple of years away from transitioning into adulthood and aging out of the system. Once a foster youth turns 18 years of age, they won't be part of the social services system anymore. If they've never had access to a caring and motivating environment, they will be at extreme risk for mental health problems, teen pregnancy, and incarceration.
Some may be excited to see that there are quite a few babies in the chart. However, most babies do not generally reach the level of need for a treatment-level foster home.
Babies are the most sought-after age category for children in the child welfare system. But what happens when they're not a brand new itty bitty bundle of joy anymore? Their need for a foster home doesn't change, but unfortunately, a foster family's desire to foster children who've "grown-up" does.
In terms of the youth's gender assigned at birth, the number of boys vs. girls that require care is almost the same. We can also tell you that it is much harder to place girls than it is boys.
To be a foster parent means to provide a supportive and caring environment to a child in need. Sometimes that means being willing to accept that 13-year-old girl who has behavioral and mental health problems. A child's age may change, but their need for a safe and loving home environment never will.
When considering this, it is also essential to consider what agency or entity you choose to license yourself. They will be in charge of providing you with the support that you need to make such considerations for a foster youth that may have been outside of your original comfort zone.
You'll want to make sure that they provide training that helps you prepare for things that you had yet to consider. With the right support and training, you'll find that your original expectations of fostering will be far more rewarding than you ever thought it could be.