The State of Foster Care in Virginia
How many are there, who are they, and why are they in care?
Posted on Virginia DSS' website as of October 1st, 2021 there are a total of 5,288 youth in the foster care system. Finding suitable foster homes for this diverse group of young people is a constant uphill battle, and even if there was at least 1 foster home for every one of them, their needs and circumstances can limit the number of homes available to meet their needs.
Why can’t every home meet every child’s needs? There are many reasons that could be why. Sometimes it simply 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. Other times, their medical or mental health needs may be more than an available foster home is able to accommodate. Sometimes, foster homes can receive special training to expand who they are able to host in their homes, and in other cases, it is a simple matter of a foster family changing their mind about the age range or gender that they are willing to accept into their home.
As you can see from the charts below, there are over 1500 teens that might be in need of a home, as well as almost just as many for ages 1 through 6. In terms of the youth’s gender assigned at birth, the number of boys vs girls that require care is almost the same. Some of you might be excited to see based on these charts that there are quite a few “babies” in here, and if you’re one of those people we’ll have to apologize in advance because most babies do not generally reach the level of need for a treatment level foster home. We can also tell you that it is much harder to place girls than it is boys for those available to be hosted under treatment-level foster care.
For more information on the different kinds of foster care, like the “treatment level” mentioned above, please click the button below to learn more.
..."But I Wanted A Baby!"
We’ve been in social work long enough to know that there’s nothing more precious than a brand new itty bitty bundle of joy and that they are the most sought-after age category for children in care. 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.
To be a foster parent means that as a baby grows, so must the foster family’s heart. Sometimes that means growing their heart before they’ve ever received their first rare foster baby by being willing to accept that 13-year-old girl. A child’s age may change, but their need for a safe and loving home environment never will. When considering this, it is also important to consider what agency or entity you choose to license yourself with in order to have 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 offer and provide training that helps you prepare for what to expect for these age ranges (or genders) that you hadn’t originally considered. With the right support and training, you’ll find that your original expectations of fostering combined with training and support will be far more rewarding than you ever thought it could be.