June is National Reunification Month and Fatherhood Awareness Month
In conjunction with National Reunification Month and Fatherhood Awareness Month in June, we are highlighting programs and services that focus on reunifying children in foster care with their parents and families and celebrating fathers and the importance of a father’s engagement with his children and family, especially during the reunification process.
It is our goal that children in foster care be given every opportunity to grow up with their parents or other relatives whenever possible. National Reunification Month celebrates the people and efforts that support reunification and raises awareness of the importance of successful relationships between birth parents, foster families and child welfare professionals in achieving reunification.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fathers and paternal family members play a crucial role in children’s growth, development and well-being, and engaged fathers can increase the potential for reunification when a child is in foster care.
Throughout June, we will be highlighting information, links and resources on Facebook and Twitter about foster care, fatherhood and reunification and how residents can support Alexandria’s at-risk families and children.
In addition, check out opportunities to support at-risk children in Alexandria, including volunteer and mentoring opportunities as well as programs to employ youth. You can also help enhance the lives of resource families and children in foster care through The Fund for Alexandria’s Child, which provides extra-curricular activities and other childhood experiences for children in foster care.
Foster (v.): To promote the growth or development of
Foster care exists to provide safe, temporary homes for kids who cannot safely live with their families while the families work to improve their situation. The goal is reunification –for children to return to their home after their family has received the services, resources and support they need. It is about the restoration of families.
Alexandria Needs Foster Families
Did you know more than half of Alexandria youth in need of foster care are placed in families outside the city, away from their natural supports and familiar environments, because there are not enough foster families who live in the City of Alexandria?
Successful foster parents have two things in common: they have a desire to help children, and they can adapt to challenging circumstances. Most importantly, foster families are willing and able to provide a safe, stable, caring, inclusive and affirming home while children are separated from their families.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a resource for Alexandria children and teens, attend an upcoming information session.
Due to COVID-19, all Information Sessions are being held virtually or by phone until further notice. Please contact Christine Levine at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about becoming a foster parent, also referred to as resource parent. See the brochure on becoming a foster parent or call the Resource Home Recruiter at 703.746.5858 for more information.
What is the role of a foster parent?
Foster parents help support families in a time of crisis. They work as a team with the child’s social worker, teachers, doctor, birth family and counselors. They are dedicated to protecting children and offering hope to each child’s family. Their impact reaches far beyond the child in their care because they provide a positive influence across the community. Foster parenting is filled with both challenges and opportunities and is an opportunity to care for children who can benefit greatly from love and support.
Who Are the Children in Foster Care?
In 2018, Alexandria had a monthly average of 90 children and teens in foster care. Children and teens in foster care come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures and all have unique strengths and needs.
Children range in age from birth to 21 years. Almost 50% are teenagers. Many have brothers or sisters in foster care. Most have experienced abuse or neglect. Some children and youth have special needs and may be physically, behaviorally, mentally or emotionally challenged. Some may need foster parents with special care-giving skills due to physical health issues or developmental delays. Infants may be medically fragile, and some children have challenges due to a parent’s prior drug or alcohol addiction. Some children have not experienced the usual routines of family life and need extra understanding and patience. All foster children are affected by separation from their family.
What are the requirements to become a foster parent?
When you become a foster parent, you become part of a team that is dedicated to protecting children, supporting families and helping young people develop their fullest potential. Foster care is about teamwork. Foster parents offer a loving and nurturing home where each child can feel safe and is celebrated for his or her unique gifts.
The requirements to become a foster parent include:
- Able to accept a child who needs a lot of patience, understanding and love
- Over the age of 25
- Married, single, divorced, LGBTQ+
- With or without biological children
- Employed inside or outside the home
- Able to demonstrate financial stability
- Living in a house or apartment in Alexandria or the surrounding Virginia area
- Willing to attend orientation, pre-service training and ongoing training
The art above was created by a child in foster care.
More Information About Foster Care
- FAQs and myth-busters about foster care in Virginia:
- Older youth in foster care
- Importance of community based services
- Why reunification is the primary goal of foster care
Adopting a Child from Foster Care
When a child is unable to return home or to live with relatives, foster parents may be offered the choice of adopting. Approved foster parents are dually licensed for both foster care and adoption. Similar to foster parents, adoptive parents may be married, single, gay, straight, divorced or widowed. The most important quality all adoptive parents must have is the willingness to accept a child for his or her own sake without expecting the child to resolve family problems or fulfill family ambitions. They must also have the capacity to love and nurture a child not born to them who may have ongoing emotional or behavioral issues due to trauma suffered before entering foster care.