Right here in Fairfax County there are more than 70 infants, toddlers, young children, and adolescents in foster care with a goal of adoption. If patterns of recent years hold true, fewer than half of these children will end up in permanent placements, fewer than half will find their “forever families,” within a year. What’s being done to increase their chances at permanency? How can we do more for these children, who are among our most vulnerable young citizens?
The Fairfax County Department of Family Services (DFS) works to increase both the number of families willing to serve as foster parents and the percentage of families serving as foster parents willing to become adoptive parents. DFS Community Educator/Recruiter Emma Marshall and her colleagues attempt to reach potential foster families through a variety of media, including radio, television, newspapers, and websites. They also spend a great deal of time speaking directly to community members, including at neighborhood events, service organization meetings, churches, and county fairs and festivals, among other activities and events. They are “trying to reach as many people as possible,” says Marshall.
DFS Foster Care and Adoption Specialist Amanda Macaulay and her colleagues spend some of their time providing intensive training and support to “resource families.” These families come to DFS interested in fostering and/or adopting and are given extensive tools and ongoing training to successfully engage with children throughout their journeys. These children may be in situations where family reunification or relative placement is the goal, but it may be that adoption ultimately becomes more appropriate, or the best option for achieving permanency. The hope at that stage is that resource families will be comfortable and confident in their ability and willingness to make a natural progression from being foster families to becoming adoptive families.
Our local public agency is doing its part with this special population of children, working to increase the number of foster families in Fairfax County and the percentage of those families willing to become adoptive families should that become the goal.
What can you do, during National Adoption Awareness Month and beyond, to help?
• Look at the resources referenced in this article or contact the article’s author (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more online sources of relevant information.
• Attend a DFS information session, held on the second Monday of each month.
• Call the DFS Foster Care and Adoption Unit to find out more about the program or ask specific questions. Learn more at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dfs/childrenyouth/fca.htm
• Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about adoption, and encourage them to educate themselves about the need for resource families right here in Fairfax County.
• Contact the Fairfax CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) office to ask about becoming a volunteer CASA or contributing to the mission in other ways. Visit https://www.fairfaxcasa.org/volunteer-or-donate/getting-started/ for more information.
• Go to https://www.adoptuskids.org/states/va/browse.aspx if you are interested in opening your home to one of the many wonderful children awaiting adoption here in Virginia.