RICHMOND, Va. Data from child and family services nonprofit UMFS (United Methodist Family Services) shows that the percentage of individuals completing the necessary training to be a foster parent has gone down 54% across the state.
As communities across the country recognized May as National Foster Care Month, UMFS wanted to dispel myths about fostering and urge individuals to consider enrolling in a virtual information session to learn more.
There are no gender, cultural, ethnicity, religious, marital status, educational or home ownership requirements for becoming a foster parent.
“Foster parents and families with UMFS come from all walks of life,” said Adalay Wilson, LCSW, Chief Program Officer with UMFS. “They’re teachers, nurses, social workers, chefs and more. They are single people, married people, young people and older people. They are members of the LGBTQ community. They rent apartments. They own homes. Ultimately, they are people who have realized they have room in their homes, room in their schedules and room in their hearts for a child in great need.”
Currently, there are approximately 5,000 young people in foster care in Virginia.
UMFS serves a targeted population of children and teens, many of whom are older or are working through the effects of trauma, which often manifests in physical, emotional or behavioral challenges.
According to Virginia Department of Social Services figures, about 60% of youth in foster care are ages 10 and up. As children remain in care and grow older, the opportunity to have a foster family or find a forever family diminishes.
In Virginia, 18% of children exit foster care each year because they have turned 18 and have aged out of the system. Nationally, 20% of teens who age out of foster care will experience homelessness.
Leaders at UMFS also look to kinship care as an important tool for connecting more children with homes. Virginia ranks last in the country for kinship care, a foster care placement model that involves a relative, kin or close family friend becoming guardians for a child.
The national average for kin-based placements is around 30%. In Virginia, only 18% of children who need homes are taken in by extended family. If the commonwealth’s kinship placements reached the national average, thousands of youth could be placed in homes.
UMFS holds virtual information sessions across Virginia, where interested individuals can learn more about the process to become a foster parent and what qualities make a strong match based on the children and teens UMFS serves, youth who are older and/or have a history of trauma.
Becoming a foster parent through UMFS takes 3-6 months, and most of the training is online.
“If you’ve ever considered fostering, we’re asking you to take the first step and learn more,” said Wilson. “Older youth in Virginia deserve the chance at a family. They deserve to stay in the communities they know, in a home with people who are committed to their healing, through thick and thin. We need individuals from all walks of life to be that safe and stable home.”
For more information about becoming a foster parent or to register for a virtual information session, interested individuals can visit UMFS.org/foster.