Northern Virginia Family Service is putting out the call for people willing to open their lives and homes to a foster child.
In addition to its other programs, the Oakton-based group serves every locality in Northern Virginia by acting as a child-placing agency for local social services departments, said Emily Collins, a special foster care trainer with Northern Virginia Family Service.
Localities, such as Manassas Park, reach out to NVFS officials when assistance is needed in finding suitable foster care families, she said. Smaller cities like Manassas Park generally have less than 10 children in foster care at any given time.
“We’re always in need of more foster families,” Collins said.
Single, married, gay and unmarried people living together are all allowed to foster in Virginia.
Parents can be of any age and can work outside the home or from home, she added.
Potential parents are required to complete a 27-hour training course held on three consecutive Saturdays from 9 to 5 p.m. at the NVFS facility in Oakton.
Those interested in foster parenting are urged to attend the training session that begins on March 17. The training will continue on March 24 and conclude on March 31.
“The training covers anything from discipline, to what kind of abuse and neglect these foster children go through; interacting with the birth family and just a session on the birth families,” she said. "There’s even a session just about how the prospective foster parents can prepare themselves for change.”
One of the main struggles within the foster care system is helping potential parents and others overcome the myths and misconceptions about children in foster care.
There are many people who believe all children in foster care are delinquents, Collins said. Part of recruiting new foster parents would first be to dispel the negative stereotypes of children in care so people understand who these children really are, she added.
Once the prospects complete training, the home study process begins. Officials meet with married couples four times and single people three times, Collins said.
“We‘re getting all the information to put into the home study because a lot of the time, that’s what the county department of social services will want to see before they place a child,” Collins said. “It’s going over their life history, exploring their parenting skills and their sources of support since taking in a foster child is obviously a big decision and a big change.”
Though fostering a child requires some adjustment, it’s an undertaking that many people willingly and happily embrace, Collins said.
For more information about the program, or to register for the training, call Ginny Snaider at 571-748-2557.