More than one-third of children in Virginia’s foster care system today are teenagers. As the community recognizes Foster Care Awareness Month in May, the need for foster parents willing to work with teens is greater than ever.
Since 1995, The Barry Robinson Center (BRC) has provided treatment foster care, also known as therapeutic foster care. BRC trains and supports foster parents to care for children and teens who sometimes have significant emotional, behavioral or medical needs.
“Even though Virginia has seen the number of youth in foster care drop by about 7 percent over the past year, a population shift is occurring,” said Rob McCartney, BRC’s CEO. “More teenagers are coming into foster care, and we need families who can give them a supportive home environment.”
Statistics from the Virginia Department of Social Services indicate that children under age 5 and teens 16-18 are the largest groups coming into foster care.
Over the past year, the data shows about a 20 percent drop in the number of school-age children in foster care. It’s likely this drop correlates with children being out of school and out of sight of their teachers. Teachers and other school workers are one of the largest mandated reporters to Child Protective Services.
As communities begin to reopen and in-person school resumes after more than a year of pandemic-related closures, foster care experts predict a surge of children entering the system.
All this means more children and teens will need foster parents to provide loving, stable homes for them.
Many prospective foster parents say they want to care for younger children only. Finding foster parents for teens can be more difficult.
“Sometimes, we need to dispel myths around caring for teens and share reasons why fostering teens can be rewarding,” McCartney explained. “A foster parent can help teens on the path to independence and start their adult lives in a positive way. As a foster parent, you might be the reason a teen graduates from high school, goes on to college or trade school, or gets their first job. That’s pretty cool.”
With BRC, foster parents can count on ample training and support throughout their fostering journey. BRC offers very flexible training schedules, 24/7 caseworker support and respite care.
“We’re always looking for foster parents who want to help children and teens and also who want to learn and grow as foster parents,” said CEO Rob McCartney. “You bring the motivation and the passion about caring for youth, and we’ll help you every step of the way.”