HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — May is Foster Care Month. It’s a chance for children in crises, and social workers who are desperately trying to help them, to thank families who answer their calls.
It’s also a chance for child advocates to make new calls in efforts to meet the needs of more than
5,000 children now in temporary custody in Virginia.
“I had a really difficult childhood,” says 21-year-old Kayla Hall. “And I got into foster care
Hall, in a recent Zoom interview, recounted some difficult memories during her teen years.
“I had to go to the hospital, and they said ‘Oh, you don’t have any guardians. Let’s put you in foster
care.’ But I’m very thankful for the foster parents that I did have.”
“They nurture the children, parent the children, take them to doctors’ appointments,” says
Cassandra Calender-Ray, director of the child advocate agency, “Virginia One Church, One Child.”
“But one difference is, the [foster] parents help children get ready to be reunified with their original
family, and sometimes people find that a little hard to do, but, that’s what children need.”
Being reunified with her original family was not an option for Hall. And neither was staying in her
foster home. When Hall turned 18, 3 years ago, she “aged out” of the foster care system. She was then on her own.
Hall says she had nowhere to go. Fortunately, a friend and her parents took her in. A social worker
helped Hall enroll in Virginia Tech, and lease an apartment. Social Services pays for a bulk of the
expenses through a program called “Fostering Futures.” And, Hall has a job to pay the rest.
Calender-Ray say hundreds of older foster children are not as fortunate as Hall to have a social
worker advocate for them. Nor are the teens focused, or mature enough, to fight for themselves.
And that’s why dozens end up on the street, homeless, or worse.
Calender-Ray wants to head off that problem while the child is still in foster care. The key she says
is having more families willing to volunteer to foster older children.
“They nurture the children, parent the children, take them to doctors’ appointments” among
typical parental responsibilities.
But V.O.C.O.C. board member Reverend Dr. Hallie Richardson hopes the foster families will
recognize that the teens will need more.
“They need stability. They need people that will foster and mentor them, in a sense, to prepare
them for self-sufficient living.”
And that means staying connected with the child after he or she ages out of foster care.
“We know that, at the age of 18, children still do need to be in relationships. So, we’re asking
foster parents to maintain the relationship with the child that you have fostered.”
Both say when children have a “strong and lasting relationship with a stable adult, positive
V.O.C.O.C. is looking for foster parents that will “hang in there and even remain in relationships
with the child, or with the young person beyond the age of aging out.” Their special effort in May
targets churches such as Little Zion Baptist in Hampton.
Dr. Richardson says he hopes other pastors will speak of foster parenting from the pulpit, and try to identify at least one family that would step up.
To find out more about becoming a foster parent to an older child, contact your local social services
department. Or reach out to Virginia One Church, One Child.
Call Cassandra Calender-Ray at 1-804-329-3420.
Calendar-Ray and V.O.C.O.C. are teaming up with Virginia-based movie producer, director, Tomeka
Winborne for viewing of her movie about the issue of teens who “age out” of foster care.
“Aged Out” will be shown, along with a panel discussion.
Sunday, May 16, 2-5 p.m.
Little Zion Baptist Church,
1824 W Queen St., Hampton, Va.
Or on Zoom.
ID: 871 7857 8103 Pass code: 385193