PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — “Technically, yeah, I was kicked out of my foster home.”
That’s how Kayla Hall described what should have been a happy time in her life: her 18th birthday.
But she had little time to celebrate with her foster parents.
“Clothes are packed up. Children are moved away. And the child and the foster parent have no
relationship beyond that 18th birthday,” said Cassandra Calender-Ray, of adoption agency Virginia One Church, One Child.
Calender-Ray said the 18th birthday marks the end of the legal custodial relationship between foster parents and their foster children. At 18, a foster child is officially considered an adult and is no longer under the care of Social Services.
“Thankfully, my best friend’s parents took me in,” said Hall.
Now, 20 years old, and in her own apartment, this second-year student at Virginia Tech is very thankful for a tenacious social worker who helped Hall get into college and pay for it through scholarships and Social Services programs like “Fostering Futures.” The program is for teens who “age out” and want to continue their education.
Hall is very fortunate. Cassandra Calender-Ray said hundreds of foster children who turn 18 have nowhere to go. Some become homeless.
“There’s also a large number of them that are the number one targeted groups [of] sex trafficking
and a high percentage of incarceration,” said Tomeka Winborne, a Virginia-based writer and director of a short film on the subject, called “Aged Out.”
Winborne hopes “Aged Out” brings issues to light.
“The main character is a woman who is grieving and this young person who came to do handyman
services. She later found out that he ‘aged out’ of foster care system and was homeless,” she explained.
Winborne will show the short film and host a panel discussion along with Calender-Ray,
the Rev. Dr. Hallie Richardson, and other guests this Sunday at Richardson’s church, Little Zion Baptist Church at 1824 W Queen Street in Hampton.
They’re hoping guests will want to know more about the foster care system, and the need for more
parents to step up and open their doors to a child in need.
“We know that, at the age of 18, children still do need to be in relationships,” said Calender-Ray. “So, we’re asking foster parents to maintain the relationship with the child that you have fostered.”
“We know that when children have a strong and lasting relationship with a stable adult, positive
outcomes occur,” said Calendar-Ray.
Richardson hopes at least one family at Antioch will consider stepping forward and becoming
a foster family to an older child or sibling group. And, Richardson, a board member of Virginia One Church, One Child, said he’s working to recruit other pastors to share the message with their congregations.
“We’re looking for foster parents that hang in there and even remain in relationships with the child,
or with the young person beyond the age of aging out.”
“Educating more people on the dilemma will help more people get involved. It’s not that we don’t have a community that don’t care, [it’s] that they don’t know,” said Winborne.
To find out more about the short film “Aged Out” and what’s involved in becoming a foster parent,
just contact Calender-Ray at Virginia One Church, One Child at 804-329-3420.