Children play tag in a hallway at Fox Elementary School in Richmond, (Ned Oliver/ 2019 Virginia Mercury file photo)
By Cassie Baudeán
As National Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to an end and we enter into National Foster Care Month, it’s important to remember the children directly affected by child abuse and foster care and then ask ourselves, are we really doing all that we can? Are we doing all that we can to prevent child abuse? Are we doing all that we can to better the lives of children in foster care? Every single one us can play a part in bettering the lives of children in foster care – are we all doing our part?
Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons, one being child abuse. It could be your child’s classmate, Little League teammate, a member of their scout troop, or a child that rides the same bus. There are children in each of our communities who suffer from child abuse: children who have been held underwater during bath time, who have been sexually abused by an adult they trusted, who have been burned on their body with cigarettes.
What happens to these vulnerable children? Often times, when a child is abused at home, they are removed from their home and placed into foster care. They are taken from their home, the home they know, and placed with a foster family they have likely never met, with little understanding of when or if they will be able to go home. All of these things that are happening to this child – due to no fault of their own – are instances of trauma that compound the experience that led to them being placed in foster care.. These traumas will affect that child’s ability to focus at school, ability to regulate emotions and even affect children’s physical health for years down the road.
After children are placed in foster care, what ultimately happens to these children? It depends. For some, the family of origin is able to remedy the home situation and the children are ultimately able to return home to their family in a safe way. For many, particularly those children who are subjected to more severe abuse, they are never able to return home. In many ways, this is where you, the community, can step in and make a difference in the lives of children in foster care. Children in foster care who cannot return home will either ultimately be adopted by another family or they will remain in temporary foster care homes, often times many, many temporary foster care homes, until they reach age 18 and age out of foster care and have to transition into adulthood with little to no supports.
As you hear the messages throughout National Foster Care Month, take a few moments to remember these children and ask yourself – am I doing my part to help these children? One of the most obvious ways is to consider adopting a child in foster care and provide a permanent, loving family for that child to heal. Agencies like Children’s Home Society of Virginia can provide you the training, guidance and supports you need to adopt a child out of the foster care system at
For those who are unable to adopt, there are many other ways you can positively impact the lives of these children. As a business owner you can offer workforce development and employment opportunities to youth in foster care and youth who have aged out of foster care using a trauma-informed approach. As a member of a church congregation, you can hold food drives for programs serving youth in care. As a donor you can include foster and adoptive agencies in your charitable donation portfolios. Or you can encourage the social group of which you are a member to host a fundraiser for one of those agencies. If you are a neighbor to a foster or adoptive family, consider offering to bring a meal to the family or host a play date for the children. And we all can encourage our legislative representatives to prioritize children touched by the foster care system as they pass new laws and provide funding to our social services system!
There is a way that each of us can positively impact children in foster care – and this month is the perfect time to ask yourself: Am I doing everything I can to change the lives of innocent, vulnerable children in foster care who have been subjected to child abuse and trauma? My hope is that this time next year, when we all ask ourselves that question again, the answer is unequivocally yes. Because when the answer is “yes”, our Commonwealth’s children and youth will enjoy better outcomes.
Cassie Baudeán is the director of policy and strategic operations at Children’s Home Society of Virginia.
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