When determining a child's placement, Stafford County Social Services operates on the fundamental belief that every child deserves a home and a family. Getting to that point requires dedication and investigation to determine the best possible situation for that particular child. Over the last few years, Social Services has managed the cases of dozens of children, resulting in the child being returned home, to a foster family or an adoptive family. Throughout the process, the child's best interests are the guiding force behind the Social Services staff's work.
"The goal is to reunite the family or place the child with a relative since studies have shown that children have the best outcomes in that situation," said DeVonne Johnson, Family Services Supervisor for Stafford County Social Services. "When it is not possible for the child to go to family, foster families and adoptive families are incredibly important to our efforts."
The goal in situations where children are removed from the home by Social Services is to reunite the family. Some families need a little extra help with counseling and other parenting tools, and when they get that help, they can get their children back and be successful. Parents are typically given around 12 months to satisfy requirements to regain custody of their children. The safe and nurturing care of foster families during this time of upheaval for foster children is critical.
Johnson worked with a teenage mom who became pregnant at 16. Her child was placed in foster care, and Johnson helped the mom find a program to get her high school diploma as well as education from a trade school. The infant was successfully reunited with the mother. The child is a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force now, and the mother sends pictures of her child's milestones.
As well, fostering is the first step in adoption from a public agency. Foster parents have the first opportunity to adopt if the child cannot be reunited with their family. Stafford County provides free certification and training for those interested in becoming foster parents. The process takes about three to six months.
Over the years, Johnson has seen some amazing stories among foster children who were adopted. He recalls one child who came into care at age 17 months and was diagnosed with failure to thrive. She weighed 14 pounds, and the foster parents had to drive her back and forth to a feeding clinic in Richmond. The family is still making the drive to Richmond today. Their efforts saved her life. She is five now, weighs 30 pounds, and is doing well.
Over the last few years, 40 children have been adopted from Stafford County Social Services. If you are interested in being a foster parent and becoming an adoptive parent, please visit https://staffordcountyva.gov/1893/Foster-Care.