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CBS 6 shares voices from Richmond's foster care community

Posted at 5:38 PM, May 24, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- CBS 6 is working to create a more inclusive community in and around Richmond, Virginia. As part of National Foster Care Month, CBS 6 partnered with JFS Connecting Hearts to dedicate an evening broadcast to telling the stories of Central Virginia's foster families.

Julie Bragg anchored the special coverage and shared the story of Denise Webb and her foster son Damonte.

"I watched his video, day in and day out and I said, I really feel that he's going to be our child," Webb told Julie.

Damonte is part of the Foster and Futures Program. It is a program for young adults in foster care from age 18 to 21. The program helps young adults learn life skills and money management.

"He's doing great, he really is. He's maintaining employment. He's just at a point in his life where he's just trying to figure things out," Webb said. "Our job is to reassure him with support and love and patience. Those are the key ingredients to become a foster parent."

When she first saw Damonte it changed her life: 'He's going to be our child'

"That's What Every Kid Should Have"

Joy Hanes is a relatively new foster parent. The Powhatan woman is now caring for three children.

She called the experience both challenging and deeply rewarding.

“It has been life changing,” Hanes told Julie Bragg.

She also described how her foster son started to open up to her by allowing himself to be loved.

"It makes me cry because that's what every kid should have,” Hanes told. “I don't think he knew his mom at all. I just can't even wrap my head around the kids that don't know what it's like to have a mom and dad love them and take care of them."

"I think people forget what they have to offer,” Hanes added. “They don't need to give the child the world. Just a stable loving family is everything to a kid."

Virginia woman needed a change. She became a foster parent.

"There's still opportunity to help"

One Virginia man became a foster parent for the first time at 20-years-old. By the time he turned 26, Barry Farmer had adopted 3 children.

Farmer told Bill Fitzgerald that adopting his sons brought him a sense of family he never knew he could be part of and that his impact becomes more apparent as his boys get older.

Farmer’s 21-year-old is launching a car-detailing business. The 19 year-old graduated from high school and the 13-year-old is an honor roll student. Farmer says his sons are proof of the positive, life-changing effects that fostering or adopting into a permanent loving family can have on a child's future.

Even if you are unable to foster a child right now, Farmer said you still have the power to change lives.

“There's still opportunity to help (foster children) in many ways. You can give them a job or give them apprenticeships,” said Farmer. “Those who are aging out of foster care, who will never have that permanent home, still need those opportunities to build their own lives so they can create their own family.”

‘There's still opportunity to help,’ says Virginia man adopted 3 children

Virginia Helps Foster Families

To mark Foster Care Month, Governor Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) ceremoniously signed two pieces of legislation Wednesday designed to improve Virginia's foster care system and support those in it.

One will require universities to provide free housing over scheduled breaks to students who've aged out of the foster care system as they may not have a permanent home to go home to. The other bill signed standardizes home studies, which are surveys of houses of prospective foster families, and allows them to be shared among foster agencies.

"Taking out the red tape, it may make it a little bit easier to be able to kind of share the foster parents and let them be able to serve where the need is no matter what," foster parent Amanda Bishop told Cameron Thompson.

How Virginia plans to help foster children: 'Our voices aren't really heard'

How You Can Help

There is a great need for foster parents throughout the state and they need every type of household, two parents or single parents like Joy and members of the LGBTQ community.

"I think people forget what they have to offer,” Hanes said. “They don't need to give the child the world. Just a stable loving family is everything to a kid."

May marks National Foster Care Month and WTVR CBS 6 is proud to partner with JFS Connecting Hearts to help find forever families for nearly 5,000 children in Virginia in need of a home.

If you are interested in becoming a foster family now or learning more about adoption, visit www.jfsrichmond.org/connecting-hearts. Fill out a form and find answers to your questions on the site. Your family could change a child’s life forever.

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Diving deeper into number of foster kids in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Social Services reports nearly 5,000 children in the foster care system as of March 2023.

According to its foster children demographic report, 655 of those kids are in Central Virginia homes. Our area has the fewest number of children in foster care compared to other parts of the Commonwealth.

In fact, the Virginia locality with the most kids living in foster care is the City of Roanoke with nearly 250 children.

Nationwide, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows more than 200,000 children entered the foster care system in 2021.

700-1,000 kids living in foster care are up for adoption in Virginia

The Children's Home Society of Virginia (CHSV) estimates 700 to 1,000 foster children are eligible to be adopted right now.

CHSV has a 120-year history of helping children get adopted, particularly teenagers, sibling groups and children with special needs. The Society’s Chief Development Officer, Bruin Richardson, says just about anyone with the dedication to making a difference in a child's life can help. Even by spreading the word about the need for foster homes would make Virginia a better place.

“Have them know that you're going to be there for them no matter what, just like a parent would,” said Richardson. “If they can feel that support and that love then they can then begin to form attachment, which will then allow them to heal from what has often been a very traumatic childhood.”

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

Alyssa Williams

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