RICHMOND, Va. -- May is National Foster Care Month, and JFS Connecting Hearts wants you to know if you're willing to open your heart and home, there are thousands of children in Virginia that are in need of foster parents.
"It's really about emphasizing the need that local Department of Social Services have for recruiting foster families," said Denise Wise-David, program manager of JFS Connecting Hearts. "We have over 5,000 children in our care."
Of those 5,000 children, about 1,600 have a goal of returning back home. That's one reason the theme for this year's Foster Care Month is “Keeping Families Strong."
"We are looking for foster families who are willing to work with our biological families," said Wise-Davis. "It takes a village to raise a child. That's the concept that we're looking for, and families who recognize that it really takes everyone working together to raise a child and get them placed into a loving home."
The process of becoming a foster parent or family consists of a six week course with your local Department of Social Services, and then you will receive certification to welcome in a child.
There are also more than 1,700 children in Virginia who are up for adoption right now, so you can choose to foster a child for six months — what JFS calls “the honeymoon period" — and once the six months is up, Social Services will petition the court for you to become an adopted family, if you desire.
Wise-David knows just how rewarding becoming a foster parent can be. She welcomed two young boys in need of care into her home years ago, and they are still part of her life.
"I remember a friend called me and said to me, we had two boys in our camp, and they needed somewhere to stay because they were going to be put into foster care," Wise-David explained. "And so I didn't even question it. I just immediately said yes, and invited those two children into my home. Their mom was still alive, so they would go back and forth to my home to back home to stay with their mom when she was able to care for them. And then when she did pass, I took them. And they came to live with me."
She now has grandchildren and says fostering changed her life.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and the village is all of us, lending a hand to make a difference in a child's life," she noted.
But even if you aren’t interested in fostering or adopting a child, there are still ways to help.
"You don't have to be a foster parent," Wise-David explained. "You can be a mentor, you can be a person who just helps with the family, because they have that extra child in their home. There's lots of things that you could do to volunteer. Kids always need mentors, and they need to see people in their lives and see what they aspire to be, they could be."
While Wise-David said the pandemic has made recruiting families and detecting child abuse and neglect more difficult, JFS has been able to recruit 300 foster families over the past year.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can reach out to JFS Connecting Families, and they will work to get you started in the process.
CBS 6 will be bringing you unique stories about foster care all month long, starting Thursday on CBS 6 News at 5 p.m.