HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — As the number of kids coming into foster care is on the rise, local foster organizations are seeing a big drop in the number of people wanting to become foster parents.
United Methodist Family Services said it has seen a 40% drop in the number of people applying to be foster parents over the past two years.
Right now there are more than 5,000 children in foster care in Virginia and about 32%, or 1,600 of those kids, are here in Hampton Roads.
“It’s an opportunity to do more than what you can do for yourself and by yourself,” said local foster mom Johanna Schafer.
She has been a foster mom for 16 years and has fostered 18 kids. She was single when she first started fostering and didn’t have any kids of her own.
“It was kind of a why not? Kids need a place, I have a place, I like kids and it made sense,” Schafer said.
She said her first couple placements were teenagers, but she’s had all ages from 3 to 19. She’s now married and has kids of her own and they currently have a six and seven-year-old in their care.
“They all have challenges,” she said, “and so to be able to help invest in kids for a short time helps you be part of their story and they get to add to your story and your journey through life.”
UMFS Supervisor Mary Davies said they are looking for families to open their hearts and homes to area kids. She says it’s also important for families to know they aren’t alone.
“We provide a lot of great training, a lot of support along the way,” Davies said. “We have support groups, so once you become a foster parent with us, you get assigned a case manager that’s there for you and the child throughout every step of the way.”
Davies said the number one quality they look for in foster parents is flexibility.
“Really being able to kind of do whatever it takes in that moment to meet their needs in terms of being flexible, being just kind of really open and willing to kind of make them feel safe, make them feel comfortable,” Davies said.
She said instead of thinking of all the reasons why you can’t, think of the impact you could have.
“You don’t have to be married, you don’t have to be a parent, you don’t have to make a certain amount of money,” Davies said. “You really just have to have a willingness and an openness to provide care for a kid and so that’s really all it takes, and we kind of take it from there.”
And Johanna said even if you’re afraid you might get too attached, that’s OK.
“To invest in a kid, to get attached to a kid, is letting that kid know that they are worth that time, that love,” Schafer said.
Schafer said it’s a very rewarding experience, and she hopes others will open her heart to these amazing kids, too.
“If you’ve ever thought about it or you’ve been curious about it, it doesn’t hurt to make a call and get information,” Schafer said. “Most organizations, all cities, they have information meetings, it’s no obligation to show up, to hear what they have to say and to ask questions.”
UMFS has virtual information sessions at various times throughout the month, and there’s an in-person meeting Feb. 15, also.