SCANStop: Foster care and my family

This week’s guest blogger is Dan Fleig, a member of SCAN’s Public Education Committee and 2011 recipient of the Allies in Prevention Award. Dan is President of We-R-Safe, an all-inclusive program providing tools to make sure volunteers are checked and trained before being given the responsibility of being around youth. He is also a foster parent, but we’ll let him tell you about that now…

May is National Foster Care Month, and as such is intended to draw attention to the efforts and needs of foster care programs throughout the country.  But one needn’t look any further than our own neighborhoods in Northern Virginia to see the crucial role these programs play in making a difference in the welfare of children.

As a foster care family in Fairfax County, VA, we’ve witnessed first-hand how these programs benefit children. When their lives have been turned upside down, foster care programs and foster parents (or “resource parents” as we’re sometimes referred to today) provide hope and a chance those children might not otherwise have been given.

Children in foster care are those who, through no fault of their own, have experienced some form of abuse or neglect, or have been subject to some life-altering circumstances which put them at risk.  As a result, many different parties such as the child’s family members, local child welfare and legal advocates, and in some instances the child (if he or she is old enough) each offer their perspectives regarding the child’s current home environment and caregiver(s) to a judge who ultimately makes the decision about whether or not a child will be placed in foster care.

Amazingly enough, all many of these children need is love, support and a renewed sense of safety. Which is exactly what foster care families are enabled to provide, and the very same conditions most of us take for granted.

While the ultimate goal of foster care is to reunite children in care with their families, it can’t always happen. In my family’s case, it resulted in the adoption of a beautiful and loving boy who now calls me dad. (In Fairfax County, VA, more than 70 percent of adoptive families begin as foster parents, then commit to adopting the child in their care. Source: Fairfax County DFS)

It never ceases to amaze me when someone (usually a neighbor) discovers we are a foster family. The typical response is one of unnecessary praise: “How wonderful,” or “You are such special people.” The reality is that we are a family who has many of the same resources as any other family in our neighborhood: an extra bed and a warm place in our hearts for children. We’ve just decided to use those to make a tangible difference in the life of a child and family in need.

If you have ever entertained the prospect of becoming a foster care family, I implore you to contact your local agency and attend a no-obligation orientation meeting.  Becoming a foster family will require training, background checks, an in-home study and much more! Fairfax County has an informational brochure available online.  Please check it out for yourself. Like me, I’m sure you will be amazed at the incredible resources available to foster care families and most importantly, the families of children in need.

– Dan Fleig
SCAN Public Education Committee Member

More local resources:

Foster Care in Alexandria
Foster Care in Arlington
Foster Care in Fairfax
Foster Care in Loudoun
Foster Care in Prince William
– Learn more about Volunteer Emergency Families for Children