Steps in Understanding the Mission Field
A year ago I had no idea what aging-out meant, and now I do. One of the blessings in walking this path is coming to a greater understanding of what children in the orphan and foster care space face. The terms listed below provide a broader glimpse into the situations and the number of people involved in any particular care situation. Our hope is that with increased awareness combined with Christlike compassion we can reduce and even eliminate the aging out crisis and break the cycle.
We are grateful to the team at Fusion Coalition for sharing the following content. Their efforts are helping to reduce process friction and redundant effort among the local church in the orphan and foster care ministry space.
Terms and Phrases in Orphan and Foster Care
FAM- Family Advocacy Ministry: making sure children are in families: prevention, stabilization, reunification, adoption.
First Family – (aka biological family) family a child was born into but was unable to care for the child permanently.
Forever Family – the family that has adopted a child, making a forever commitment.
Permanency – achieving permanent safe relationship (can be reunification, adoption, relative-placement, support system).
Removal – when a child has to be removed from their home for safety.
Placement – when a child is placed with a foster care resource family.
Attachment – a child’s relationship with caregivers, the foundation of how they see the world and interact with people.
Trauma – experienced life events that cause harm or the threat of harm and cause a neuro-biological response.
Developmental Trauma – long-lasting trauma that impacts who the body and brain develop.
Aging Out – when a child reaches adulthood without reaching permanency, has no support system as they move into adulthood and loses support available via foster care (maybe 18 yrs old or 21 yrs old).
Care Communities – a program of Promise686 that places support around foster families caring for children so they are not isolated, overwhelmed, burned out, misunderstood, overlooked: a team of people providing wrap-around care.
Sustainable Support – ongoing, not like when a baby is born- for foster families, the needs increase over time, not decrease.
Avoid labeling children – Children in foster care/ orphaned children rather than “foster children”, “orphan children”… it is something they experience, not who they are.
CAFO – Christian Alliance for Orphans… an annual summit that brings together people from around the world to collaborate.
Orphan/Stand Sunday – 2nd Sunday in November, can be other dates, churches around the world focus on how they serve vulnerable children and families.
Fusion – a coalition of churches in Loudoun working together to serve the local foster care system.
Virginia’s Kids Belong – non-profit uniting faith, government, business, and creative fields to change Virginia’s struggling foster care system.
Terms Specific to Foster Care:
GAL: Guardian Ad Litem- a court-appointed lawyer who represents the interests of the child in court
DFS: Dept. of Family Services
DSS: Dept of Social Services
Resources family: a family providing foster care
Kinship care: when relatives take-in a child to prevent them from having to go to strangers
Fictive Kin: someone who has a community connection to a child and steps in to provide care (teacher, friend, etc.)
FPM, MDT: meetings for planning and funding of services and supports during the course of a foster care case (Family Partnership Meeting, Multi-Disciplinary Team Meeting)
Disruption: when a resource family or a caseworker decide that a child needs to move to another placement
Respite Care: when another family provides a break for a family by offering childcare, can be for a few hours to days
Trauma-informed care: learning about the impact of trauma on a child’s thinking, emotions, development, etc., in order to provide a supportive environment and care
Wrap-around care: a team that wraps around a child/family to meet many different, lasting practical needs
Foster Care Statistics in VirginiaTestimonies
Stats and info to know:
- About 50% of all foster families quit within their first year because of lack of support from their friends/family/church/community
- About 60% of caseworkers quit in the first year because of burnout
- Each child who ages out of foster costs the community $300,000 in social welfare costs because they have no family, guidance, support system and end up: pregnant by 21 (60%), incarcerated 25%), homeless (20%) or caught in human trafficking
- Virginia has over 5,200 children in foster care- over 850 are waiting to be adopted
- About 500 children age out in Virginia each year, putting Virginia at the bottom of the list of 50 states in permanency success
A Call for Testimonies
Please consider sharing how Christ has worked in your life – as a caseworker, a foster parent, an orphan in a forever family. We know that God is glorified when his children share his works in our lives. Your testimony will encourage and bless others – this we know by faith.