22 May 2013
Social workers in Fluvanna County are breathing a sigh of relief. The number of kids in foster care in the county has dropped from two years ago.
“Twelve kids is fabulous,” said Susan Muir, director of social services for Fluvanna County. “We were up to 37 a few years go, but most of those kids have been adopted, some have aged out and some have successfully gone home and been reunited with their families. But that could change in five minutes, you never know.”
However, even with only 12 kids on the foster care rolls, Fluvanna Social Services is still struggling to place children with foster families in the county. Fluvanna only has four approved foster families. Many Fluvanna children in need of foster care are placed outside of the county.
“Because of the lack of foster families in the area, we use a lot of child placing agencies, mostly out of Charlottesville,” said Kim Mabe, social work supervisor for the Foster Care unit. “We want to keep kids in the county. We want to keep them in the same schools, close to their families and friends. When we use child placement agencies, we never know. They may place a kid in Greene County.”
Child placing agencies, like People Places in Charlottesville, typically charge more than public foster care programs. When Fluvanna Social Services needs their help to place a child, the agencies bill the county. With an already limited budget, this puts Fluvanna Social Services in a bind.
Ideally, both for the sake of cost and for the well-being of the child, every child in Fluvanna who needs foster care would be placed with a Fluvanna family. But, foster care families are hard to find. It takes a unique person to raise a kid who is suffering.
“We’re always trying to recruit more,” said Mabe.
“When we do recruit, it may yield one or two families, but after going through the training, which is very realistic, they realize ‘ whoa, I don’t know if this is what we want to get into,’” said Muir.
In order to keep the foster care roles low, Fluvanna Social Services has a program called Foster Care Prevention, which is currently serving 25 families. Prevention services monitor and support a child in the home, in order to keep families together.
“Foster care prevention is not something that’s mandated, but it really does prevent kids from coming into foster care,” said Mabe. “It keeps our foster care caseload down and keeps expenditures down, because foster care is extremely, extremely expensive.”
When asked what’s their hope of the future of foster care in Fluvanna, both Mabe and Muir said the same thing, “we’d like to see no more cases. Our mission is to strengthen and keep families together.”
While it may not be a realistic goal, for now, there are steps citizens of Fluvanna can take to get there.
“We’d like to see community awareness, both in identifying people that may need our services, but also more community resources,” said Muir, specifically referring to increased public funding to pay for more staff. “We’d also like to see more individual awareness, that people would know when and how to ask for help before it reaches the level of foster care.”
If you need help caring for your children, or suspect that a child you know is being abused, neglected or endangered, please call Fluvanna Social Services at (434) 842-8221.