INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
Light of Hope 2017
A bittersweet goodbye, and a warm welcome...
What Does Adoption Look Like? by Ann Burroughs Sun
Letter from the Executive Director
Inspiration for You
Light of Hope 2017 Recap
Table of Contents
Holiday Celebration Invite
Adoption Awareness Month
letter from the executive director
November WAS adoption awareness month
Click me to see how Fairfax County celebrated Adoption Awareness Month!
Darcy Cunningham Executive Director
Dear Friends of Fairfax CASA:
Happy Holidays! As we wrap up the year, I think many of us are ready for 2017 to be over. I welcome 2018 with open arms and I hope that brings with it some much needed peace, kindness and love for one and other.
While the headlines and the ever present 24/7 news cycle, bloggers and pundits would have us believing, at times, that there is nothing but bad in this world, I know differently. I know that there is plenty of good. I know that there is generosity. And I know that there is kindness. I know this because I work for CASA, and I see the selfless impact our volunteers have on the children they serve. I see the time they put into their cases. I see the amount of money they spend, out of their own pockets, to get to foster homes far, far away. I see how they make sure that their children’s voices are heard.
2017 is exiting boisterously for our office: Over the last two months, the Court has referred 30 children to our office in need of a CASA volunteer. Thirty children with situations that became so dire Court intervention was necessary. Thirty children who will now have a CASA to lift them up, make sure they are heard, and be a part of bettering their lives.
I know that 2018 will surely hold new cases and new challenges, but I know that Fairfax CASA has an army of helpers out there who will continue to make sure that the children of Fairfax County receive the best advocacy and the best possible outcomes. Thank you for all you do, and for all of your help.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and peace-filled 2018.
There were an estimated approximately 110,000 domestic adoptions and 6,000 intercountry adoptions in the United Sates in 2014, the most recent year for which there seems to be solid and extensive data, in this instance from the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) and their publication “Adoption: By the Numbers.” (Estimates have to suffice, since in 1975 the National Center for Social Statistics, the federal government agency responsible for collecting adoption data, was dissolved, and no comprehensive mandatory reporting system currently exists; private adoption data is particularly elusive.) The NCFA’s data show the split between related and unrelated domestic adoptions to be approximately 41,000 and 69,000, respectively, with related adoptions defined as those where “at least one of the adoptive parents or guardians is related to the child by blood or related by marriage to the child’s biological parent.” Approximately 68% of the more numerous unrelated domestic adoptions were handled by public agencies, according to the NCFA.
Focusing on adoptions handled by public agencies, and using 2014 data for consistency, what do the numbers look like closer to home? In 2014 Virginia had 632 children adopted with public agency involvement, which, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, represented 1.2% of all such adoptions in the country. Looking at data for Virginia for the ten-year period leading up to 2014, it appears that the state’s public agencies have been involved in somewhere between approximately 500 and 750 adoptions per year, consistently between 0.9% and 1.4% of all such adoptions in the U.S. Interestingly, according to the Virginia government website Virginia Performs, in 2014 Virginia had the second-lowest rate of public agency adoption in the U.S., but the site suggests several underlying reasons for that, including Virginia having the lowest rate of children placed in foster care, and Virginia reuniting nearly half of all children in foster care with their families. Still, according to Virginia Performs, the percentage of children Virginia places in adoptive homes, 42% in 2014, is lower than the national rate, 48.5% in 2014.
Right here in Fairfax County in 2014, Virginia Department of Social Services quarterly data shows that there were between 75 and 81 foster children (depending on the quarter), representing between 4.7% and 5.4% of the state’s total, with a goal of adoption. How did we do, moving those children from foster care to adoption? Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services (DFS) 2016 Annual Report provides fiscal year data (July through June) rather than calendar year data, but shows 34 children adopted from foster care in each of fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That’s a significant number of children moving into “forever families,” but not enough. What’s being done to increase these numbers, to achieve permanency for more of these children?
DFS publicizes the fact that “more than 70% of… adoptive families begin as foster parents, then commit to adopting the child in their care.” This suggests that to the extent Fairfax County currently succeeds at placing its children who are in foster care with a goal of adoption into adoptive families, it is largely through cultivation of adoptive families from among its foster families. DFS Foster Care and Adoption Specialist Amanda Macaulay says that this happens through significant and concerted efforts to provide support and training to “resource families,” families who come to DFS interested in fostering or adopting who are dual-approved—for foster care and adoption—and who are given extensive tools and ongoing training to successfully engage with children throughout what is a journey, whether the goal is family reunification or relative placement, or becomes adoption. The hope is that these resource families will feel comfortable and confident, if and when the time comes, making a natural progression to becoming adoptive families.
As DFS resource families are critical to efforts to place children in foster care with a goal of adoption into adoptive families, Ms. Macaulay and her colleagues spend a great deal of time and energy focused on child-specific recruitment, reaching beyond the existing pool of dual-approved families to look for adoptive families for children in other places, as well. Ms. Macaulay reports that permanency planning (when the goal is adoption) for an increasing population of children with more—and more significant—special needs takes more time, more energy, more patience, and more outside-the-box thinking. While identifying and working with families to adopt children who have been victims of more severe abuse or neglect, who have backgrounds of more mental health and/or substance abuse, is enormously challenging, Ms. Macaulay believes that she and her colleagues “are doing everything possible” to move children from foster families to adoptive families when adoption is or becomes the goal.
In an effort to increase the size of the pool of foster families from which 70% of Fairfax County’s adoptive parents come, DFS works hard to disseminate information about and generate interest in fostering. DFS Community Educator/Recruiter Emma Marshall describes the work she and her colleagues do as “trying to reach as many people as possible” to convey to our communities the need for foster families and information about how fostering works. Ms. Marshall describes efforts to reach people through radio and television, newspapers and websites, neighborhood and community events, and churches and service organizations, among other avenues. Foster Parent Ambassadors play a key role in extending DFS’s reach; DFS trains some of its foster parents to serve in community outreach roles, talking formally and informally with friends, neighbors, and others in the community about what being a foster family really means and how they can get involved. Getting more families in the door is critical to increasing the numbers of children moving from foster care to adoption when that is the goal.
The state plays a key role in adoption in Virginia, too, in large part because of the funding surrounding adoption at all stages at the process. In terms of efforts to move more children in foster care with the goal of adoption into permanent homes, there are a number of adoption initiatives identified in Virginia’s Five Year State Plan for Child and Family Services,from June 2015, that support work at the local level. Among these initiatives are contracts for recruitment of foster and adoptive families through various targeted media, and the administration of the Adoption Resource Exchange of Virginia (AREVA), which recruits statewide for adoptive families for children in foster care and features a website with information about children awaiting adoption.These initiatives, among others, contribute to a larger pipeline of prospective families, ultimately bringing more people in the door at DFS and on their way to becoming resource families for children here in Fairfax County. It is through local and state efforts to both increase the number of potential foster and adoptive families coming into the system and increase the percentage of families already in the system fostering children who are willing to adopt children that we will see more of our most vulnerable children find permanent homes, find their forever families.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Thank you for taking at least one step toward increasing your own awareness of adoption by reading this article. What more can you do to further your own awareness or increase the awareness of others?
-Look at the resources referenced throughout this article.
-Attend a DFS information session, held on the second Monday of each month.
-Call the DFS Foster Care and Adoption Unit to find out more about the program or ask specific questions.
-Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues about adoption in all its forms, and encourage them to educate themselves about the need for resource families right here in Fairfax County.
-Contact the Fairfax CASA office to ask about becoming a volunteer CASA or contributing to the mission in other ways.
-Go to https://www.adoptuskids.org/states/va/browse.aspxif you are interested in opening your home to one of the many wonderful children awaiting adoption here in Virginia.
All children deserve safe and loving homes.
what does adoption look like? By Ann Burroughs sun
Angelina Jolie stands in the photo, with a bright smile on her face, surrounded by her six children, including one born in Cambodia, another born in Ethiopia, and a third born in Vietnam. In the 2007 movie Juno, the teenage title character gets pregnant and develops a relationship with a couple who intend to adopt her child; spoiler alert—the man changes his mind but the woman decides to go ahead and adopt as a single mother. In my first case serving as a Fairfax County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a grandmother wanted to adopt her biological grandson when her daughter’s parental rights were to be terminated; due to the circumstances of that case, he ultimately was adopted by the foster parents with whom he had been living almost since birth. My own biological mother was from Italy, and had come to the United States to put herself through college; I was adopted by an unrelated family through the New York State agency handling public adoptions at the time. Question: what does adoption look like? Answer: all of the above—and more.
what does adoption look like? By Ann Burroughs sun
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
to everyone who donated for
Welcome to our new supervisor, Paula Salguero McCommons! Here she is in her own words:
"I became a CASA Volunteer because children need to know that they are an important part of our community. Every time I heard about a child who is suffering I got the urge to help in some way. When I found out that I could be the voice of a child so that they could have a chance for a better outcome--I knew I had found my cause. As a Supervisor I would like cast the net wider in helping the Volunteers achieve better outcomes for their cases.
In my spare time, there's nothing better than being outdoors--hiking, running, fishing, and camping. But during the tough winter months--which I don't enjoy much--I do love going down to the basement and working up a serious sweat with fitness DVDs. I am podcast junkie of National Public Radio shows."
#GivingTuesday 2017 : By The Numbers
With your generous support, we surpassed our goal of $4,500 and will be able to provide a full year of advocacy for multiple children moving forward in the new year. Click below for a full report on the success of #GivingTuesday around the world:
Its with many bittersweet filled hearts we say goodbye to Kristy Tootle who has served Fairfax CASA for over two years. We wish her the absolute best as her and her husband welcome their new baby into their beautiful family this month!
A: Going through the upcoming holiday season can be tough on the kids we serve. What is some advice you'd give to CASA volunteers to help keep the holiday cheer going?
J: I remember serving on my first case with those 9 kids, showing up around Christmas with giant black bags filled with presents, and I just remember they had the tiniest little house, two bedrooms, for mom and the 9 kids. And they couldn't open them til Christmas, that was the mom's rule...but you know, hopefully before, you kind of have a sense of what they might like, and as long as its within reason, you can get that for them. There was another one of my more recent cases, with teenage boys, who were tough, and hard to get to, and I brought them just some footballs and basketballs, and you know, there's no reaction from them. Well then my next visit, one of them, who hadn't said 3 words to me at all, the 4 months I had been on the case, just comes outta the blue and says 'Thank You'. There's no little thing, or big thing, that you do that they do not notice.
Jack McGirl, pictured with his wife, Eileen
Congratulations to Jack McGirl for being selected to be our volunteer spotlight this issue! Jack has been with CASA as a volunteer for 17 years. Over those many years, Jack has served on over 10 cases, advocating for over 40 children. We talked about his history with CASA, permanency for children, and challenges our CASA volunteers face in the upcoming holiday season.
Ashleigh: You've been a CASA for 17 years which is impressive! What initially drew you to volunteer and what has made you stay with the program for so long?
Jack: When I retired, I had it in my head to do some volunteer work. In this area, there's a lot of choices, and as I was looking around and searching, others didn't strike me as something I wanted to do. Then I saw an advertisement in one of the papers for child advocacy - so I thought, let me get into this and see what its like. Why I stayed...there are many reasons. I know I am capable and healthy for this work. I can't say I've enjoyed the work because it is heart wrenching, but when you work as a part of a team of service providers to make a bad situation better, that's what its all about.
A: In your time serving as a CASA, you've had over 10 cases, serving over 40 children. In your tenure, have you developed any personal philosophies when it comes to being an advocate?
J: One thing I've learned, and about the same time I became a grandparent while babysitting my own grandchildren, is to not come on strong, and you ask them what's going on in their world, and just let them get comfortable. And usually, in most cases, the thing you find is that most kids aren't supported, and by being dependable and being their regularly, that they get comfortable with you and then a relationship develops. My feeling is that its best to let them come to you.
A: November was Adoption Awareness Month. In your cases, can you tell us about a time when permamnecy was adoption for the children you served?
J: My first case. There were 9 children. And all 8, with the exception of the oldest who had many problems and was instituionalized, were all in foster care. I had that case for 4 years, and the mother did some incredible stuff to be better suited to be a mother, and ultimately what happened is the 8 kids went back with her and they closed the case. And then about a year later, things just didn't go well so I got the case again. We spent 2 years, trying to patch things up, make it right, and it just didn't work. 2 of the oldest aged out and got married, but 4 of the kids were adopted by the foster family they had been with initially, during the first part of the case. The other 2 siblings, I found out later, were also adopted. So the entire family, was just in a better place overall.
volunteer spotlight: Jack mcgirl
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
December 13, 2017
4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
at the Fairfax CASA Office
Dear Friends of CASAs,
Please pop in to our winter open house and enjoy holiday sweets and festive beverages with the CASA staff. In the holiday spirit of giving, we are collecting supplies for BRAWS, an organization dedicated to bringing dignity and empowerment to women & girls living in shelters by providing new undergarments and menstrual supplies. Click here to learn more about BRAWS.
Please consider bringing a donation of new women's undergarments, feminine hygiene products, or a cash donation to the event.
Please RSVP to Ashleigh at email@example.com
Thank you to everyone who attended our Light of Hope Celebration on Sunday, October 29th. Coming together to celebrate our CASA volunteers for their dedication, accomplishments, and advocacy was time well spent. Be sure to click through the slideshow above!
Congratulations to the winners of our 2017 awards! Your unique contributions to Fairfax CASA helps us everyday in ensuring that every single abused and neglected in child has an advocate ready to have their back and fight for them wherever their efforts are needed.
Community Partner Award, Sharon Nelson and John Simek of Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
Corporate Champion Award, Rhonda Hammond of BJs Wholesale of Fair Lakes
Child Advocacy Award, Bill Reichhardt
May Cook Heart of Gold Award, Dennis Zimmerman
Join us for a
light of hope 2017 recap!
for it is in giving, that we receive.
-st. Francis of assisi