Foster Fridays: Meet Lauren
We'd like to thank Lauren, one of the amazing workers at our local DSS office for answering some questions!
How long have you been at your job?
I've been with the Department of Social Services for 5 1/2 years. I was a Foster Care worker for 2 years, before I switched to the Resource Unit as the Foster Parent Trainer and working with Relative Foster Parents. I've been in my current position of Foster Parent Trainer and Recruiter since August 2019.
Can you describe what your job currently looks like?
As the Foster Parent Trainer and Recruiter, my job is to raise community awareness about the need for Foster & Adoptive families in our community. I attend and hold community events to help educate people on the need as well as spread awareness about the children we work with that are legally free for adoption and are waiting to find their forever families. I also hold Foster Parent Training Classes 3 times a year, as well as relative specific foster parent training classes three times a year. I am also the Senior Worker for the Adoption and Resource Unit, so I provide support to my supervisor and other staff members.
Why did you get into this field, and what keeps you in it?
I began college as a business major, hoping to one day open my own dance studio. I realized my sophomore year that I wanted to be a part of something much bigger than myself. I've always loved working with children and have a passion for helping the less fortunate. I made a decision overnight to switch my major to Social Work and have never looked back. Despite the difficulty when you're working with families and children who have experienced trauma, the successes, no matter how big or small, are what keep me going. Seeing children overcome an obstacle, watching families reunite, watching someone graduate high school and helping children find their forever families are just a few examples of successes that i've been able to be apart of.
What inspires you most about foster parents?
What inspires me most about foster parents is watching families come together for the child(ren). When foster parents are able to put aside their differences and work together alongside the biological parents to help support reunification, or to develop a relationship if the child does not return to the biological parents and to continue to support continued contact with their family of origin. There can never be too many people to love a child, and it's a beautiful thing when we can safely come together to grow the child's circle of support.
What would you like people to know about the current need for foster parents?
The need is great. At any given time we have between 160 and 170 children in foster care just from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro. There are not enough approved families in our area to meet this need and our children are being sent outside their community, to places as far away as Richmond, Roanoke, Southern Virginia, Virginia Beach, and Northern Virginia. This furthers their trauma being not only removed from their birth family, but their schools, friends, pets, community, etc. We need local families to keep our children local. We also need families that are willing to work with teenagers and sibling groups. It is often difficult to find families for our older youth, which then results in those youth being not only placed out of the area, but in group home or residential facilities. Children need families and we hope to find families to meet the needs of our children!
What would you like people to know who are considering becoming foster parents?
Ask questions! Don't be afraid to reach out and get more information. We are here to help answer your questions. As the Foster Parent Trainer, I often hear from people coming through my class that they didn't know about all the supports and services that are out there to help Foster and Adoptive Parents. Coming to a class and getting more information does not mean that you have to make the commitment. We are here to answer your questions. We are able to connect prospective foster parents with workers or current foster parents that would be able to answer any questions that they may have. All you have to do is reach out!
"Taking chances is scary, but there is something that should scare you far more than anything: Missing out on something truly wonderful because you were scared."