Department of Family Services – Children and Families

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035

Oriane Eriksen,

Foster Family News – Current Issue

Foster Family Newsletter banner

Welcome to the 2021 September issue of Foster Family News, a monthly newsletter for current and potential Fairfax County foster parents.

Table of Contents
  • Being A Foster Parent: Supporting Children and Their Families
  • September is Kinship Care Awareness Month
  • Unit Success Stories: Staff Helps Teen and Her Mom Restore their Relationship and Safely Reunify
  • Understanding the Impact of The Family First Prevention Services Act on Foster Care
  • Fairfax County Holds Virtual Graduation Ceremony
  • 5 Tips to Prepare Children to Go Back to School During COVID-19
  • The Foster Closet
  • COVID-19 Relief – Deadline: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021
  • Events Central
  • Frequently Asked Question: When do we engage relatives in the foster care process?
  • Story in Statistics: Children in Kinship and Foster Care
  • Foster Care Myths: Teenagers are the most difficult to foster.
  • Trainings and Conferences


Being A Foster Parent: Supporting Children and Their Families

Aisha BigbeeLearn from foster parent, Aisha Bigbee, about developing partnerships with biological parents, forming lasting bonds with children in her care, and the joy she feels when families reunite, and kids thrive! Today, nearly 200 Fairfax County children are in foster care. The Department of Family Services' Foster Care and Adoption Program offers temporary foster homes for these children, and services to help their families. Check out the video.


September is Kinship Care Awareness Month

Kinship Care Awareness Month 2021 Keeping Children Connected to FamilyThe Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed September as Kinship Care Awareness Month, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of kinship caregivers and the children they are raising in stable, loving and nurturing households when parents are unable to do so due to challenging family situations. Fairfax County is committed to prioritizing a kin-first culture and supporting kinship families who are raising a relative’s or close family friend’s child on their own or with child welfare support. Learn about the services and supports the county provides to kinship families. 

Unit Success Stories: Staff Helps Teen and Her Mom Restore their Relationship and Safely Reunify

group of six people Foster Care Unit AnnandaleCheck out this story of how staff supported a young lady who had moved to Virginia to live with her father during her mother’s illness. After entering foster care for her safety, the youth and her mother began the long work to repair their relationship while her mother worked on her own health. They were able to establish appropriate roles and responsibilities and eventually be reunified as mother and daughter.

Understanding the Impact of The Family First Prevention Services Act on Foster Care

two adults and child in living room looking at bookImplementation of The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) began July 1, 2021. Its focus is twofold – reducing the number of children in foster care through prevention services that support safe, stable families; and making sure that children who are separated from their parents and enter foster care are placed in family-like settings (foster care, kinship care) receiving evidence-based, trauma-informed services to support their resilience. Find out more about what this means for the way we do foster care in Fairfax County.

Fairfax County Holds Virtual Graduation Ceremony

graduate with black cap and gown with purple stoleNationally, only about 50% of children in foster care graduate from high school, and the number of college graduates is significantly lower. So, each year we recognize the accomplishments of youth graduates including high school, college, vocational certificate programs, or GED recipients. For the second year in a row due to COVID concerns, Foster Care and Adoption has been unable to host its usual in-person celebration, but that did not stop the celebration. Find out more about the special event.

5 Tips to Prepare Children to Go Back to School During COVID-19

five children sitting outside doing homeworkUnder normal circumstances, children can experience a mixture of emotions about the return to school in the fall. Given all the COVID-related changes that children have experienced in the last year, their feelings are more complicated than ever.

Now is a good time for to start having conversations with children to help them have a positive outlook on going back to school. Check out these tips offered by staff in our Neighborhood Networks program.

The Foster Closet

four tricycles side by sideThe Foster Closet has helped many families get a head start on providing kids with all they need to adjust in their new homes.

Many children come into care, sometimes late at night, with only the clothes on their backs. Within hours, the closet can get these families a few of the necessities to make that transition smoother. 

Learn more about the Foster Closet.

COVID-19 Relief – Deadline: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021

VDSS COVID financial relieve for teens previously in foster care graphic - person thinkingVDSS, through their Fostering Futures program, has COVID relief funds available to eligible youth for a one-time payment of up to $1,500. If you are youth between the ages of 18-27 who was previously a teen in foster care, and you are in need a of some support, you may be eligible!

You can also access the application online and you can contact your current or former LDSS for more details about and assistance in this process. If you are connected to a youth who qualifies, please share this message.

Events Central

generic calendar graphicNorthern Virginia Parent Peer Support Group hosted by Northern Post Adoption Consortium, and Formed Families Forward.

Virtual Groups Meet via Zoom
First Sunday of every month.
Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov. 7, Dec. 5
7:30-9 p.m.

In-Person Groups Meet in Fairfax City
Third Wednesday of every month.
Sept. 15, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15
7-8:30 p.m.

This free ongoing parent support group is led by trained peer leaders with personal and professional experience for families residing in Northern Virginia. Participants will experience a safe space for foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers to share experiences, concerns, frustrations and resources. Register online.

Virtual Kinship Cafés hosted by the Department of Family Services’ Parenting Education Programs
Virtual Groups Meet via Zoom
Wednesday, Sept. 8, Thursdays, Sept. 16, and 30
Wednesday, Oct. 6, Thursdays, Oct. 14, and 28

Kinship caregivers can talk with others who understand how difficult and joyful it can be raising a child for a family member or friend. Join us to discuss topics such as discipline, self-care, and family rules. You can also find out about community resources that you may not have known existed. Sign up for a Kinship Café by sending an email or calling 703-324-7720 at least one business day before the Kinship Café. We look forward to you joining us!

The county is offering some in-person events at county facilities. In addition, our partners at Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, Fairfax County Public Library, and the Fairfax County Park Authority continue providing exploration and fun through online resources. 

Fairfax County Park Authority offers programs and classes for all ages. All classes are conducted according to Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines. Outdoor, indoor and virtual class options are available in a wide range of interest areas. You can get details about dates, times, and fees or register for programs at Parktakes online.

Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL)
FCPL offers robust virtual programming for all ages, which can be found on the FCPL online calendar, YouTube and Facebook. Learn about the top 10 ways to access FCPL resources at home. Get more information.

Department of Family Services graphic logoThe Department of Family Services supports families and county residents of all ages and stages of life – and that definitely includes foster parents and families! Like and Follow @FairfaxCountyFamilyServices for news, events, tips, stories, training opportunities and more.

Each newsletter will include this section to help answer questions, spotlight the people who support foster families, highlight the donors and sponsors who generously give to foster care programs and activities and friendly reminders for foster families to sign-up for trainings.


question marksQuestion: When do we engage relatives in the foster care process?



Answer to the Frequently Asked Question

Answer: Searching for and engaging relatives is an ongoing process throughout the child’s involvement with the child welfare system. It should begin as soon as the child is at risk of being placed outside of the home and continue with a sense of urgency until the child has achieved permanency.

Even when placed in safe and loving foster homes, children often want a connection to their biological family. Relatives and other individuals can provide important connections and support for the child at risk of or in foster care. They can help the child in preventing foster care, during the foster care experience, in transitioning to permanency, and throughout adulthood. Strong connections with family members provide the child with stability, long-term safety nets, and the necessary foundations for success in adulthood.

Within 30 calendar days (5 days when feasible) after the separation of a child from the custody of the parent(s) (Social Security Act, Title IV, § 471 (a) (29) [42 USC 671]), the Department shall notify in writing all grandparents and other adult relatives, both maternal and paternal. The purpose of the written notice is to explain to the relative options they have to participate in the care and placement of the child, in an effort to establish permanency for the child.

The goal of reunifying the child with birth parents or prior custodians is, in most cases, the best plan for a child.  However, ongoing engagement of relatives allows for the concurrent goal of adoption by a relative or placement with a relative.  Engaging relatives can reduce the number of children aging out of foster care without a permanent family and increases the number of children leaving foster care to a permanent, safe, and loving home.

The process of engaging relatives should be guided by the desires and needs of the child, consistent with the child’s developmental level. The child should be involved as soon as possible in the process, taking into account the child’s circumstances and best interests.

As family members are identified, opportunities for reconnecting and re-engaging them in the child’s life should be explored.

When family members indicate interest in connecting with the child, the Department will engage these individuals to gather information, build relationships, and explore relative placement options for the child.

Relationships with family members and other adults should be reconsidered throughout the child’s involvement with the child welfare system. The child’s needs and desires, and the individual’s circumstances may change over time. Someone who initially was not able to assist the child may be a valuable resource at another time.

(Information adapted from Virginia DSS Foster Care Policy Manual.)

Check out other frequently asked questions and answers from past issues.


Children in Kinship and Foster Care

In Virginia, there are:

  • 67,000 children being raised by kin with no parent present.
  • 5,000 children in foster care.
  • 340 children in foster care being raised by kin.

Source: National KIDS COUNT

Story in Statistics - in Virginia 67,000 children being raised by kin with no parent present; 5,000 children in foster care; 340 children in foster care being raised by kin


There are a lot of misconceptions about foster care, foster parents, and the children and families involved. This section aims to dispel some of those notions and provide clarity for those interested in supporting foster care.

Myth: Teenagers are the most difficult to foster.

Fact: Every child in foster care has experienced some trauma, and brings strengths, abilities, and challenges regardless of age. With training (and in some cases) collaboration with social workers, foster parents become equipped to bring out those strengths in character and help children of all ages recover from past trauma. Being in an environment with loving foster parents who nurture a teen's coping skills and resilience can help them to recover, thrive, and move forward in life. Success in school, jobs, community activities and beyond become a reality.

Check out other myths from past issues.

TRAININGS AND CONFERENCES (For Fairfax County Foster Parents Only)

orange mechanical gearsReflections
Note: There are nine (9) sessions in this class. All must be attended to receive a certificate of completion.
Prerequisite: Families must have had at least one foster care placement to attend. 

Tuesdays, Sept. 14, 21, 28; Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26; Nov. 9, 16, 2021
6:30-8:30 p.m.

Join the Fairfax County Department of Family Services in learning a variety of tools and skills to help children who have experienced trauma regulate their overwhelming emotions and build upon their inherent strengths. Reflections is a trauma-informed training curriculum that offers foster/kin families tangible strategies to address difficult behavior(s) to increase placement stability. 

RSVP to Zachary Landau.

What is an IEP?
Monday, Oct. 4, 2021
6:30-9 p.m.

Join the Fairfax County Department of Family Services, in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), to learn about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in Fairfax County. The training includes information about the process to determine eligibility for special education services and the purpose of the eligibility meeting. We will discuss what to expect during an IEP meeting for students of all ages and grade levels (i.e. preschool, elementary, and secondary), as well as accessing education services in the least restrictive environment. RSVP to Zachary Landau  by Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Foster to Adopt
Thursday, Oct. 14 and 21, 2021

Come learn about the transition from fostering to adopting and meet other families considering the same process. The training will cover issues such as transracial adoption and cultural sensitivity; the impact of adoption on child development; ongoing birth family and sibling contact; Adoption Assistance and resources. RSVP to Zachary Landau by Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.

Foster Parent College Training Highlight (September 2021)
Foster Parent College (FPC) is a great way to obtain training on key topics from the safety and comfort of your home. FPC provides newly approved and seasoned foster parents with a curriculum designed to build new skills and reinforce information acquired from New Generation PRIDE (formerly PRIDE). As approved foster parents with Fairfax County, all classes are free and available to you 24/7. You may choose to take any class you believe will be helpful for your own personal growth and development.

Children with Autism
Robert Nickel, MD, professor of pediatrics and expert in the field of autism, discusses the challenges faced by parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Based on 30 years of experience as a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, Dr. Nickel helps parents understand the behavioral, social, and medical issues surrounding autism.  Also discussed are developmental delay and autism, Functional Behavioral Assessment, Asperger syndrome, alternative and complementary therapies, and medication.

*The training will take approximately 1.0 hour to complete and fulfills 2.0 hours of on-line in-service training. You may take the class at your own pace.

Register Online

  • Log In with your log in credentials.
  • Scroll and select the course titled – Children with Autism (under the Behavior Management tab).
  • Select Enroll to begin the course.

If you have questions or need additional support, please reach out to one of the in-service trainers; Terri Williams-Henderson or Palinda Belcher. You may also contact FPC at (541) 343-6636 or toll free at 1-800-777-6636, (PT) for technical difficulties.  As always, once a class is completed, please email the certificate to either Palinda Belcher (if your last name begins with A-J) or Terri Williams-Henderson (if your last name begins with K-Z).

Inservice (For certified Fairfax County foster parents. Registration required.)
Learn more and save the dates for upcoming trainings and conferences.


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Check out past issues of Foster Family News.

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