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 - 2019 July

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Welcome to the 2019 July issue of Foster Family News, a monthly newsletter for current and potential Fairfax County foster parents.

Table of Contents
  • Bethany Shively, FCFCAA president, Shares a Special Message
  • New Foster Care Laws in Virginia
  • It's Immunization Time!
  • Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Campus Tour (Slideshow)
  • Training: It's What's Required
  • Event Central
  • Frequently Asked Questions: How do I identify a medical provider for a child placed in my home?
  • Story in Statistics: The Average Age of Youth Entering Care
  • Staff Spotlight: Sheila Donaldson
  • Donors and Sponsors Highlights: Touching Heart Schools on a Mission After-School Program
  • Upcoming Trainings and Conferences (Save the Dates!)
Words from Fairfax County Foster Care and Adoption Association (FCFCAA)

Bethany Shively

“Return home.” For anyone who’s been through PRIDE training, you know this is the ultimate goal of foster care, at least here in Fairfax County, where they take this charge seriously. County philosophy or not, I think most of us would agree children generally do best when they can be raised in their family of origin. But this doesn’t necessarily mean returning to Mom and Dad. In fact, out of all of the children I’ve had placed with me over the years, none of them have left my home to go back to their bio mom or dad. However, the majority have gone to live with extended family.

About 70,000 children are in the care of their grandparents in Virginia, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. More are being raised by other relatives: aunts, uncles and cousins. According to the Kinship Family Institute, this type of care is typically considered to be either informal (when the family/kin decides the child will live with relatives or friends) or formal (mandated by the court).

But what exactly do these arrangements look like? The Virginia Mercury recently covered this issue in an article titled: ‘They forgot about us:’ Thousands of families are doing the same work as foster parents in Virginia, without the support.’ The article notes that while these Virginia families are doing the same work as foster families, they get none of the support or financial assistance. “They could get a monthly stipend if they jumped through the numerous hoops — from background checks to training — required to become a licensed foster home, but most simply bring the children into their homes without thinking twice about their options. They struggle with poverty, caring for children who often have gone through traumatic experiences and frequently have nowhere to turn for help.”

Advocates are calling for more investments in the child welfare system, particularly for kinship families, so they can receive the same support as foster families: annual training on how to help a child who has been through trauma or assistance managing behavior, as well as the monthly stipend. However, with about 4,700 children in foster care in Virginia, and thousands more living in an informal kinship household, this is a heavy lift.  

Virginia is expected to be an early implementer of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act, which could increase funding programs that help kinship caregivers navigate the system, including finding out for which benefits they might qualify. This type of navigational support could go a long way. In fact, I have friends who have been raising their nephew for the past five years. For the first year, this was a formal kinship foster situation, in which they received full support from the county, as any foster parents would. However, when they later transitioned into guardianship, they lost their “foster” status, and in effect, all county support, financial and otherwise. Just recently, they found out their nephew could have qualified for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid – a revelation which could have relieved them of a huge financial burden over the past few years.

If you are a kinship family, I encourage you to connect with the Kinship Family Institute and also check out support and educational resources available through Formed Families Forward. Make sure you’re aware of all of the resources that exist!

All the best,

Bethany Shively
Fairfax County Foster Care and Adoption Association (FCFCAA)

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New Foster Care Laws in Virginia

Fairfax County Public Safety buildingRecent reports on the unfavorable state of foster care in Virginia spurred members of the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle to move on foster care reform this year. New laws went into effect July 1.

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It's Immunization Time!

medical officeParents, you must have documentation of immunization for children entering kindergarten and sixth grade and for new students transferring into Fairfax County Public Schools. Fairfax County Health Department offers school required immunizations from your health care provider and at the Fairfax County Health Department's five clinics. Find out what parents should know about immunizations.

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Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Campus Tour

The Permanency and Life Skills Unit of the Foster Care & Adoption program teamed up with First AME Church of Manassas last spring to take high school youth, including several Fairfax County foster youth, on the 10th annual HBCU Tour. This year’s tour visited schools in North Carolina and Virginia. The Foster Care & Adoption program picks up all costs for Fairfax County youth.

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Training: It’s What’s Required

adults in classroomThat foster parent license comes with expectations: that you care about children and want to make a difference in their lives, can provide stability and a loving environment for youth placed in your home, and complete 30 hours of training every three years. Fairfax County’s Foster Care & Adoption program offers a full slate of trainings to make hitting that goal easy.

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Event Central

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Enjoy any of these free performances throughout the county this month. Go to Fairfax County Park Authority for locations and times:

  • July 17: Blue Sky Puppet Theater (puppets); City of Fairfax-Main Street Community Band (concert band); Little Red & The Renegades (Zydeco); The Reagan Years (‘80s tribute band)
  • July 18: Maybe April (country); Whiskey Wildfire (new country); The Aloha Boys (Hawaiian)
  • July 19: Natty Beaux (swing); King Teddy (swing); Shenandoah Run (folk); Memphis Gold (blues)
  • July 20: Blue Sky Puppet Theater; Rocknoceros (children’s songs); The Great Zucchini (comedy, magic); Bolivia Cultural Heritage Night “Tradiciones Bolivianas” (dance/music); Thrillbillys (roots rock); Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolutions (New Orleans party music)
  • July 21: The Capitol Steps (satirical revue)
  • July 24: The Great Zucchini; The Annandale Brass Ensemble (American popular music); Circus No. 9 (bluegrass, jazz, rock); The Woodshedders (indie roots rock)
  • July 25: Daryl Davis (swing); Bumper Jacksons (Americana, country, bluegrass); Randy Thompson Band (Americana, country, roots rock)
  • July 26: Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattler Verein (alpine dance/music); Patty Reese Band (blues, roots rock); The Alexandria Singers (pops chorus); Ladies in the Day (soul); The grandsons, jr. (children’s songs)
  • July 27: Blue Sky Puppet Theater; Rocknoceros; Peru Cultural Heritage Night “Centro Cultural Peru” (dance/music); Faycez U Know (R&B); The British Invasion Years (‘60s British invasion rock)
  • July 28: Fast Eddie & The Slowpokes (blues)
  • July 31: Enter the Haggis (Celtic, rock); Kings Park Band (concert band); The English Channel (rock & roll)

Families, take a walk through the woods while following the pages of a book. This season’s story is “Feathers For Lunch” by Lois Ehlert. Martha Washington Library on July 17 between 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

Playdate Café
Adults with children come to play, have coffee and meet new friends. Ages birth-5 with adult. Great Falls Library on July 26 between 10 a.m.-Noon.

Annual Family Fun Fair Picnic
The Fairfax County Department of Family Services Foster Care & Adoption program, in partnership with Greater Little Zion Baptist Church, is hosting the Annual Family Fun Fair Picnic for foster, adoptive and kinship parents. Play games and win prizes. Food is free, though we ask families to bring a dessert to share.

Saturday, August 10, 2019
11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Occoquan Regional Park
9751 Ox Road
Lorton, VA 22079

To RSVP, contact Terri Williams-Henderson or call 703-324-7481. For more information, contact Emma Marshall or 703-324-7483.

Earn a Park Prize Pack
Have you earned your Discovery Trail prize pack yet? Pick up a map, visit eight parks and redeem for a coupon book full of free summer fun in Fairfax parks! A $90+ value! What are you waiting for? Get on the Discovery Trail today! Promotional period ends Sept. 2.

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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: How do I identify a medical provider for a child placed in my home?

Answer: First, speak with their foster care specialist about previous medical providers the child has had. When possible, try to maintain the relationship your child has had with previous medical providers. If, however, your child does not have a primary doctor or maintaining that provider is not realistic, medical providers should be located through the Medicaid directory. Please speak with your foster care specialist when exploring new providers, because they may already have knowledge of medical/dental providers that accept new patients and Medicaid. They may also want you to choose a provider close to the birth family or relative home, if reunification is the plan. This helps ensure continuity of medical care for a child when they leave foster care. For youth who are undocumented, foster parents in conjunction with the child’s specialist can select a provider and the Department is responsible for medical costs.

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


The perception is that the majority of children in foster care are very young - think infants and toddlers. But this belief is incorrect. The average age for youth entering care is eight years old.

Average Age of Child Entering Care is 8 graphic


5 Things to Know About Sheila Donaldson, Program Manager, Foster Care & Adoption Resource and Support

1. I always knew I wanted to help children. I tended to be the “counselor” for my friends from a young age, which made me interested in becoming a therapist.

2. My first job out of graduate school was in child welfare. I had a general caseload consisting of CPS investigations, CPS ongoing and foster care. I left that job to work in the mental health arena, providing therapy and forensic evaluations. But I experienced missing a huge piece of the puzzle by only meeting with one person during the session. I missed child welfare and looking at the entire family system. I felt this was where I could truly make an impact on someone’s life.

Sheila Donaldson3. I had previously been with the county in the ‘90s for a few years, and then I took a break to stay home when I started my family. I have been with the county for 10.5 years. I have worked in CPS ongoing (now PPS), both general cases and, specifically, when we had the “sex unit,” and Prevention (Neighborhood Networks). I also worked in foster care doing home studies and training.

4. I have enjoyed working along the child welfare continuum in various capacities. I have been able to support others to make significant and impactful changes in their lives. Trauma can change the trajectory of someone’s life, and with the right kind of supports, it is possible to triumph despite what occurred. I have been a foster parent and realize I cannot parent everyone myself! Specifically, in the Resource and Support program, I have enjoyed getting to know other foster parents and seeing the strengths that reside in each person. Many people have gone through some challenging times and it has motivated them to help others quite wonderfully. I experience a positive energy in the room when I train with foster parents. It allows me to see the beauty in others while being amidst the trauma that surrounds us. 

5. My last position was within the Prevention program within a sub program, Neighborhood Networks. It involved a lot of program development and figuring out where this program fit along the continuum. I surprisingly found I really liked that piece of the work. Now I am the program manager of five teams that do different parts. I enjoy seeing how each mini program fits in with each other and within the entire system. As a former foster parent, I feel passionate about supporting other foster families and our youth. I am loving working with all the people on my team who are also passionate and very talented at what they do. Everyone is eager to provide the best help that we can, and I am excited to be a part of that!


Our partners and donors are the true power behind communities of care for Fairfax County Foster Care and Adoption. With them we can provide amazing support services, community events and after care resources.

Touching Heart Schools on a Mission After-School Program group photoThis issue highlights and thanks Touching Heart Schools on a Mission After-School Program. The curriculum encourages students to talk and learn about issues kids around the world face every day. Throughout the session, children discuss important social issues and participant in service projects. Recently, students from two locations – Academies of Loudoun in Ashburn, Virginia and Oakton High School in Oakton, Virginia - rallied classmates to create Birthday Bundles for children in Fairfax County Foster Care & Adoption.

Contact Information
Phone: 703-901-7355

Check out highlights of other donors and sponsors from past issues.

TRAININGS AND CONFERENCES (For Fairfax County Foster Parents Only)

mechanical wheelsThe following trainings and conferences are for Fairfax County foster parents only.


Inservice (For certified Fairfax County foster parents. Registration required.)

Learn more and save the dates for upcoming trainings and conferences.


envelopeWhat do you want to see in Foster Family News?

Submit your suggestions to Kendra Lee.



Check out past issues of Foster Family News.

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