Each year the Department of Family Services recognizes 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. This year, the party was moved online via Zoom to honor the six youth.
The event opened with a graduation-related icebreaker activity led by Diana Cottrill with DFS’s Professional and Organization Development Team. Staff and resource parents were also invited to cheer on the happy graduates. Select staff shared a brief word about each youth and their accomplishments.
The significance of this achievement cannot be emphasized enough. Due to the relative instability of growing up in foster care, nationally, only about 50% of the children graduate from high school, and the number of college graduates is significantly lower.
“The hard work and perseverance of each student graduate will open more doors to them in the future,” said Maggie Moreland, the Foster Care & Adoption supervisor, who coordinates the event. “This ceremony gives us the chance to let them know just how proud we are of them and all their accomplishments.”
The graduation featured a guest speaker who shared an inspirational message for the graduates. Skye Blanchard Hamilton was adopted from foster care as an older youth. Hamilton obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a double major in sociology and women’s and gender studies from the University of North Carolina- Charlotte. Hamilton currently works as an Employment Specialist in Fairfax County supporting young adults who need help obtaining employment.
In addition, the graduates received a variety of gifts due to contributions from several generous donors including Wells + Associates, Hearts and Hands Reaching Out (HHRO), and the Bernie L. Bates Foundation, (BLB), Inc. partnering with Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter (PsiAA) of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Each graduate was gifted a laptop computer to advance their studies, gift cards, personally embroidered towel, a “yeti” like mug filled with goodies, certificate, caricature drawing of themselves.
“We can’t wait until next year, when we can all be back together celebrating in person,” said Kristina Jordan, Independent Living Support Specialist. “For now, staff and youth alike were excited to be able to have a time to celebrate their achievements.”
This article posting is part of the Foster Family News monthly newsletter designed to keep foster parents informed about all the new and notable happenings in Fairfax County.
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