The work of the Adoption and Kinship Assistance unit is about supporting adoptive and kinship families until the child is either 18 years old or even until their 21st birthday in some cases. They also help eligible families adopting a child with special needs to receive adoption assistance to provide for the needs of their child. Supervisor Julie Bowman answers a few questions about the unit:
Foster Family News: What is your background as a supervisor?
Julie Bowman: I joined Fairfax County as an adoption specialist in 2006 and spent several years recruiting adoptive families and finalizing adoptions. I transitioned to our adoption and kinship assistance team in 2011 and worked as a specialist on the team for eight years. I transitioned into the role of supervisor of the team in April of 2019. I enjoy my new role as supervisor, but I’m so grateful for the number of years that I had working with our adoptive and kinship families.
FFN: What is your philosophy of social work?
JB: For me, social work is a way of looking at the world. Children don’t live in isolation. Families don’t live in isolation. You need to look at the child in terms of the family system and the family in terms of the world around them. It really is an approach that takes into account the family dynamics, culture and the environment. There are just so many factors and so many opportunities for change. It’s an exciting field.
FFN: How long have you worked in the field of social work?
JB: I’ve been working professionally in the field of social work since 2004. I initially worked for a local therapeutic foster care agency for several years before coming to the county. I’ve spent my career working in child welfare, specifically foster care and adoption.
FFN: What is the name of your unit?
JB: My unit is the Adoption and Kinship Assistance team. You may hear it referred to as “post adoption.” However, we recently renamed our team to be sure that we included all of the families who we serve.
FFN: What is the structure of your unit?
JB: My team is the smallest within the entire Foster Care & Adoption program. There are five of us on the team including myself. The specialists include Anne Goldberg, Joye Gauthier and Kendra Smith. We also have part-time support from an administrative assistant, Marilyn Morales.
FFN: What does your unit do, and what is the main goal of your unit?
JB: The main goal of my team is to provide support to adoptive and kinship families. Following the final order of adoption or a custody order, the family’s case is transferred to my team. We will continue to support the family until the child is either 18 years old or even until their 21st birthday in some cases. Our goal is to support the family to maintain safety and permanency.
FFN: Do you provide other supports to families?
JB: We also provide support to families adopting from private adoption agencies who live in Fairfax County. If a family is adopting a child with special needs, they are eligible to receive adoption assistance to provide for the needs of their child. We work with several local private adoption agencies to provide support to these families in addition to our families adopting from foster care and our kinship families.
FFN: Who does the unit serve, and approximately how many people does that include?
JB: Like I mentioned previously, our team serves adoptive families after the final order of adoption and kinship families after custody has been transferred by the court. With just four specialists, we support just under 400 families. We serve families in 27 different states across the U.S. Most of our families are parenting children aged 13 years old and older - 266 adoptees.
FFN: What is one thing you want people to know about your unit?
JB: When you think about the child welfare continuum of prevention services, child protective services, foster care and finally adoption, my team has the longest relationship with the families we serve. Depending on the case, my team can have a relationship with a family for over 10 years.
FFN: How can they reach the unit?
JB: Parents can always reach out to my team if they have questions about adoption assistance or kinship support services. The easiest way to speak with a member of my team is to call 703-324-7639 and ask to speak to someone on the team. Parents can also contact me directly. My direct office number is 703-324-7131.
FFN: When should they reach out to your unit?
JB: Adoptive parents and Kinship caregivers can reach out to any member of our team with questions or concerns. As a team, we’d really like to maintain contact with each of the families so we can be proactive to provide intervention as necessary. I’d also welcome foster parents to reach out to the team if they have questions about adoption or kinship assistance. You can also speak with your foster care or adoption specialist and ask them to connect you with a member of our team.
FFN: Is there any other question that you wish I had asked about your unit? If so, please provide an answer.
JB: It is important for foster parents to understand that our team also serves as an intermediary between parents and the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). VDSS makes the decisions regarding funding for services under adoption assistance. My team does a great job of walking parents through the process to gain funding for services and advocate on behalf of parents with VDSS.
FFN: What is your favorite thing about the work you do?
JB: My favorite thing about the work that I do is the people that I meet. I work with an amazing group of social workers, who are truly dedicated to the work that they do. I’ve also met so many wonderful adoption and kinship families. I’ve enjoyed watching so many kids grow up during my time working in Fairfax County.
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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