Department of Family Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
703-324-7500 TTY 711
12011 Government Center Parkway, Pennino Building
Fairfax, VA 22035
Michael A. Becketts

Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk

(Posted 2020 October; Updated 2020 November)

Staff and Youth Advocates with our Foster Care and Adoption program would like to thank everyone who took part in the first Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk! We hope that you will continue the effort to reduce the stigma of mental health. Throughout this webpage are online resources to help you learn more about what can be done to support the estimated 80% of children in foster care who are impacted by mental health.

Healthy Minds foster Futures 5k Walk photo collage

Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk - Inspiring youth impacted by mental health in the foster care community! banner graphic

For children in foster care, mental health is a significant issue. Many foster children have experienced trauma such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, homelessness, or exposure to criminal activity, substance abuse or addiction. Living with exposure to these traumatic factors can lead to a general sense of instability and insecurity, and it can lead to disruptions in a child’s development and social emotional regulation. Once children enter foster care, they can experience other circumstances that can impact their mental health, such as frequently changing homes or schools, broken family relationships, and inconsistent and inadequate access to mental health services.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Foster Care American Initiative, has identified mental and behavioral health as the “greatest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care.” According to the Information Packet: Mental Health Care Issues of Children and Youth in Foster Care, 2008:

  • Of the 400,000-plus children in foster care in America, it is estimated that nearly 80% suffer from a significant mental health issue. That is nearly four to five times the incidence that is found within the general population.  
  • The range of mental health issues experienced by youth in foster care includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic and anxiety disorders, major depression, and drug/alcohol abuse.  
  • Mental health issues are not always promptly recognized and diagnosed in children in foster care. Frequent transitions, masking behaviors, and reliance on foster parents to identify problems can extend the time it takes for these conditions to be reported and for mental health treatment to begin.

There is a very real opportunity to address the mental health needs of children in foster care, and the earlier an intervention occurs, the more likely it will have a lifelong impact (SAFY). Groups like the Foster Care Youth Advocates are working through events like this 5K walk to raise awareness in the community about this issue. 

Mental and behavioral health requires the presence of at least one nurturing, responsive caregiver who is stable in the child’s or teen’s life over time (AAP). Foster parents have an opportunity to be that one person who can help support a child striving to overcome a mental health diagnosis. Foster care is intended to allow children to develop a sense of belonging in a new, healthy family environment while maintaining their connections to their family of origin, unless that is unsafe for the child or teen (AAP).

Foster parents enable children and teens to develop the skills they need to function as part of a healthy family by providing:

  • Structures
  • Routines
  • Patience
  • Communication
  • Role-modeling
  • Consistency
  • Nurturance

adult and child outside walking away side by sideMaking sure that children receive treatment for mental health issues is one way that foster parents and the Department of Family Services (DFS) Foster Care and Adoption supports children in care. Children receiving early intervention services are more likely to complete high school, maintain jobs, live independently, and avoid teenage pregnancy and delinquency. It is part of our mission at DFS to make sure that children thrive in healthy families. 

Foster Care and Adoption works with Healthy Minds Fairfax which coordinates a full range of mental health and substance abuse services for children and youth across multiple county agencies, the school system and private treatment providers.

If you are looking for ways to support children in foster care, learn more about Foster Care and Adoption for information about becoming a foster home, supporting foster families, mentoring or tutoring youth in foster care, or helping a teen prepare for adult independent living.

County Conversation podcast studio and Natalie SposatoDuring the latest County Conversation podcast, Natalie Sposato, permanency coordinator, with DFS Foster Care and Adoption, was interviewed about the Oct. 24, 2020 Healthy Minds Foster Futures Mental Health Virtual 5K Walk and explores mental health and children in foster care. 

Update: Couldn't make it to this event? Tune in to the Facebook Live video learn about what participants got to experience.

Join us virtually on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. for the free Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk. The event is driven by the vision of current and former youth in Fairfax County foster care. Funded by a grant from the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, this walk seeks to empower young people in foster care who are striving to overcome the broad-reaching impact of mental health in our community, especially in the lives of children in foster care.

Help us reduce the stigma of mental health and make a difference in their lives at the 5K walk, featuring:

  • A Kickoff via Facebook Live at 9 a.m.
  • Keynote Speaker, Cordelia Cranshaw, Founder of Acts of Random Kindness & Former Miss District of Columbia, USA
  • Mental Health podcast
  • Kindness Rock challenge
  • Prizes (Randomly selected prizes made available through a contribution from Potomac River Running.)

Register for the free Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk.

For more information contact Marilyn Morales by email or call 703-324-7570.

This posting is part of the Department of Family Services' Community Corner where you’ll find timely information about upcoming events, parenting and wellness tips, programs and services, and more! Share these helpful posts with your friends and family. Don't miss out on future postings! Sign up today!

For media inquiries, contact Department of Family Services' Public Information Officer Amy Carlini by email, office phone 703-324-7758 or mobile phone 571-355-6672.

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