ROANOKE, Va. – More than 300 Virginia children in foster care are living with a relative. In Lynchburg and Roanoke County, about 10%t of the children in care are with family.
Keeping that connection is important and a new Virginia program aims to keep those bonds going.
Marleigh Proffitt-Scott spent five months in foster care before grandparents Joy and Donnie Scott could bring her to Virginia.
“She went into foster care the day she turned 5-years-old. She was having birthday cake. Social services removed her from her home,” said Joy Scott, who adopted her biological granddaughter. “We did not want her to grow up thinking she didn’t have a family.”
“I love living in Virginia,” said Marleigh Proffitt-Scott, who is now 10-years-old.
This is called Kinship Care, which is part of the foster care system.
“We want to help, we want to keep these children connected with their families. We don’t want to have to send them somewhere else or place them with a family they may not be familiar with,” said Dominique Sparrow with Roanoke City Department of Social Services.
Sparrow says with every new foster care case, they try to find family members in the first 30 days. Family members go through background checks and training. If the child can’t return to their biological parents, children 14 and over can decide if they want to be adopted. If adoption is ruled out, that’s when KinGAP comes into play, a new program for Virginia.
“KinGAP was really needed because we were noticing there were a lot of families who wanted to take care of their family members but may not have had the financial means to take care of an additional family member,” said Sparrow.
KinGAP gives the family taking care of the child certain services, including money and health insurance.
“Our children thrive better when they’re in their community, when they’re with their family,” said Sparrow.
Like the Scotts, who were planning on traveling and connecting with old friends, but say adopting Marleigh tops that.
“Retirement looks a whole lot different. Most of what we do now is centered around Marleigh’s activities,” said Joy Scott.
“It looks a lot different but it’s not worse by any means. It’s probably better for us. All of us are enjoying it,” said Donnie Scott.
“I’m actually really happy I live with them,” said Marleigh.
Sometimes family members take care of children outside of the foster care system, but to qualify for the state benefits, it has to be facilitated through the Department of Social Services.
There are more than 700 children who are ready for foster to adoption in Virginia. They are ready to find a permanent and loving forever family. 10 News is profiling one child who needs a home every day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 30 Days of Hope. The children are all ages and races and were put into foster care due to no fault of their own. 2019 marks the third year 10 News is doing this series.