Roanoke City continues to have the most children in foster care

Lynchburg and Roanoke County are also in the top 10 locations for the most kids in foster care

Roanoke City Department of Social Services office sign. (Copyright 2022 by WSLS 10 - All rights reserved.)

ROANOKE, Va.There are more than 750 children who are ready for adoption in Virginia. They are ready to find a permanent and loving forever family. 10 News is sharing the stories of one child who needs a home every day in November in 30 Days of Hope. The children are of all ages and races and were put into foster care due to no fault of their own. 2023 marks the seventh year 10 News is doing this series.

Roanoke City continues to have the highest number of children in foster care across Virginia, at 262 children.

Lynchburg and Roanoke County are also in the top 10 locations for the most kids in foster care. It’s a big concern for agencies across our region.

This table shows the number of children in care in September 2023.

LocationNumber of Children in Foster CareTotal Percent
Roanoke City2625.2%
Fairfax County2104.2%
Richmond City2044.1%
Virginia Beach2024%
Roanoke County1052.1%

“The number of children in foster care, it’s an issue that every department of social services is concerned about whether they have 10 kids in foster care or whether they have over 200 kids in foster care,” said Gwen Coleman, the director of human and social services for Roanoke City.

10 News asked Coleman why the numbers are so high here.

“I don’t think that’s a question I can answer very easily. I do know, when I look at Roanoke City where we are geographically and the surrounding areas, we are a city that has a bus line. We have public housing, and the localities around us don’t have a lot of public housing. They don’t have a shelter; they don’t have a bus line. I think that families that need intensive services or public assistance are more likely to live in Roanoke City. We also have the issue of substance use that’s prevalent in our community. We have the issues of mental health and domestic violence and since the pandemic,” said Coleman.

Carrie Guzman sees the need every day while working for DSS as a Family Services Supervisor.

“High case numbers, high children in care. It’s difficult for everyone. It’s difficult for the families, for the children, the community, the school system, and for the people here at the department,” said Guzman.

Roanoke, Lynchburg and Franklin County are three of 15 agencies in Virginia piloting a new program called Kin First Now.

Coleman said children who go into kinship care placements tend to fare better and have fewer placement disruptions than kids who are placed in what they would consider a ‘stranger foster home.’

Kinship can be anyone from a relative to a teacher, to a coach or church member.

“What we’re looking for is that relationship with that family. We’re looking for that relationship with that child,” said Coleman.

The Kin First Now program means urgent efforts to discover and engage family first and reinvest staff time in finding relatives and other people the child knows.

“They’re still in their same culture, their same community. These are people who they’ve known their entire lives. They’re comfortable. They don’t have to wonder, ‘What kind of weird food am I going to eat for dinner?’ Or, ‘Am I gonna get to see my family again?’” said Guzman, who adds this is giving them new ways to find family and overcome barriers to placing children with them.

“With child welfare, there’s no one solution. We have to look at solutions and options from different angles because we don’t want to focus our energy on just one thing because it’s not just one problem that led to us having so many kids in foster care,” said Coleman. “It is our goal to make sure that we give them everything that they need to be successful. Because we know that children who age out of foster care they do you see a higher rate of homelessness. They do see a high number of incarceration and mental health, and so we want to make sure that when we’re working with them that we’re setting them up for success.”

Right now, only 13 percent of children are in a kinship placement in the Commonwealth. The goal across Virginia is to have 35 percent of all foster care placements be in kinship placements by July 2025.

There are about 5,000 children in Virginia’s foster care program and more than 750 of those children can be adopted. If you have questions about foster care/adoption, contact the VDSS Division of Family Services Adoption Recruitment Coordinator, at

To see other 30 Days of Hope stories visit us here.

We also have a list of frequently asked questions about foster care and adoption including the qualifications, cost, and training required in this link.

About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.