Rappahannock County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Melissa Cupp could not be more delighted with the response by Rappahannock residents to her plea for much-needed foster parenting.
Cupp had revealed only last month that a majority of Rappahannock foster youth were being sent to other counties and cities to live and attend school because there were no available foster care homes in the county. The availability of fostering had not only reached “overwhelming” proportions, the judge said, it put federal reimbursement dollars for Rappahannock’s foster care program in jeopardy.
Fast forward to this week.
“We officially have nine couples, and two additional single people signed up for training!” Cupp informs this newspaper. “So twenty individuals with potential to provide eleven new foster homes.”
In previous years, Rappahannock couldn’t muster even six residents — the minimum the state of Virginia requires to be enrolled in an in-county training class — to participate in foster parenting. The few who did step up to the challenge had to travel outside the county for training.
Now suddenly, Cupp points out, 24 is the class limit “so we may have to ask any more folks to wait for the next training, which we will set up as soon as possible, but likely in May.”
In other words, thanks to the enthusiastic response from residents, state training will now conveniently take place here in Rappahannock County — at RappU in Sperryville.
The judge said there are no restrictions for becoming a foster parent in Rappahannock County.
“You can be a single parent; you can be two parents who are cohabiting and not married (but if you are cohabiting and not married only one parent becomes the foster parent, and the other parent because an approved adult in the home); you can be homosexual, heterosexual; you can be young, elderly,” she said.
There are several types of foster parenting, including “emergency” foster care parents, somebody who is willing to just take a child overnight, possibly two nights. “I am imagining we would have a community of people here who are retired, who may not want to take a child in long term, who would be willing to let a child spend one or two nights while we find a placement for them,” said Cupp.
There is also “respite” foster care, which allows foster parents to take a break. “So if somebody can take a kid for the weekend and do some fun things with them and hang out with them and then send them home to their foster families,” she explained.
Then there is “long term” foster care, where the child would remain with a foster parent or family until they are either returned home or they become eligible for adoption.
Cupp said the county’s new foster care task force was also exploring a “pairing” style of fostering, where different households share the responsibilities of fostering a child.
The training held at RappU is the same for all the categories of foster parenting.
“We have about 23 kids in foster care right now,” the judge said in January, “four kids who are in the county and everybody else is placed outside the county. So what that means is every time a child comes into foster care in Rappahannock they are being taken away from their family and almost in every case they have to start school someplace different, usually within a day or two, making all new friends at the location.
“It’s always a more urban environment because there’s no place that’s the same as Rappahannock, and sometimes it’s way more urban, like Richmond or Fredericksburg or Winchester.”
Now she is confident more of these children will remain right here in Rappahannock, in their own schools, and closer to home.
For more information on becoming a foster parent please contact the Rappahannock County Department of Social Services or the Rappahannock County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.