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The Doing Good blog follows area charities and social service agencies.

About Amy Umble: Amy Umble writes about religion and social issues affecting the Fredericksburg community.

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Foster Care Month

May is Foster Care Month, and Virginia Department of Social Services shares this story:

By age 12, Patrick Plourde had experienced the kind of hardship that no child should. He lived in a different place every year, including a vehicle at one point. When he and his siblings did live in a house, they were frequently locked in and left for long periods of time, relying on neighbors for food and water. On some days, his only meal was from the school cafeteria. He was placed in foster care when he was 13. It changed his life.

Governor Bob McDonnell has officially recognized May as Foster Care Month in Virginia. The need for loving foster parents is ongoing for both short and long-term placements. More than 6,000 children are in foster care throughout the Commonwealth. Approximately 50 percent are 13 and older. Children are in urgent need of foster parents and a “forever family.” VDSS is asking families, couples and individuals to open up their hearts and homes to a foster child.

Plourde, now 30 and married, is a Foster Care Independent Living Program Specialist with the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). Having triumphed over the abuse and neglect he experienced as a child, he is focused on empowering others. The story of his professional mission to help young people in foster care has a new personal chapter. Plourde has a 16-year-old foster son who has lived with him for a year.

“I felt I needed to provide this young man with a loving, family environment so he can grow and develop into what he wants and needs to be – shape him, guide him, love him,” Plourde said. “That’s what I needed. That’s what I got. And that’s why I am here today.”

Plourde helps 14 – 21-year-olds without a permanent home secure the resources they need to navigate independence, such as paying college tuition, budgeting money, signing a lease for the first time, and interviewing for a job.

He says it is critical skill building; still, it does not take the place of having a place to call home. “What I still wish for all of the young people that I work with is that they’ll have someone to visit during the holidays, someone who will remember their birthday or just call to chat.”

“Children in foster care have usually been thrust into care through no fault of their own. They need a home. They need parents. They need love,” explained Paul McWhinney, VDSS director of the Division of Family Services.

The goal of Virginia’s foster care program is to maintain family unity and ensure that all children grow up in safe, stable homes. “There is no ‘typical’ foster child, but they all desire a permanent, loving home. This is especially true for older children, teens and siblings,” McWhinney said.

Support, resources and training are offered to foster parents, as well as potential parents who are considering becoming resource families. Local departments of social services provide excellent guidance and specialized training before, during and after a foster placement. “As a foster parent, you could be saving a child’s life, and we are there to support you,” McWhinney explained.

Interested in fostering? Contact your local DSS office:

Caroline Department of Social Services

17202 Richmond Turnpike

P.O. Box 430

Bowling Green, VA 22427

(804) 633-5071

Culpeper County Human Services

219 E. Davis St., Suite 10

Culpeper, VA 22701

(540) 727-0372

Fredericksburg Department of Social Services

608 Jackson Street

Suite 100

Fredericksburg, VA 22401

(540) 372-1032

King George Department of Social Services

10069 Kings Highway

P.O. Box 130

King George, VA 22484-0130

(540) 775-3544

Spotsylvania Department of Social Services

10304 Spotsylvania Ave., Suite 410

Fredericksburg, VA

Mailing: P.O. Box 249

Spotsylvania, VA 22553

(540) 507-7898

Stafford County Department of Social Services

Stafford County Government Center

1300 Courthouse Road

P.O. Box 7

Stafford, VA 22555-0007

(540) 658-8720

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/doinggood/2010/05/24/1265645096/