Did you know there are several types of agencies that provide varying levels of foster care services across Virginia? You may find yourself asking, "How do I choose the right agency for my family?" Consider the following:
Faith Based versus Non-Faith Based Organizations: Make sure that the agency values are in line with your values.
Private versus Public Agencies: This refers to the governing body of the agency. Private agencies are usually governed by an executive committee, where a public agency is governed by a board of directors. You want to ensure the agency you are considering has strong leadership team.
For-Profit versus Non-Profit Agencies: People may assume that non-profits are "better" at taking care of the needs of children. Whereas, for-profit agencies could be considered to be "more concerned with making a profit than meeting the needs of the children." The "for-profit" and "non-profit" labels are simply designations assigned by the IRS for tax purposes. Generally speaking, the rates charged for services and the stipends paid to foster families are set by the State for non-profit and for-profit agencies. These designations have no bearing on the quality of services provided by the organization. When investigating which agency would fit best for you and your family, be sure the agency is financially stable and is putting the needs of the children and foster families first.
Training Requirements: All agencies are required to offer a minimum number of training hours to prospective foster parents. However, you will find several agencies go above and beyond the minimum training requirements. You can ask to review the training curriculum prior to the beginning of training to ensure the information will prepare you for the task of parenting a foster child.
Location of the office in relation to your home: It is important to find out where an agency provides the initial training sessions. This is a very important question as you will spend a significant number of hours completing these sessions. Once your home is approved, you will also be required to attend on-going training sessions at least once per month. These sessions traditionally occur at a primary office location. If you live a significant distance from the training site, consider asking if they allow online training options or if they have the flexibility to come to your home. Also, keep in mind that a family consultant (the foster care worker) will travel from the office to your home to provide support when a child is placed in your home.
Culture of the organization: Every agency will vary from location to location in regards to their culture. Some agencies will operate more professionally while others will maintain a more casual atmosphere. Overall, look at the attitude, expressions and body language of the workers and the workplace. It is important that agencies maintain confidentiality, follow-through with promised services, and display respect for children and families.
Ethical Record and Licensing status of agency: Each agency is required to be licensed through the State of Virginia as a child placing agency. Verify an agency's licensing status.
At the end of the day, it is important to find an agency that puts the child's safety and well-being at the forefront. Whether an agency is a For-Profit, Non-Profit, Faith Based, Non-Faith Based or any combination of the above, do your homework. Feel confident in asking questions and expect to receive support, training and respect from whatever agency you choose.