Who hears the voices of our region’s most vulnerable children? How can community members best offer nurturing support?
On Friday, June 21, at 6 p.m., at The Open Book in Old Town Warrenton, visitors will hear stories from an adult veteran of the foster care system; a former foster teen; his guardian and former foster parent, and an adoption advocate who travels the state seeking families for Virginia’s waiting youth.
The audience will also gain perspective from a judge who works to strengthen youth and families in the courtroom, while raising awareness of the need for community-based foster homes for rural youth in danger of being placed far from their familiar surroundings and support systems.
The 75-minute program will feature:
A reading will be presented by authors Deborah Gold ("Counting Down: A Memoir of Foster Parenting and Beyond") and Theresa Fitzgerald Gibson ("Thorns of a Rose," a memoir of her journey to adulthood through the foster care system).
A panel discussion and question and answer session will feature Judge Melissa N. Cupp, presiding judge, Fauquier Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, 20th Judicial District of Virginia; Cassandra Calender-Rey, executive director, Virginia One Church, One Child; authors Gold and Gibson, and Michael M., a former foster teen
Even as government funds and focus shift toward prevention services aimed at strengthening biological families before crises can hit, the need for foster and adoptive homes does not abate.
“We are anchored by family,” Cassandra Calender-Rey explains. “We thrive in relationship to one another.” A foster or adoptive family “gives a child stability. It gives them hope for the future, it gives them lifelong connections--and that’s what all people need.”
Speaking earlier this year in the Rappahannock News, Cupp described how hard it is for children placed in foster care to have to move out of their home communities because no openings exist: “About half of our kids are teenagers, so it is extremely hard for them because their peer groups are so important to them.”
Urging families to consider getting trained and licensed for emergency, respite, or long-term foster care, she wants community members to know “these kids are amazing kids. Despite all of the trauma, and all of the difficulties of their circumstances, they are fun and funny and charming and adorable and normal in a lot of ways.”
Theresa Gibson’s "Thorns of a Rose" is a memoir of her journey to adulthood as a foster child in the District of Columbia and rural Virginia. Entering into the foster care system at the tender age of 4 until she aged out at 18, Theresa suffered many adversities that led her to be the strong women she is today.
By telling her story, Gibson strives to bring awareness to the issues associated with growing up in the foster care system, specifically “aging out.” The first in her family to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees, her goal is to encourage foster parents to offer ongoing positive guidance to children as they develop, well into adulthood.
Praised by novelist Ron Rash as “a deeply moving memoir about both the rewards and thedaunting challenges of being a foster family,” Gold’s "Counting Down" tells the story of a roller-coaster 15 years of involvement with a traumatized yet resilient birth family in a rural mountain community. Falling in love with Michael (a toddler when he came to them), she and her husband had to reckon with the knowledge that he could leave their lives at any time. In one of the few books to deliver a foster parent’s perspective, Gold shakes up common assumptions and offers a powerfully frank and hopeful look at an experience often portrayed as bleak.
Virginia One Church, One Child’s participation is supported in part by the Virginia Department of Social Services FAM-17-042-04 Foster and Adoptive Family Recruitment Grant.