The month of May was National Foster Care Month. A couple in Virginia Beach, Virginia took the opportunity to urge other families to foster children as well. John and Johanna Schafer have fostered 11 children over the years in addition to raising their own three biological children.
Johanna said she has the means and mindset to make a difference.
"I thought about foster care because there's a need, I have the space, and I love kids."
Johanna and John treat foster kids like a member of the family.
"We do call them 'foster friends' at first because some kids don't want to be a foster brother or foster sister because they have brothers or they have sisters. We let the foster kids decide how they want to be referenced."
Johanna urges others to take in foster kids
Johanna said the adjustment period when a foster child first moves in is not as scary as some people may think.
"We tell the kids that being okay in foster care doesn't mean that you love your parents or your family any less. There's also no obligation that they are going to love us, and that's okay. Our goal, our point, is that we get to love on them."
Foster care statistics
The United States has more than 391,000 children in foster care. In Virginia, the state has nearly 5,400 children in the system. More than 700 foster children in Virginia are ready to be adopted, according to DSS.Virginia.Gov.
The average stay of a child in foster care is about 21 months. After that time, the children will either go back to their parents or go to a forever home.
"We've seen three kiddos go from our home to a forever home. We've seen kids go back to their first family. We've had some who have turned 18 and moved on and done their own thing."
Reasons a child might go to foster care
Mary Davies is a foster care social worker for UMFS who visits the Schafers every other week to see how things are going. Davies says there are various reasons why a child might go into foster care.
"A lot of times, it is an issue of abuse or neglect. So, that could be physical abuse or a neglectful situation where the biological parent or family member is not able to provide proper supervision for a child."
The Virginia Beach couple say the hardest part of being a foster parent is building a bond and then saying goodbye. John and Johanna Schafer also admit that foster caring is a challenge, but is rewarding to open your home and your heart out to a child who needs both.