Empowering Adoptive Families Across Virginia

BRENDA DOVEL BECAME AN adoptive mother nine years ago when she adopted Terry, now 16, and his sister Ashley, now 15. Recently the family was in crisis and looked to UMFS for support.

“These families are under so much stress, that they rarely get a chance to relax,” says Rosemary Liberti, project manager for UMFS’ Adoptive Family Preservation program. In an effort to help them do just that, Rosemary and her team of adoption specialists and adoptive parent liaisons across the state coordinate special events to help adoptive families connect.

Brenda and Ashley recently spent the day together at an AFP equine therapy event in Charlottesville. “AFP has allowed us to spend time with families going through similar situations with their children,”Brenda explains. “It gave Ashley and me a break from the stress at home. It was a relaxing and refreshing day for us.”

Adoptive families face a daunting variety of challenges. Children adopted from the foster care system, as well as many children adopted privately or internationally, often struggle with special emotional needs. In cooperation with the Virginia Department of Social Services, AFP offers counseling, advocacy, support groups, crisis intervention and education.

The AFP team continues to expand to support more adoptive families throughout Virginia. Families initially connected by AFP are now meeting together outside of the program to offer each other support and encouragement. “The more cases we open across the state, the greater impact we have,” Rosemary explains.

“Adoptive Family Preservation was a life-saver as we dealt with my daughter’s illness,” said Sarah Hoyle, a UMFS board member and former program participant. “Every time we met with the AFP team we felt and knew someone had our back,” she said.

AFP services are free to any adoptive families in Virginia, regardless of where the adoption took place. To learn more, check out Michael Staton’s story in the spring issue of The Champion.