UMFS Partners with Collegiate School Students in Effort to Expand Foster Care Awareness

October 19, 2017

UMFS was pleased to welcome eleven Collegiate School students to the Richmond campus on October 17.

The visit was part of Collegiate School’s Envision Richmond initiative, a capstone project in which 8th-grade students immerse themselves in an intensive community leadership and civic engagement endeavor. It’s the second year UMFS has participated in the project.

UMFS staffers Sarah Hess, a social worker, and Tammy Hoskins, a resource parent trainer, led the discussion. They began by teaching the students about the various circumstances that might lead a child to foster care, as well as the effects that foster care might have on a child.

These students are “the upcoming generation,” Tammy said. “We need them to be aware of the issue and help them start to generate solutions.”

Next, Sarah and Tammy challenged the students to put themselves into the shoes of a foster care child. Scenarios ranged from relocating far away from current homes, to being separated from siblings, to moving into families in which the caretakers weren’t married.

One student’s situation had him moving into an apartment in downtown Richmond with a single parent. The student said it’s hard to imagine transitioning out of a house in the county with two parents into an apartment in the city with one parent.

“It means less family time … And no back yard,” he said.

The purpose of the exercise, Sarah said, was to give the students a chance to learn what it’s really like to be in foster care and to spread awareness.

Collegiate School student Emani said the discussion helped her understand “that everyone’s situation is different when it comes to foster care, and that trauma really affects their social, physical and mental stability.”

But the discussion didn’t stop with hypotheticals. The students’ morning ended with a question-and-answer session with Sophia Booker, who faced many challenges in her childhood. Sophia and her twin sister spent nine years in foster care before being adopted together at age 14.

Sophia now works part-time at UMFS and is a senior social work student at Virginia Commonwealth University. One student asked Sophia how she was able to endure.

“I promised myself I wouldn’t let my past define me,” Sophia said with a smile.

When the presentation concluded and the students began packing up to return to the Collegiate School campus, student Hugh weighed in on what he had learned.

“It’s good to hear from someone that’s been through the entire [foster care] process, like Sophia,” he said. “She’s done it all, and it’s cool to know that’s one of the best case scenarios that can happen to somebody.”

Visit the UMFS website to learn more about becoming a foster parent.