Agency Q&A: Children’s Home Society of Virginia

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to SuccessGet to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. We invited Nadine Marsh-Carter, Chief Executive Officer at Children’s Home Society of Virginia, to tell us about her work.
Tell us about your current role and your professional background.

I am Children’s Home Society of Virginia’s (CHS) President & CEO. In this role, I am fortunate to lead a team of dedicated professionals who share my belief that every child deserves a home and my commitment to ensuring that every child in Virginia is part of a thriving family.

Prior to joining CHS, I practiced law for nearly 10 years. I also served as the Executive Director of Volunteer Families for Children. My connections to CHS run deep – I initially provided legal counsel to adoptive families, then served on its Board of Directors and ultimately adopted my two children from the agency before joining the staff in 2006!

What is Children’s Home Society of Virginia’s mission?

CHS’s mission is to create strong permanent families and lifelong relationships for Virginia’s at-risk children.

Tell us about your Foster Care Adoption program and how it supports the “Basic Needs” component of United Way’s Steps to Success.

CHS’s Foster Care Adoption program serves children and youth who are waiting to be adopted out of foster care when their biological families can no longer care for them.  The waiting children we serve have been abused, neglected or abandoned and therefore have significant trauma histories. The children are older, often part of a sibling group, and are at high risk of negative outcomes if they are not nurtured as part of a safe, loving family. Our program recruits, matches, trains and supports adoptive families for children who need the healing and stability that our trained parents provide. The children and youth we serve have a safe place to call home, where all of their basic needs are met by their loving adoptive families. CHS prepares these families to respond to the unique needs that arise from having experienced significant childhood trauma.

What do you think is the biggest value United Way brings to this area?

In addition to the provision of critical resources, United Way creates public awareness of the needs of vulnerable populations in our community and of the services that nonprofits like CHS provide to create better outcomes for our entire community. I also appreciate how United Way collects and shares data and information about regional trends that help ensure services are truly meeting the community’s needs.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an adoptive parent? What resources are available?

As an adoptive parent, my initial response is that adoption is a powerful, life-enriching experience that will add value to your life in ways that are hard to imagine. Adoption is not always easy, but what is?  Adoption is all about unconditional love. There are few higher callings than that.

I encourage prospective adoptive parents to do their research and work with professional agencies who have the clinical and adoption expertise needed to ensure the best family match is made. Finally, I would advise persons considering adoption to start the process with an open mind – there are so many amazing children who have different backgrounds and experiences and  are waiting to become part of a loving family!

What makes Children’s Home Society of Virginia stand out?

For nearly 120 years, CHS has been responding to the needs of children for the love, stability and support that a permanent family provides. During that time, we have served more than 13,500 children. CHS’s continuum of family services include adoptive placements, counseling and supports. CHS staff are experts on adoption and the trauma that older adopted children often experience before being placed in the foster care system. We believe every child deserves a family, and work diligently to promote permanency for children and teens as we support adoptive families so that they can remain healthy. CHS provides top quality and compassionate services to adoptive children and families throughout their lifetime.

Can anyone adopt? What are the restrictions?

Adoption is a much more inclusive process than many people may realize. There are many misconceptions about the adoption process, but the truth is you don’t have to be rich, own a home or be married in order to adopt. What’s important is being able to provide a permanent, stable and nurturing family to a child. There is a home study and approval process that includes background checks. These are designed to ensure the adoptive placement is best for the child and the family. Anyone interested in adopting, who believes they can provide a healthy home environment, should reach out by calling 800-247-2888. November is National Adoption Month, which is a great time to learn more about the process and the children waiting in our community for a family to call their own!

How many children are waiting for families?

Currently in the Commonwealth of Virginia, over 700 children and youth are in foster care awaiting adoption. Virginia ranks 49th out of 50—second worst in the nation—for the percentage of youth who age out of foster care without finding permanent families.

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