Join the Mission: Becoming a Foster Parent in Richmond

by | Jun 11, 2024 | COMMUNITY

Last month was Foster Care Awareness Month, so we reached out to Alexa Reitz, the Program Director of the Richmond Regional Center at UMFS (United Methodist Family Services) to get some insight into how this all works. The conversation shed light on the critical role fostering plays in the lives of children and teens, and the transformative impact it can have on both the children and the foster families. 

Who is Alexa Reitz?

Alexa Reitz leads the Richmond Regional Center at UMFS. As the Program Director, she oversees the Treatment Foster Care and Community Based Programs. Her role involves ensuring that children in need find safe and loving homes, and that foster families receive the support they need to thrive in their roles.

The Importance of Fostering

“There are over 5,000 youth in foster care in Virginia,” Alexa begins.. “Everyday we get multiple referrals for children and teens needing a home. Due to the lack of foster families, children are often staying in hotels and, even worse, social service offices because there are no homes available.”

The reality of the situation is stark. These children have often experienced significant trauma and are in desperate need of stable, nurturing environments. Alexa emphasizes that fostering is not just about providing a roof over their heads; it’s about offering a safe haven where they can begin their healing journey. “The statistics show that if a foster care child can have at least one permanent connection, their risk for unwanted pregnancy, homelessness, and substance use decreases,” she explains. “By becoming a foster parent, you are significantly changing a child’s life trajectory.”

Becoming a Foster Parent

Alexa is quick to dispel the myth that becoming a foster parent is an insanely complicated process. “No, we make the process as easy as possible,” she assures. Foster families come from all walks of life – teachers, nurses, social workers, bookkeepers, chefs, and more. They are individuals who have realized they have room in their homes, their schedules, and their hearts for a child in need.

To facilitate this process, UMFS hosts an Information Session every Tuesday, providing prospective foster parents with all the information they need. The requirements are straightforward: parents must be 21 years or older, have a stable income, a valid driver’s license, pass criminal background checks, and have at least one bedroom available for a child. Most importantly, they must be emotionally and physically available to integrate a child into their lives.

Success Stories: Shenika and Romania

We asked Alexa for a success story that highlights the impact fostering can have. She recounts the story of Shenika, who was 15 when she met her foster mother, Romania. Despite her initial nervousness, Shenika felt an immediate sense of ease with Romania.

Shenika is now in her twenties and has a child of her own. She credits Romania and the support from UMFS Treatment Foster Care staff for helping shape her into the woman she is today. “Having people that are stable and in your corner is a great asset in life,” Shenika reflects, acknowledging the critical role her TFC case workers played in her successful journey from foster care to being adopted by Romania.

Mary Davies, LCSW, Shenika’s caseworker, fondly remembers the snowy day she placed Shenika with Romania. “We got caught in so much traffic it took us hours to get there. We sort of bonded during that time,” Mary recalls. Romania provided Shenika with a sense of home, a place where she felt safe, cared for, loved, and accepted. This story is a testament to the life-changing potential of foster care when foster parents open their hearts and homes to young people in need.

The Rewards of the Job

For Alexa, the best part of her job is witnessing the success stories of children and families. “I take great pride in supporting children and families through some of the most challenging times in their lives,” she responded. “It brings me immense joy to witness the success stories of children being reunited with their birth parents, finding loving homes with relatives, or being adopted into new families.”

How to Get Involved

For those interested in fostering a child in Richmond, go to the UMFS website HERE. “Please go to UMFS.org to learn more about our programs and becoming a foster parent,” she urges. The website provides comprehensive information about the various programs offered and the steps to become a foster parent.

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.




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