Mayor Stoney opens renovated Child Protective Services room at the Department of Social Services

This morning, Mayor Levar Stoney opened the newly renovated Child Protective Services Room at Richmond’s Department of Social Services. Thanks to leaders from the faith, nonprofit and business community, the room will now serve as a comforting space for young people while they await foster care placement.

The principal partners in this effort were the Virginia office of ENV Architecture and Design, local nonprofit organizations RVA Comfort Cases and Worthdays and churches in the For Richmond network. Together, the organizations’ donors and volunteers transformed the city’s multi-purpose room into four calming and age-appropriate zones for children in the custody of Richmond Social Services.

The new space is both practical and welcoming, thanks to the collaboration of the city’s partners. Second Baptist Church member Ralph Costen, owner of Costen Floors, donated and installed a new floor. Home Inspections of Virginia installed sound-proofing panels. The Soho Center donated books, and Build-A-Bear donated teddy bears.

There are currently 255 children in foster care in the City of Richmond, the highest number in the Richmond Metro Area. Each month, approximately 13 young people enter foster care in the city.

“We rallied the groups around one shared vision: supporting the most vulnerable children in our community,” said Mayor Stoney. “These partners immediately embraced that vision, and I’m grateful for their dedication.”

“Coordination allowed these valued community partners to do so much more for young people coming into care than any one organization could do on its own,” said Director of Social Services Shunda Giles. “This space will help mitigate the trauma that young people experience when they have to be separated from their family. It also doubles as a break room for our hard-working social workers, who are on the front lines caring for so many of our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

Caroline Neal, founder of Worthdays, conducted surveys of social workers and youth who have aged out of the foster care system to determine how the space could best benefit the community. “It was important to us that the renovations to this room were reflective of the people who use it on a daily basis: the hard-working staff of the agency and kids experiencing the trauma of a removal from their home. The vision that agency staff had for this room along with the wisdom of youth who have experienced a room such as this really shaped the renovations.”

Second Baptist Church, Area 10 Faith Community, Movement Church and LUX Church played key roles in the project. “We now have 10 churches that are partnering with Richmond City DSS throughout the year to support social workers and birth families, recruit and retain foster parents and mentor youth who are aging out of foster care,” said For Richmond Co-Director Anna Shenk. “The need is great, and we invite others to join us in this important work.”

Area 10 Faith Community Connections Pastor Topher Lytle said, “Our church has been committed to addressing the foster care crisis for years, but we’ve never done anything on this scale with the Department of Social Services. We are grateful to be part of this team effort and look forward to doing even more in the future.”

“We are so grateful to be able to supply our signature Comfort Cases, which include age specific items like blankets, books, plush toys and new pajamas,” said Lauren Cash, the leadership coordinator for RVA Comfort Cases. The organization will also be stocking and organizing key supplies like diapers, clothing and blankets.

Architect Whitney Campbell of ENV Virginia, a Richmond City foster parent, shared how significant it was for her to be able to marry her passion for fostering with her architecture and design business. “When I learned about the project through my church’s involvement in For Richmond, I knew immediately that I wanted to help. I’m passionate about caring for kids in foster care and I’m passionate about good design, so it was only natural that that my firm, ENV, would be involved in this important effort.”

Mayor Stoney highlighted that there are opportunities to care for children in foster care throughout the year. “Not everyone is called to foster, but we are all called to care. All of these organizations present an opportunity to get involved and give back,” said Mayor Stoney. “This collaboration gets back to what it’s all about: ensuring every child in our city knows they’re heard, seen and loved.”