Dr. Robin Foster may be mother to three children, but she's also an advocate for many more. At VCU Medical Center, Foster serves as director of pediatric emergency services and co-founder and director of the hospital's child abuse team.
She was integral in founding the Child Advocacy Center, a partnership with Stop Child Abuse Now of Greater Richmond (SCAN), as well as Bridging the Gap, a youth violence prevention program still in its pilot phase.
Outside the hospital, she's actively involved with Partnership for Families Northside, Reach Out and Read, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, First Presbyterian Church and Richmond Midnight Basketball League, where she serves as board president. Foster recently received a YWCA 2009 Outstanding Women Award and the Prevent Child Abuse Virginia Champion for Children Award.
Giving: You spend your days helping sick and injured children. What made you decide to help children outside of the emergency room as well?
Foster: To be honest, I did it really as therapy, to prevent burnout. If you sit down in our ER 24/7 and all you do is take care of the end result of poverty, illiteracy, violence, drugs and abuse, it's very depressing. If you go out there and try to get some of this stuff on the front end and feel like you're making a difference, it makes it much easier to come into work and deal with the aftermath.
With your involvement in so many different organizations, do you feel like you have a primary cause?
It's first and foremost about the kids. But if the adults in a child's life aren't stable, then there's no long-term stability for that child either. So you can't just fix the kid: You have to fix the whole system. Their parents need to be employed, their parents need to be literate they need substance abuse help or health services. If those things aren't in place, we're never going to have any success raising that child.
What do you view as your greatest achievement to date?
It's not what I've done. It's been the ability to carry the message and spread the word and have other people engage in it. I like to go find the underdog, bring him back up, dust him off, find other people who can support him and move to the next person who's in real trouble. That's my raison d'etre.
What is the greatest challenge for preventing child abuse and neglect today?
The greatest challenge is that no one wants to admit how hard it is to raise a kid. I don't think anybody has a kid intending to abuse them, but the vast majority of people have children without anywhere near enough adequate resources to raise their children well. Across the board, regardless of the neighborhood, child abuse has a huge social stigma. People are not going to admit that they have a problem being a good parent, and they're not going to willingly go to resources. Child abuse does not have a very public image because everyone wants to say that it's someone else's problem.
What do you still hope to achieve?
What I really want to do is integrate Richmond. That's what needs to happen to effect change. No matter how many resources the government throws at things, if the rest of your community's not there working with you, then nothing's going to change.