By Jean A. Flanagan
What could I do that would positively impact a child?
If you’ve ever asked this question, the Region 3 Foster Care Summit can provide answers.[private]
“As a community, there are ways to help without making a huge commitment,” said Joanna Kuhn, director of the Eastern Regional Family Resource Network. “We want people to come with their questions and their fears about foster care.”
The summit is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 14 at the ERFRN offices. It is from 10 a.m. until noon and the offices are located at 108 South Fork Rd., site of the former American Woodmark facility.
Children are placed in foster care when the courts have decided it is not safe for them to remain at home. The statistics are staggering. There are nearly 5,000 West Virginia children in foster care. Most are between the ages of 6 and 15. The majority, 39 percent, are in foster care because of parental substance abuse.
“There is a tremendous shortage of foster parents,” Kuhn said. “It has been made worse by the exploding substance abuse issue. We want people to know there are many ways they can help a child.”
Representatives from 15 counties will be in attendance at the summit. There will be presentations about different ways members of the community can help. The foster/adoption nonprofit Mission WV will share specific information and answer frequently asked questions. A foster care mother and former foster child are scheduled to speak.
While the ultimate goal of the summit is to raise awareness and encourage more people to become foster parents, there are ways to help without making a monumental commitment.
For example, Kuhn said, when a child is removed from their home, the Child Protective Services worker must stay with the child until an appropriate placement is found.
“If it’s in the middle of the night, that means, the CPS worker must stay in a motel or sleep in their office with the child,” she said.
“If a home is available to take the child for a day or two, until appropriate placement, either in a group home or foster home is found, it’s not a long term commitment.”
Another way to be helpful to a child in foster care is to be a mentor. This is especially helpful with older children and is desperately needed, Kuhn said.
“Mentors could help with a number of outdoor activities, like fishing or hiking. They could help with homework or just give the child someone to talk to, other than their foster parent.”
Kuhn said there is a lot of misinformation about foster care.
“You don’t have to be married,” she said. “It’s a process to be approved. There are resources available to help with every aspect. We hope members of the community will come and learn how they can help a child.”
For information about the summit and/or directions, call 304-530-5480.[/private]