WEST VIRGINIA — The first-ever collaborative statewide campaign addressing the need for foster parents has seen much success after launching at the end of March, garnering the interest of around 400 families so far to help provide a home for a child.

The campaign was launched as a collaborative effort between Mission West Virginia, the Department of Human Services, and Aetna Better Health working closely with foster care agencies across the state. It’s meant to address the shortage of foster care placements in the state.

Recruitment Program Director, Rachel Kinder of Mission WV, a neutral foster care referral agency, came on MetroNews ‘Talkline’ Monday to discuss more behind the focus of the campaign.

She said they have been addressing many of the inquiries regarding foster families since the launch of the campaign as well as dispelling many of the myths behind it as well.

“Very commonly people ask us do you have to own your own home, no you do not, but you do have to have enough space for kids in your home, do kids have to have their own room, they do not, children of the same gender can share a bedroom,” Kinder said. “People ask if they can be single or divorced or a same-sex couple, any family configuration can qualify.”

With over 6,000 youth in the West Virginia foster care system today, Kinder said the main aspect they are looking for when it comes to finding placements is that the kids get to go to a safe, loving home.

She said another major focus of the initiative is to find foster parents particularly for older children and teenagers. However, Kinder said the goal is to widen the spectrum of foster families across every youth demographic overall.

“We just need to make sure that every county has a good number of foster families that take children of different ages, races, teenagers, sibling groups, things like that so that children can stay as close to home as possible when they have to enter foster care,” she said.

Kinder said unfortunately, only about 10% of families that reach out about fostering actually go through with it to get certified. She said this is often due to a number of different factors.

“Some of that is just because some people take some time before they can really go through the whole process, but it is a lot, there’s training, there is a home-study process, there is determining what kids are the best fit for your family,” said Kinder.

However, Kinder said often times foster families are somewhat looked at as the last resort when trying to find a placement for a child.

She said they first look to see if any child has close relatives who are able to take them in as kinship families as they are notably proven to be more successful since they are people the child is more familiar with. Kinder said over 50% of kids in foster care are placed in kinship homes.

Kinder said foster families serve a crucial role, however, as they take on the role of the primary care provider for the child when no one else can.

“The foster families role is to basically parent the children as if they are your own,” she said. “Once you have a placement you take them to the doctor, you enroll them in school, you take them to any other appointments that they might have, but mostly we just need families who can love kids and care for them as if they are their own.”

Kinder said while the organizations have already had much success in reaching close to 400 interested families through the state’s first collaborative foster care campaign, they are encouraging more to reach out.

Those interested in becoming a foster parent can learn more at wefosterwv.org.

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