10 Ways to Celebrate National Foster Care Month in West Virginia

May is National Foster Care Month! We are so grateful for the families who provide safe and loving homes for kids in foster care, the workers who do all they can to positively improve the lives of kids in care and of course, we care very much for all of the children in the foster care system; each one going through their own situation and in need of adults they can depend on. 
 
1.    Spread the word - Blog, tweet, share FrameWorks’ post on Facebook! Tell people about National Foster Care Month and the increased need for more foster families in our communities. There are more than 6,000 children in foster care in WV and there is a huge need for more foster/adoptive families. 
2.    Join us for the 5.29k run/walk – If you live near Charleston, join us on May 19th for a fun and family friendly run/walk to benefit children recently adopted from foster care. Learn all of the details here: 5.29k Run/Walk
3.    Donate to the Carry-On Campaign! Garbage bags are not an acceptable form of luggage for youth in foster care, donate new luggage and hygiene items! We can connect you with a donation drop-site in or near your community. 
4.    Send a sweet treat! There are a lot of great social workers who do everything they can to empower the lives of kids in foster care. Send them a cupcake or some cookies to say thank you. Don't know a social worker? We can help you out, email us: fosteradopt(at)missionwv.org
5.    Write a letter to your local newspaper or  an elected representative. Let them know about the challenges facing kids in care, the need for foster families in WV and encourage them to be supportive of foster parents. 
6.    Offer discounts – do you own a business? Offer a discount to families who provide foster care. You could do this during the month of May or all year! Let us know and we will share the information with families!
7.    Organize a fundraiser – do you sell Scenty, 31 Bags, Pampered Chef or other items? Donate a percentage of your sales during the month of May to a nonprofit that works with kids in foster care. 
8.    Recruit foster parents  - ask friends, church members, coworkers and people in your community to become foster parents. Team up with Mission WV to hold an Information Open House in your community. 
9.    Get your kids involved! Consider having your children volunteer with organizations that provide for the needs of kids in foster care.  They can collect new toys and hygiene items for kids in the system.
10.    Get involved with a local agency! Contact a local foster care agency and ask them how you can help.  They are often in need of community members to get involved, don’t know who to call, ask us and we will get you connected to an agency! 

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I have completed foster care certification, what’s next?

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You’ve done all of the paperwork and training, you have your home ready for a placement, now what?  

The agency that certified your family will put you on a list of available families to call whenever there is a need for a home. This will also include information such as number of open beds and the ages of the children you are able to care for. 

While you are waiting for that first call, you could get clothes and toys together for different age ranges. We’ve put together a list of items to have on hand that you can view HERE.

When you do get a call, your family will then be able to accept or decline the placement. Why would you decline a placement? One example is that you might get a call for a sibling group when you were thinking you’d start slow with one child or maybe the child in need has some kind of special need that you don’t think you are equipped to handle. Whatever the case, it is up to you to decide if you want to accept a placement. We do encourage you to have an open mind and consider these options when they arise; you might be more capable than you realize. Some calls may come in the middle of the night for a child who needs a placement immediately while other calls may occur a few days before a placement is needed. 

If you have decided to accept the placement, the child’s worker will bring the child and their belongings to your home.  If this is the child’s first placement, you will receive a store voucher to buy some of the necessary items you need for the kid(s) placed in your care.  The social worker will also supply a placement agreement and medical card.  They will let you know “what’s next” in terms of the child’s case, any appointments they may have and any services that they need to receive. 

Most important in the first few days is helping the child feel comfortable in their new environment.  Being welcoming, showing them the ins and outs of your home and helping them learn the basic routine can go far to help ease their fear and anxiety. 

Some placements could be as short as a few days or weeks while others can last for many months or even over a year.  You are entitled to receive information about the child’s case and to attend team meetings. You are providing an important service for these children and should be treated as a valued member of the child’s team.

What is Foster Care?

Foster care is a temporary living situation for children whose parents cannot safely care for them.  When a child is abused and/or neglected by their guardian, it is brought to the attention (usually by a report of child abuse or neglect) to the Department of Health and Human Resources. Social workers will then investigate and if the report is found to be true, the child(ren) is then removed from the unsafe situation and placed into the state’s foster care system.

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These children range in age from babies to teens and are most often placed in foster care through no fault of their own. While in foster care, children might live with a relative, a certified foster family or in a residential facility. In a residential facility, a group of children in foster care live together with staff members who work in shifts. In West Virginia, there are more than 6,000 kids in foster care so there is a great need for more foster families to provide a caring and loving home.

The ultimate goal of foster care is for children to return to their home, this is also called reunification. In the best situation, the child or children’s parents can make the changes that are needed to safely parent. The amount of time children stay in foster care depends on their family’s situation. This could mean a short stay in foster care or could be a longer amount of time depending on what changes or program the court has required the parents to complete.

If the child’s birth parents are unable to safely parent their child(ren) and make the changes that are necessary, the parent(s) can voluntarily give up their parental rights OR the court can terminate the parents’ rights. The child(ren) is/are then legally eligible for adoption, which can be finalized in a court of law. The adoptive parent then becomes the child’s legal parent and has the same formal and legal responsibility for the child as if they were the biological parent.

The criteria to be a foster parent and/or to adopt from foster care are the same.  They include the following: 

  • You must be between the ages of 21 and 65 (they have not changed this yet)
  • Have a stable & secure income.
  • Be in good physical/mental health.
  • Pass a home safety inspection.
  • Free of any substantiated child abuse reports and free of a criminal background.
  • Have a stable family relationship.

*Requirements may vary depending on the agency you are working with.

5.29k Race/Walk in celebration of National Foster Care Month

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For the fourth consecutive year, we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the WV State Treasurer’s Office to hold the Smart 5.29k Race/Walk to benefit children who have been adopted from foster care in West Virginia. Each year we look forward to this family friendly event in celebration of National Foster Care Month; an event that is great for serious runners as well as families and kids. 

The 5.29k Race/Walk raises funds for Smart 529 College Savings plan awards for children adopted from foster care. To date, more than $37,000 has been awarded in the form of Smart 529 plans since the event began in 2015.  National statistics show less than 3 percent of kids who grow up in the foster care system go on to obtain a college degree. When a child from foster care is adopted into a loving family, his/her fresh start can also include a brighter future through higher education. 

About the 2018 Race/Walk:

5.29k Race Walk Mission WV

The registration fee is $35 the day of the event and $30 online until May 17th. Learn more and register here: http://www.bit.ly/SMART529K

A Kids Fun Run will take place directly before the main race  for ages 12 and under.  Children age 17 and under may participate in either race for free.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Where: WV Power Park, Charleston

8:00 AM Check-in/Registration

8:45 AM Kids Fun Run

9:00 AM 5.29K race

*Packet Pickup Friday, May 18 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Capitol Market, Charleston

About the 529 College Savings Awards:

529 Awards

All proceeds from the 5.29K registration, minus a $3.00 race fee, will be deposited into SMART529 College Savings Accounts. The accounts will be awarded through a selection process administered by Mission West Virginia. To qualify for the 529 College Savings plan awards, families must submit an application including an essay addressing the importance of higher education for foster and adopted youth. In order to be eligible children must be adopted from WV foster care and age 12 or under. Families and their agencies are also invited to an award luncheon at the Clay Center in November. This award ceremony features a presentation by Treasurer John Perdue and a presentation on college preparedness. Award recipients are also treated to an ice cream sundae bar and a Build-A-Bear project.

Who are "Waiting Children"

In West Virginia, there are more than 6,000 children in foster care and approximately 1,500 of these children are legally eligible for adoption and waiting for their forever family. What does this mean exactly?

Children are placed in foster care most likely because of abuse and/or neglect. Foster care is meant to be short term while the parent or parents work to make changes so that they can safely parent their child(ren). But sometimes, parents are not able to make these changes. When this is the case, they can voluntarily give up their parental rights or the court can take away those rights – the child then becomes “legally eligible” for adoption.  You might have heard of "TPR" - this stands for "termination of parental rights." That child or children if it is a sibling group, remains in foster care until they are placed with an adoptive family.

When we say that 1,500 children in West Virginia are legally eligible for adoption, we mean that parental rights have been severed (voluntarily or involuntarily) and that they have not yet been adopted.  Luckily, many of these children are placed with loving relatives or foster parents who will complete an adoption. Often, a child will be matched with the foster family they are living with if that family is interested in adoption. 

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Other children may take a longer time to be matched with a family, often because they are older, part of a sibling group or simply because there are not enough adoptive families. Often, these children are listed on the Adoption Resource Network (ARN), the website for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.  On this site, you can see photos and read profiles of these children. Once you have completed certification to foster/adopt in WV, you can register on this site and inquire about these children. Once you've made an inquiry, the child's worker will receive your information and if your family seems like a good fit, they will contact your worker for further information.  Decisions about matching children and families often involve the child’s entire team, including workers and attorneys, as well as the family’s worker.   

What happens if you are matched with a child or sibling group on the ARN? Often, you will start having day visits with a child followed by weekend visits. If everything is going well, the child will be placed in your home. After the child has lived with you for 6 months or more, you can complete the paperwork to officially adopt. Once adoption is complete, the child’s new legal parent has the same responsibility for the child as if they were the biological parent.

How do I choose a foster care agency?

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Have you thought about becoming a foster parent? You know there is a great need for more foster families in West Virginia, but you aren't sure where to start?  Taking the first step in your foster care journey might feel like a "leap in the dark," but we are here to help.  You might wonder if becoming a foster parent is right for you and your family.  Maybe you have a lot of questions about what it means to be a foster parent and you aren't sure what will be involved in the process. Mission West Virginia is here to assist families who want to learn more about fostering and adopting. We can mail  or email you our information guide and talk with you on the telephone or chat via email to answer any questions you might have before you take the next step - choosing a foster care/adoption agency to work with. 

Once you've decided to move forward, we can work with you as you choose which agency is the best fit for your family. In West Virginia, there are 11 agencies that provide foster care and adoption certification services. With our information guide,  you will receive a list of agencies that serve the county you live in. 

We will also provide a list of suggested questions to ask an agency when you contact them. You may want to ask the agency about their office locations, their upcoming training schedule and services provided to families.  The basic certification process includes an application, training, and a homestudy. A homestudy will consist of completing paperwork, interviews, a safety check of your home and criminal background and child abuse clearances. The worker will generally visit your home two to three times and the timeline can vary from family to family.

To get started, give us a call today at 866-CALL-MWV or send us an email: Email FrameWorks We look forward to working with you as you begin your journey to help kids who are in need of the love and support of a parent and safe home. 

Providing luggage for youth in foster care.

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The goal of the Carry - On Campaign is to eliminate garbage bags as an acceptable form of luggage for youth in foster care. No child should have to use a trash bag to transport their belongings, especially during a traumatic situation like being removed from their home.  This campaign accepts donations of new luggage and hygiene items and distributes them to local foster care agencies and families. It is especially comforting for a child to be given the essential items they need when they are placed with a foster family or  in a residential setting. 

This is an ongoing campaign because children are placed in care throughout the year.  Since its beginning in 2010, the Carry - On Campaign has received thousands of pieces of luggage and countless hygiene items, however, there are currently more than 6,000 children in foster care in West Virginia and there is a continual need for these items. 

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After distributing Carry-on items a child protective services worker shared, "they had never really had NEW things like this before and to see the smiles those bags brought to their faces was awesome. It made their transition to the foster homes a lot easier as they could think about something else during the trip." If you would like to help make this transition easier for kids in your community, we can connect you with an agency nearby that serves kids in foster care, just give us a call (866-CALL-MWV) or email Kylee.  If you live near Putnam county, you can drop of a donation at our office in Hurricane, WV. 

Many civic groups, church congregations, sororities, businesses and individuals have held drives and asked their local contacts to donate to the campaign during a set time at a specified location. We can help you set up a drive in your community. This campaign makes a great service project and we are happy to work with you. 

Thank you to every person and organization that has donated to the Carry - On Campaign and created a positive difference in the lives of children in West Virginia's foster care system. 

To download the Carry - On flyer with a list of items we request, click on the button below.

Preparing your home for kids in foster care.

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Are you preparing to become a foster parent? Recently, a parent we are working with reached out and asked for advice on setting up a bedroom for the children who will be staying in their home. Our family liaison put together a list of suggested items according to age range as well as some general advice and tips for putting together a bedroom. Here you will find that list and below is some great advice that we hope you will read – especially the part about including your family, friends and community in your foster care journey! Also, if you click the button below you can print this list for printing or keeping on your computer for easy access.
 

AGE 3-5:

  • Pajamas
  • 1-2 outfits
  • Socks
  • Action figures (superheroes, Mickey Mouse, Paw Patrol, Princesses)
  • Child-size blankets
  • Sippy cups/small cups
  • Snacks such as crackers and pretzels
  • Blocks (Lego Duplo, or Mega Blocks)
  • Child puzzles
  • Coloring book/crayons

AGE 3-5:

  • Pajamas
  • 1-2 outfits
  • Socks
  • Action figures (superheroes, Mickey Mouse, Paw Patrol, Princesses)
  • Child-size blankets
  • Sippy cups/small cups
  • Snacks such as crackers and pretzels
  • Blocks (Lego Duplo, or Mega Blocks)
  • Child puzzles 
  • Coloring book/crayons

AGE 11-18:

  • Pajamas
  • 1-2 basic outfits
  • Socks
  • Razors
  • Deodorant
  • Maxi pads/tampons
  • Face wash

INFANT/TODDLER:

  • Bottles
  • Diapers (small packs in various sizes)
  • Sippy Cups
  • Baby spoons/forks/plates
  • Small blankets
  • Onesies/pajamas
  • Socks
  • Wipes
  • Pacifier
  • Rattle/teething toys
  • Crib/Pack-and-Play

AGE 6-10:

  • Pajamas
  • 1-2 outfits
  • Socks
  • Action Figures
  • Lego Blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Beginner reading books

A few things to keep on hand for all ages, varying sizes:

  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • NEW underwear
  • Brushes/Combs
  • Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Soap/Body wash
  • Lotion
  • Lice kits
  • Various DVDs, Games, Books, and Puzzles  
  • Towels/Wash-cloths
  • Band Aids
     

Download the list here:  Items for foster parents to have on hand. 

To start gathering items on this list, you could share this list with friends, family, co-workers and/or church members and ask them to help out. They can volunteer to buy specific items and can also provide clothing items as their children grow out of them.  Not everyone is prepared to do foster care but they want to help and this would give them a great opportunity to support you and the children in your care. Another idea to keep from becoming overwhelmed is to shop at garage sales, consignment stores, etc. where you can find items at a lower price. 
 
When others donate items, you can keep them in large plastic totes labeled by age range and gender. Another idea is to keep items in a special dresser or chest that is easily accessible.   It is also a good plan to have comfort items on hand, such as stuffed animals, blankets and pillows and pillow cases. Some groups have donated handmade pillow cases to our luggage program and we think this is a great way to make a child feel welcomed. You can keep a shower caddy or bag of toiletry items on hand to give them when they arrive – this way they have something that is theirs and they don’t have to worry about asking for shampoo or a toothbrush, this helps make them feel more comfortable as they adjust to being in a new home. 
 
Some families also keep a tote or space for food, too. Snacks like crackers, popcorn, fruit snacks, cereal, peanut butter and mac and cheese are easy foods to store and keep for when kids come to your home hungry. It is also smart to have items in the freezer that are easy and quick to fix and provide a warm comforting meal – examples include chicken nuggets, corn dogs, french fries, personal sized pizzas and chicken pot pies. 
 
If you are wondering what type of bed you should get, a twin size bed is enough but of course it can be bigger if that is what you have on hand. If you will have small children staying with you, you might want to pick up a rail that fits on the side of the bed to keep them from falling out. This way, you don’t need to keep a toddler bed on hand. For an infant, a crib is ideal but a pack-n-play is also a good idea to get you through the first night or two while you find a crib. 
 
We hope these ideas don’t overwhelm you, but are helpful as you think about what items you may or may not need for providing foster care in your home. Again, we highly recommend that you turn to your friends, family and community for support as you prepare to take on the task of helping children in need – this will include them in your journey and you will be uplifted knowing you have support along the way. 

Share Sunday's Child!

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Our goal at Mission West Virginia is to recruit both foster and adoptive parents.  With over 6,000 children in foster care in WV, there is constant need for parents to care for children in temporary foster care.  Children are removed from their parents and placed into foster due to abuse and neglect.  The drug epidemic especially is having a strong impact on the rising numbers of children in care.  

When families cannot safely be reunified, parents’ rights are terminated and children become eligible for adoption.  One of our jobs is to find loving adoptive families for these children.  We believe there is a family out there for every waiting child and could use your help finding them.  Once a month,  we feature a child who is eligible for adoption in Sunday’s Child, a column that features a photo and narrative description of a waiting child.   We are asking you to share Sunday’s Child with your congregation, either through PowerPoint, inserted in the bulletin or by putting the child on your church's prayer list.                                                      


If you are interested in sharing Sunday’s Child column at your church, please email Kylee Hassan or call 304-562-0273.   We are also available to speak to your congregation or to any smaller groups within the church.  There are many ways to help children in foster care in West Virginia and we are eager to speak with you about ways we can work together.   

WV Relatives As Parents Program (RAPP)

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The number of children who are living with grandparents or another relative caregiver has been increasing in recent years. These trends can be attributed to a number of factors, including increasing parental substance abuse, parent's incarceration and difficult economic circumstances. In addition, there are also situations that have long accounted for some care by relatives, this includes parent's death or serious disability, parental abuse or neglect and family or cultural preferences. 

The Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) is a service provided by Mission West Virginia, in partnership with the WV Bureau of Senior Services and the Brookdale Foundation. RAPP provides support through a warm-line, hosts training opportunities and works with support groups for relatives who are raising their family member's children. You can learn more about the RAPP program by visiting our RAPP web page or by contacting Carolyn Suppa by clicking here: Email Carolyn

The West Virginia RAPP program has a private Facebook group that we encourage you to join. If you are a WV resident who has custody or is currently seeking custody of a family member's child, this group is a resource for you. Participants must agree to terms of use to ensure a safe and empowering environment. An experienced grandparent who is raising her grandchildren moderates the group. To find the support group, click here: WV RAPP Facebook Support Group

FrameWorks Resource Library

Our FrameWorks program offers a great resource for foster and adoptive families in West Virginia - our Resource Library! We have an abundant collection of books that cover a wide array of subjects that we especially chose for foster and adoptive families. Subjects include general foster and adoption care; kinship care; attachment and bonding; special needs; general parenting; transracial adoption and more. 

A variety of books and DVDs are available for loan through this library and a full listing can be found here: FRAMEWORKS RESOURCE LIBRARY

You can borrow 3 to 4 items at a time and they are due back 4 weeks after they are received. We will mail the materials to you with a pre-addressed and stamped mailed envelope to make returns easy. 

A few of the book options include:

What Works: How to Raise Amazing Kids in Spite of the Foster Care System

What Works: How to Raise Amazing Kids in Spite of the Foster Care System -
This book was written by Stacey Addison, a school teacher and mother of six children she adopted from foster care.  This book explains a system to help parents avoid making rash decisions based on emotions, and instead, maintain and enforce consistent expectations. 

Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens

Beneath the MASK: Understanding Adopted Teens - This book explains how the key to successful therapy and healthy development is to help the adolescent discover and accept the person within.  It covers the six most common adoption "stuck-spots" and provides information about how therapy can help adoptive families learn and grow together. 

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Creating Loving Attachments: Parenting with PACE to Nurture Confidence and Security in the Troubled Child -  This book explains that a loving home is not always enough. Children who have experienced trauma need to be parented in a special way so they feel safe, secure and are able to build attachments that allow them to heal.  It covers PACE, four valuable elements of parenting that can help children feel confident and secure. 

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Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me!: The Solution to Sibling Bickering - This book by Dr. Anthony Wolf offers a new strategy for coping with sibling bickering. Dr. Wolf presents three essential rules for dealing with sibling arguments and addresses a wide range of issues. This is a book about real children and what you can do to alleviate the strife between siblings. 

Books and DVDs can be requested by visiting our Resource Library page and filling out the online form, calling 866-CALL-MWV or by emailing fosteradopt(at)missionwv.org

Foster Care and Adoption in WV - Steps to Certification

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Foster family Social Worker

There are more than 6,000 children in foster care in West Virginia. There is a great need for foster and adoptive families and we hope you are visiting our website because you are interested in making the difference in the lives of children in foster care. 

Here at Mission West Virginia, we provide you the information you need about how to foster or adopt and we guide you during the certification process. We are a friend to families seeking to help children in West Virginia!

Here is how it works...

1. Contact Mission West Virginia -We can answer questions, provide assistance and support
you through the entire process. If you are wondering if foster care and/or adoption is right for you, Mission West Virginia is a great place to start. 

2. Receive an Information Guide - Depending on your preference, we will mail or email you a guide and listing of agencies that certify families in your county.

3. Contact Agencies - Depending on where you live in West Virginia, there may be multiple agencies to choose from. We will provide you with a list of agencies that serve the county you live in. When you contact these agencies, ask them the questions provided in our information guide. Also, we can help you more with this part of the process, just ask! 

4. Get Certified! - The order may vary but this phase includes an application, training and homestudy. Your application will be provided by your chosen agency, fill it out and return it. Your agency may set up an initial meeting at your home or at their office.  The training is called PRIDE and will be scheduled by your agency - they will also help you sign up! The homestudy involves home visits, paperwork, background checks and other requirements. Your agency will help you decide which children will be the best fit for your home and family.  If there are any problems during this step and you you encounter any obstacles getting certified, remember, we are here to help.

5. Congratulations! Once all steps are completed you will be a certified foster or adoptive parent. 

Download the 5 STEPS TO CERTIFICATION to save to your computer or print! Just click on the button below to open a PDF.