BUCKHANNON - Between Lewis and Upshur counties, there are only an estimated 15 available foster homes, Child Protective Services Supervisor Sarah Crum told the Buckhannon Rotary Club Tuesday.
Crum, who addressed the topic of foster parenting at the club's weekly meeting, said there is always a need for foster parents because about 80 percent of those who open their homes to foster children eventually adopt and stop taking in children.
"We don't have a lot of foster homes in Upshur or Lewis counties, which also means that a lot of times we're having to move children out of their home community. It would be great to have more foster homes here so we wouldn't have to do that."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Buckhannon Rotarians unite to pack backpacks Tuesday for foster children newly removed from their homes.
Those interested in becoming a foster parent should call the Department of Health and Human Resources or fill out a short online questionnaire, located on the state Department of Health and Human Resources website, to find out how, Crum said.
Crum said that 49 Upshur County children and 32 Lewis County children have been removed from their homes so far this year, adding that on some weeks, children from three or four different families may be removed from their households.
"When we remove children from their homes, not only are we taking them from their family, but we're taking them from everything they know," Crum said. "They're losing their pets. They're losing their school. They're losing many of their friends, their aunts and uncles. We're taking them out with pretty much nothing most of the time."
Members of the Buckhannon Rotary Club organized an effort to prepare 100 backpacks for children who are removed from their homes, including blankets, socks, toothbrushes, underwear, toys and activities and more. The backpacks are geared toward both younger and older children and were packed for both boys and girls.
"Some of the children we get are really ill-dressed for the weather, so the backpacks are really essential," Crum said. "I know (100 backpacks) sounds like a lot, but we'll go through those pretty quickly. It's nice for the children to get some things, so when they do go into the new home they at least have that bookbag of things that are their own."
Crum said that the foster parents are given vouchers to buy the children clothes.
"I can tell you from personal experience once CPS calls and says 'I'm giving you three children, can you come and pick them up now?,' the last thing you want to do right at that moment is try to go to Wal-Mart and get all their clothes," said Crum, who has adopted four foster children of her own.
"It's awful to try to do that. They don't usually get those clothing vouchers filled for a day or two. People are scrambling around trying to ensure that children at least have some clothes and shoes to put on.
"So we really are appreciative of what you're trying to do for the community and for our foster children," Crum added.
Crum said CPS workers are advised not to worry about clothing or personal belongings in an often heated child removal situation.
"When we go into homes to remove children, we're not staying very long," Crum said. "It's usually a very heated situation. People are upset. Tempers are flaring. What we tell our workers always has been, 'Make sure you ask about necessary medications. Don't worry about clothes. Don't worry about any of that kind of stuff. Your safety is much more important than trying to retrieve those things.' So when children leave, they leave pretty much with what they have on."
To contact the DHHR, visit www.wvdhhr.org, or call the Lewis County DHHR at 304-269-6820 or the Upshur County DHHR at 304-473-4230. The website also features a DHHR locator to help find contact information for other local DHHR facilities.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.