The forum took place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Grafton City Hall. About 25 people including foster care parents, representatives from the Department of Health and Human Resources, foster care providers, and concerned citizens discussed what they felt is and is not working in the foster care system.
During September interims, lawmakers heard from the DHHR secretary, who said about 85 percent of the 6,200 children in foster care are there because of parents dealing with substance abuse issues.
“We keep hearing there is a foster care crisis in West Virginia and that there are 6,200 children in state custody and we don’t have the families to care for them,” Summers said. “So, how can we get more families?”
People who attended the forum expressed many concerns with the process along with different barriers they face. One of the barriers expressed at the forum is the amount of time it takes to adopt a child after the process is completed. One person said he has waited a year to adopt.
Some recommendations expressed at the forum included for the state to consider having a foster care adoption court. People said there is a need to streamline the process, attract more CPS workers, and to get more families to participate in emergency foster care, which is needed for a few days while children await placement in a suitable foster home.
People also said there is a need to support family members who take care of these children. About 70 percent of children are in kinship care—meaning they are in the care of a family member.
“But families don’t get the money that foster families do, even though there is a financial strain,” Summers said.
“We need to devote this upcoming session to this issue because it needs a lot of attention,” she added. “The only way to understand it is to talk to people who actually give the care, people who actually do it.”