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Foster care agency encourages kinship caretakers to explore benefits available to them

BUCKHANNON – A local child welfare agency wants residents to know it’s always on the lookout for new foster parents, especially for older children.

Necco, a multi-state organization with locations in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, provides a wide range of services including adoption; foster care; mental/behavioral health counseling; and independent and residential living facilities.

Leah Peck, a foster care recruiter with Necco, attended the Feb. 1 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting to discuss the services Necco provides and her own foster care experiences.

“I have a lot of different professional experience, but the most challenging and most rewarding experience that I’ve had is as a parent and not as a birth parent,” Peck said. “I have mothered up to five children at a time, going from zero kids to five in a matter of two years, which has been an incredible experience. Bringing in children through foster care is a completely different experience, I think, from normal motherhood, but maybe more rewarding.”

Necco was founded in 1996 as a public service organization, and they started by recruiting foster parents.

“Now we have an independent living facility for children who are aging out of foster care and don’t have anywhere to go that’s [located] in Ohio, and we’re trying to bring that here,” Peck said. “We do treatment foster care, which is for kids who have more high-level needs and issues, but the majority of my work just centers around finding foster parents for kids because they just need somewhere to go.”

The main topic she wanted to discuss with the Rotary Club was the benefits available to kinship foster parents.

“That would be grandparents who are raising a grandchild or aunts and uncles,” Peck said. “My children were kinship kids [prior to being under Peck’s care]. I knew a person in their family with a drug addiction and their children got taken, and they called me and asked me to take them. I fostered my son for three years before I got this job and realized there was help out there for people like me, including a monthly stipend of up to $935 a month, that these grandparents can get per child to help them.”

She said WIC – the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children – as well as Medicaid will continue after adoption until the children turn 18.

“A lot of these grandparents don’t realize they have these resources, and they take their grandkids because they’re the family, but once they get the kids in their home and they’re just on Social Security or they have a limited income and limited resources, and suddenly they’re raising five kids,” Peck said. “I hope if you do know someone who is a kinship foster parent or [who is caring for] their grandchildren, that they know this system is out there.”

“The support is out there, and they don’t have to go three years, fighting everything on their own like I did,” she added.

Necco is constantly looking for foster parents willing to take older children.

“We have no shortage of people that want to take babies – everybody’s willing to take a baby – but when it comes to these kids that are 10, 11 or 12 years old, there are no homes, so they end up in juvenile facilities when they haven’t done anything wrong,” Peck said. “We also have a need for empty nesters. Even if you are beyond your child-raising years, if you have a spare bedroom and would consider just having one young person come and hang out with you for a little bit, there’s a huge need for that right now.”

She said teenagers in the foster care system get a bad reputation when many are quite mature.

“Yes, there are children who have more severe behavioral issues and that kind of thing, but the majority of these kids are very mature,” Peck said. “They know the situation they’re coming from is not where they want to be when they’re that age. They are looking for and seeking these healthy alternatives and healthy ways to live that they’ve never seen before.”

To learn more about Necco or how to become a foster parent in West Virginia, check out their website.

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