BUCKHANNON – With there being roughly 7,000 children in foster care across West Virginia and only over 1,300 open homes, Upshur County Family Resource Network executive director Lori Uldrich Harvey says those numbers don’t exactly add up.
The discrepancy between the number of children who need homes and homes available is glaring, Harvey said.
With this notion in mind and a large public response following an adoption awareness proclamation, Harvey began working with Mission West Virginia to host a Foster Care Open House back in April of 2018.
“In November 2017, I held an Adoption Awareness Month proclamation. It was placed and shared repeatedly on social media resulting in over 70 individual contacts to our office, let alone how many Mission WV received,” she explained further.
With a “spectacular” turnout and an uptick in the number of open homes in Upshur County following the open house, a second open house was held in November of 2018. However, due to the holidays, Harvey said attendance was down, but there seemed to be just as much interest.
On May 7 – yes, this Tuesday – Harvey and the folks at UCFRN will be hosting another open house – Fostering Hope. The open house will not only have the foster agencies available for questions and information, but support groups like WIC, West Virginia Birth to Three, etc. will also be available.
While some people might feel intimidated by or hesitant about the process of fostering and adoption, Harvey wants potential foster parents to know it’s not as difficult as it may seem.
“Many people are hesitant about the foster process because they don’t have much of an idea of what it entails,” she said. “There is training and home visits and such before the certification, but it is not as difficult as some people believe it to be.”
“My honest opinion, as a foster parent myself, is for those who are wondering to gather all of the information possible but to also get in touch with other foster families because they have been through it and can give you the live picture rather than just general information,” Harvey continued, adding seeking support from agencies can lead to a great support network.
For some, it’s not so much the process, but rather the misconception that these children are “damaged” or “bad” when the majority are in foster care not by their own choosing, Harvey said.
“We need to realize children have dignity and the need for loving families as well just as any biological child,” Harvey said.
Bringing awareness, information and support about the foster care crisis has become one of the main missions of the UCFRN for now because it has become an epidemic in the Mountain State.
“There are too many myths and not enough truths circulating, and we need to break down that information into correct pieces,” she said.
The open house will be from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7 at the Public Safety Complex.
Currently, the UCFRN is working with the Upshur County Senior Center and the Healthy Grandfamilies program because there is large population of grandparents who are raising grandchildren and need updated information and support.
Also, looking ahead, Harvey said the UCFRN will be kicking off a foster/adopt support group in June, but details will be released at a later date.