Upshur County Family Resource Network Executive Director Lori Ulderich Harvey presents a proclamation declaring November 2023 as National Adoption Month in Upshur County.

Upshur FRN director: Despite urgent need for permanent homes, adoptions out of the foster care should be celebrated

BUCKHANNON – Recognizing November as National Adoption Month isn’t just about lamenting the lack of permanent homes available to kids in West Virginia’s foster care system, the director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network said earlier this month.

Although the need for more stable, nurturing homes is urgent and ever-present, Lori Ulderich Harvey also believes that when adoptions do happen, they should be celebrated. At its Nov. 2 meeting, Harvey, the executive director of the Upshur FRN, asked the Upshur County Commission to declare November 2023 National Adoption Month throughout the county.

“It’s more of a celebration to read this today because, in the past few months, I personally know about six kids that have been adopted, from baby to teenagers,” Harvey said. “Teenagers, of course, are the ones that always get left out, or they’re not the ones to be picked, and they’re the ones that we really need homes for.”

Harvey explained National Adoption Month is an initiative of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, and its goal is to increase national awareness and bring attention to the need for permanent families for children and youth in the U.S.

Pictured, from left, are Commissioner Sam Nolte, Commission President Kristie Tenney, Harvey and Commissioner Doug Bush.

As of September 2023, West Virginia alone had approximately 6,400 children in the foster care system, plus an additional 400-500 placed out of state, Harvey said. The number is likely higher because many at-risk children who could be included in that figure live with grandparents or other kindship relatives. Those relatives may fear that if they disclose that the kids they’re caring for are no longer living with their biological parents, they could be taken by the state or returned to parents who are abusive or neglectful.

“We believe that number (6,400) to be more because there are some families that do not have any [legal] rights to that child, so they don’t seek any assistance of any kind because they don’t want the child taken away,” Harvey said. “They’re afraid that if they ask for assistance, someone will come and take the kids. There’s a lot of that out there, so we know there’s more [children without permanent homes] than what the numbers say.”

Harvey said a multitude of societal problems stem from kids not having safe, loving and stable homes.

“Many children awaiting adoptive families are removed from their biological families due to abuse, neglect or abandonment, and these children have a history of hardship, sadness, loss of relationships and abuse,” she said. “All of these children deserve a home – and without a permanent loving adoptive family, the likelihood of those children entering adulthood with no parental guidance or support is high.”

“Then, of course, if they don’t have that support, when they become adults and get out of the system, that just creates [a lot of societal problems],” Harvey said.

Harvey’s philosophy is that if you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t adopt or foster, consider donating time or resources to educating or advocating for children in foster care to help raise awareness about the lack of available homes.

“The more it’s talked about, the better,” she said.

The commissioners unanimously voted to sign a proclamation declaring November 2023 National Adoption Month in Upshur County.

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