Pictured, from left, are Susie Haught, Dr. Joseph Reed, commission president Sam Nolte, FRN director Lori Harvey, commissioner Troy "Buddy" Brady, commissioner Terry Cutright and April Small.

Upshur FRN: Number of children in foster care system steadily climbing

BUCKHANNON – After last year’s urgent message that hundreds of West Virginia children had been placed in foster care, the Upshur County Family Resource Network received a large response from the community.

The outpouring of people looking for more information about how to adopt a foster child or foster a child in need was so great, in fact, that the FRN scheduled an open house.

Soon, the local service organization will be hosting yet another open house for those considering adoption: from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 14, a second open house will be held a Stockert Youth and Community Center.

On Thursday morning, FRN executive director Lori Ulderich Harvey approached the Upshur County Commission about November being recognized as National Adoption Month, an initiative of the Children’s Bureau to increase awareness of children who need permanent homes.

During Harvey’s presentation, foster parent April Small, Dr. Joseph Reed and Susie Haught of Pressley Ridge held up a string of 72 socks representing the number of children currently in foster care in West Virginia.

“Each sock stands for 100 children – that’s how many are in foster care right now,” Harvey said.

Harvey mentioned some statistics, which indicated that in January 2017, there were over 5,000 children in foster care.

But the problem has since worsened instead of improving.

Since the January count, the numbers have climbed at an alarming rate, Harvey said.

“In June, there were 6,680 and from what [officials have] told me, we’re about up to 7,200 right now,” she noted.

In federal fiscal year 2017, West Virginia finalized 1,159 adoptions statewide.

After last year’s National Adoption Month proclamation, Harvey said the UCFRN received numerous calls and emails about adoption. In response to the outpouring of those seeking more information, the local FRN held an open house in April.

Harvey said she hopes to keep people’s interest in adopting children in the foster care system piqued with the Nov. 14 open house.

“So, we hope to keep this moving along at least in Upshur County because what we’re really missing is there are 800 children outside of our state because we don’t have enough willingly able homes to put in place of them,” Harvey said.

Harvey elaborated on the rise in children currently in foster care, saying it’s a side effect of the drug epidemic.

“But these children aren’t bad children. They’re not damaged children. They are just a product of what’s happened in their lives, and they need love, too,” she added.

Signed by all commissioners, the proclamation recognizes November as National Adoption Month and concludes stating “(The Commission) encourage the residents of Upshur County to consider fostering or adopting a child as well as spreading the word that so many children need loving homes. We also celebrate all of the adoptions that have taken place in Upshur County.”

Commission president Sam Nolte said, “We appreciate everything you all do and thank you all very much.”

Before adjourning commissioners also:
-Approved the adoption of suggested revisions to the Upshur County Ordinance imposing an occupancy tax on hotels located in Upshur County, which are not located within the corporation limits of the city of Buckhannon, previously adopted on Aug. 9, 2001 and amended on Nov. 29, 2007.

-Signed a proclamation in which Nov. 15 will be recognized as the Great American Smokeout. The proclamation encourages all citizens who smoke, use chew or dip tobacco or any other devices to ingest nicotine to demonstrate to themselves and to their children that they can quit by joining the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.

-Signed a proclamation declaring November will be recognized as Diabetes Awareness Month. The proclamation encourages all citizens to help fight this disease and its deadly complications, including heart and kidney disease, stroke, blindness and amputation by increasing awareness of the risk factors for diabetes, and by providing support to those suffering from diabetes.

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