Of the more than 5,000 children and teens in the West Virginia foster care system, about 1,100 stay in congregate care. This type of care involves group homes, residential treatment facilities, emergency shelters or psychiatric institutions. While some youth may temporarily need this type of care, research shows that children and teens grow best in families. Family care is preferred over group care so that children can experience greater connections with adults and learn how healthy families function. Youth who live in group care are more likely to develop physical, emotional and behavioral problems. These problems can lead to dropping out of school, increased chances of pregnancy, homelessness, incarceration and unemployment.
West Virginia has historically had an unfortunately high rate of children entering foster care each year. The state average has been nearly three times the national average. The state cares for 71 percent of youth ages 12-17 in congregate care. As mentioned, it is better for children to grow in stable, loving families.
All children need to develop healthy attachments with loving adults who are available at all times. In West Virginia, measures have been taken to increase the number of foster family homes and reduce the number of children and teens taken out of their communities. This state-wide initiative, called Safe at Home West Virginia, aims to maximize the benefits of home and community-based services for children and teens in foster care. This program also provides youth with essential behavioral and mental health services.
What You Can Do to Help
Everyone can do something meaningful to help children and teens in need. The people KVC West Virginia serves are often affected by poverty, substance use, mental/behavioral health challenges or trauma such as abuse or neglect. Together we can rally around them and make sure that West Virginia children stay safe at home and do not end up in congregate care or in other settings that take them away from their home community.
The best way you can help West Virginia youth is by welcoming children and teens who have experienced abuse or neglect into your home and providing them a safe, caring environment – in other words you can become a foster parent in West Virginia. KVC is proud to be the largest private child placing agency in the state, matching hundreds of children in foster care with caring foster families each year. Or, you can offer your time by mentoring a teenager or volunteering to serve in some way. Donations can make a huge impact on children and families in need as well. There are as many ways to get involved as there are people in our great state! Fill out this form to let us know how you want to be involved.