All families face challenges at times, and in some instances a wide range of factors can cause parents to become unable to care for their children. West Virginia foster care provides a temporary arrangement for a child when they are not able to live with their biological parents or other natural caregivers. During this time, child welfare professionals work to find the best possible relative, foster family or other placement option for that child until they can safely return home or a permanency plan is identified.
In order to learn and grow, children in foster care need the support of a loving family who is willing to help them in a time of great need. In West Virginia, more foster families are needed to keep up with the increasing amount of children and teens entering foster care. West Virginia desperately needs foster parents who can provide a stable, day-to-day structure for youth in foster care. Different types of foster care exist to meet the unique needs of each child and family.
Relatives such as grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins are the first desirable option to provide a safe and caring environment for children in West Virginia. In the U.S., an estimated 2.7 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In West Virginia, 1,572 youth are in relative/kinship care. The Child Welfare Information Gateway describes three categories of relative/kinship care:
- Informal kinship care: does not involve the child welfare system. A parent may leave a child in a relative’s care while he or she is overseas or when an illness prevents the parent from caring for the child. Legal custody of the child remains with the parent.
- Voluntary kinship care: the child welfare system is involved; however, the State does not take legal custody. In many cases, child welfare workers have investigated a report of abuse or neglect by the parent and a court decides to place the children with relatives while the parent receives preservation services. These services teach parents how to resolve conflicts or disruptions and learn healthy skills so that the child can safely return home. Legal custody of the child remains with the parent.
- Formal kinship care: a judge places children in the legal custody of the State and a child welfare agency places the children with a relative(s). The State agency has legal custody of the children and works in partnership with the family and the child-placing agency to make legal decisions about the children.
Non-related kin (NRKIN)
While foster care is sometimes necessary to keep a child safe, removing a child from their home can be a traumatic experience in itself because it involves separation. Placing the child with a familiar caregiver helps ease this transition. “Non-related kin” refers to a person, typically a neighbor, family friend, teacher, coach, fellow church member or other acquaintance, who is familiar with the child or their family, and is willing to provide a safe home for the child until they can safely return home or another permanency option is determined. In many states, while non-related kinship caregivers must obtain their foster parenting license, they can receive a temporary license in the interim so they can immediately begin caring for the child.
Traditional foster care
Individuals who meet the requirements and complete the training to become a foster parent can care for any child, teen or sibling group in state custody for an undetermined amount of time. Foster parents provide care and support for children until a permanent plan is implemented. They must be committed to working in partnership with birth family members and child welfare professionals, as well as completing ongoing training requirements.
Just like any parent, foster parents need time to rest and recharge from providing ongoing daily care to a child. Respite caregivers provide short-term care, typically evening or weekend care, for a child currently living with another foster family. Providing respite care is a great way to see if foster parenting is right for you.
You Can Make a Difference in a Child’s Life!
Please consider whether you can provide a home for a child or teen as a foster parent. If you’ve considered it in the past and decided the timing wasn’t right, consider it now! To learn more or to take the next step toward foster parenting, click here to learn how to become a foster parent in West Virginia.
Have questions about becoming a foster parent? This free guide gives answers to the most frequently asked questions about becoming a foster parent. Click the image to download it now!