Maria Young Published

Statewide Campaign Doubles Number Of Prospective Foster Parents

Three children are seen walking a forested pathDan Kitwood/Getty Images

There were 6,126 West Virginia children and teens in the state’s custody as of mid-June, according to the Department of Human Services (DoHS) child welfare dashboard – and not nearly enough foster parents to care for them all while the state investigates the allegations of abuse and neglect that brought them into care in the first place. 

That’s why DoHS, in conjunction with foster care agencies across the state and Aetna Better Health West Virginia, which handles medical needs for all those kids, launched a four-month drive to find more foster homes.

The “We Foster West Virginia” campaign wrapped up at the end of June. During the campaign, the number of prospective foster care parents in the state roughly doubled.

Rachel Kinder, a spokesperson for Mission West Virginia, fielded all of the inquiries.

Normally her group handles about 100 inquiries per month. From March to June, she said, that number jumped to about 200. 

That’s close to 800 inquiries – double the usual amount. 

“I do think it was an effective campaign to get 400 additional inquiries in less than four months,” Kinder said. “We have definitely been overwhelmingly busy responding to those families.”

Part of the purpose of the campaign, she said, was to reach people who might not realize they could qualify.

“Some of the myths that people still believe are that you have to be married to be foster parents,” she said. ”You can be married, single, cohabitating, divorced, [a] same-sex couple – lots of different configurations and still qualify.”

“People thought that you had to own your own home to be a foster parent, [but] you can rent or you can be in an apartment. People believe that you have to have a separate bedroom for every child in foster care, when in fact children of the same genders can share bedrooms.”

Based on previous data, Kinder said only about 10 percent of those who reached out during the campaign will become certified. But Kinder suspects more people will mull it over before reaching out in the months to come.