Family — It’s something most people have, many of us take for granted, and at least a few of us complain about to friends and colleagues. Nevertheless, family is also at the emotional and biological core of our society. Families give us life, care for us when we are vulnerable, and provide love and support through challenges both big and small.

Unfortunately, too many children and teens today do not have this essential element in their lives. These young people do not have the privilege of living in a safe environment with their biological parents, and require someone else to provide the care that they need.

The need is crucial and we are in a crisis in our home state. With nearly 7,000 children in foster care in West Virginia, there are simply not enough families stepping up to help these children. Now is the time for us to ensure that all children have the family they need and deserve. According to West Virginia’s Legislative Foster Care Report, there are currently 6,796 youth in foster care in this state as of August 2019. That means nearly 7,000 children are in the custody of the state due to abuse or neglect — or both — on the part of their parent or guardian. That is up from 4,233 five years ago, in August 2014.

Becoming a foster parent will undoubtedly change your life. You will learn about yourself and your family. Your patience will be tested in ways you could not have conceived of, and you will find the strength within you that you didn’t know you had. There will be times when you feel broken and unsure of your decisions. There will be other times when you couldn’t imagine doing anything but opening your home to vulnerable children who need a safe place to land. You may feel both in the same day! Some days are more challenging than others, but overall most foster families think the journey is worth the outcome. Foster care is beautiful, messy, exhausting, exhilarating, and every other emotion in between. It teaches you to live in the moment, to love hard, to invest in today knowing that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and to celebrate every victory because no win is too small.

At Mission West Virginia, we are a friend to families interested in foster care. We provide educational materials and one–on-one assistance to those interested in starting the foster care certification process. We can provide information and referral services and will refer you to a private foster care agency that can certify you so that you can open your home and family to the children who need it the most. There is minimal to no cost to become certified to foster or adopt through the foster care system.

Mission West Virginia works with the DHHR and foster and adoption agencies to recruit families to foster and adopt. We can assist you to find an agency that is the right fit for your family and that can provide you with assistance and services throughout your foster care journey. This is a crucial time in our state and we need to take action to ensure that every child and youth has what we all want—a safe and loving family. Together, we can ensure that the child welfare system is dedicated to finding and supporting a family for every child.

We hope you will join us in helping make a difference in the lives of West Virginia’s youth. You can reach Mission WV by calling 1-866-CALL-MWV.

Kylee Hassan is the communications outreach director for Mission West Virginia

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