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EDITORIAL: Foster care system still in need of help


The Exponent Telegram editorial

For the past year, the state’s foster care system has received ample attention from the news media, helping to spread the word that more foster families are needed.

By now we all know that the opioid epidemic is at the root of much of the need, as parents of children are swept up into nefarious actions, sometimes landing them in jail and often leaving them unable to parent.

Despite the attention given to the lack of foster families, the problem still very much exists — and may be getting worse.

“The availability of foster case isn’t meeting the demand of the need and social situations in our state,” said Deanna Griffith, Genesis Youth Crisis Center’s director of family services.

The crisis facility began offering foster services about two years ago because of the great need, she said. And they’ve been able to help some of the children find more permanent, stable environments.

But while more people have stepped up to lend a hand, the demand continues to grow.

“We are definitely in desperate need of families, with over 5,000 kids in foster care in the state,” said Melinda Meredith of Try Again Homes West Virginia. It’s another agency attempting to help the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources deal with the issue.

“The numbers have increased sharply over the last five years, mostly due to the drug epidemic,” she said.

The statistics show about 1.5 percent of the 330,000-plus children younger than 18 are in the foster system. That’s alarming in itself, but more so when you consider the number of children who probably should be, but just haven’t been identified or sought help.

Nor does that count children who have been given to grandparents or other family members to raise, unless those adults seek help from the state.

The bottom line: The need is great; the response not so much.

That’s especially true for children 10 years of age or older.

“Sometimes kids who are in middle, junior or high school are hard to place,” Meredith said. “There are times where they aren’t traditionally going into a foster home and end up in shelters where they don’t need to or shouldn’t be.”

As West Virginia works to solve the issues before it, from budgets to the economy to drugs, we can’t afford to lose sight of the future.

All of those issues impact the future, but nothing more so than raising children who are ill prepared socially, physically or mentally to become adults.

We have children who need help. Who is willing to step up?

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