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Event at HHS targets growing need for foster care


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The opioid epidemic destroys lives, but it also destroys families, leaving thousands of West Virginia children without permanent homes.

That’s why agencies from across the state will converge in Huntington on Saturday to provide a one-stop shop for anyone interested in fostering a child.

The event, called Foster Fest, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Huntington High School and will feature more than 20 agencies, including Necco, West Virginia WIC, Pressley Ridge and the West Virginia Child Care Association.

“We need to raise public awareness of the growing drug epidemic and how that is negatively impacting families, with children coming into foster care at alarming rates,” said Chad Messer, home resource coordinator for Necco and organizer of Foster Fest. “We need to raise awareness to people who see these horrible experiences children are having and want to do something about it. That’s why we created a one-stop shop for people wanting to foster but don’t know how to begin.”

According to the latest studies in 2015, West Virginia had more than 5,700 children living without permanent homes, meaning they are in foster care, in shelters or group homes. That’s compared to 1,800 children in neighboring Kentucky.

“And that’s before the epidemic really hit hard,” Messer pointed out.

He said Necco gets referrals every day and more than 90 percent are drug related.

Messer said West Virginia’s families have to step up to the plate, but he also acknowledged part of the problem will have to be solved by the state Legislature.

“Many families want to (foster), but there is so much red tape,” Messer said. “I’m all for the reunification of families, but it seems a lot of chances are given and the system is not to the benefit of children.”

Along with informational booths, Foster Fest will have breakout sessions led by different organizations about all the issues surrounding fostering and the drug epidemic.

Messer said he wants people to know they aren’t alone when they start fostering.

“We want people to overcome fear through education,” Messer said.

Foster Fest is partially funded by a grant by River Valley Child Development Services.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

Learning opportunities at Foster Fest

Trainings and seminars scheduled during Foster Fest on Saturday, May 13, at Huntington High School:

Room 1

10:10 a.m.: The WIC Program and Foster Children, Jessica Crouse, Cabell County WIC

11:15 a.m.:  Keeping “IT” Safe, Michael Jones, Foster Adventure

12:30 p.m.:  Choosing appropriate child care and LINK eligibility, Christine Dunbar, RVCDS

1:15 p.m.: Total Transformation, John Machir, Necco

2 p.m.: The Spiritual Component of Fostering, Will Basham, New Heights Church

3 p.m.: Parenting Challenging Behaviors, Alice Hunter, Necco

Room 2

10:30 a.m.:  Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), Rhonda Edmonds, Lily’s Place

11:30 a.m.: The Journey Through the System, Natalie Murphy, Cabell CPS

1:30 p.m.:  Parenting a Child from a Domestic Violence Home, Robin Caldwell, KVC

2:30 p.m.: Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs), John Machir, Necco

3:30 p.m.: How Else Can I Help?, Kim Wilds, TEAM for WV Children

Room 3

10:15 a.m.: The Many Roles of Foster Care, Olivia McCormack, Mission WV

11:15 a.m.: What is HOOPS? Hoops Family Children’s Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital

Noon: Interacting with Kids, Amanda Wilson, River Park Hospital

1 p.m.: Car Seat Safety, Matt Herbert, St. Mary’s Medical Center

1:45 p.m.: Crisis Management, David Bowers, Pressley Ridge

2:30 p.m: Current Drug Trends, Tim White, Prestera Center

3:30 p.m.: Wrap Around Services Overview, Jason Deusenberry, Necco

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