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HUNTINGTON — With nearly 4,000 certified foster and kinship homes in West Virginia and close to 7,000 children in foster care, more fosters are needed in the Mountain State.

But with current foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers expressing frustration with the current child welfare system, the state needs to know more about what needs to be done to help recruit and retain foster families.

The West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network, an organization representing over 500 parents providing care for children who cannot be with their birth families, partnered with Marshall University and the Department of Health and Human Resources to develop a survey of all foster parents, adoptive parents, and certified and non-certified kinship/relative caregivers throughout West Virginia. The goal is to gain a better understanding of the needs of these groups, the effectiveness of training and services currently provided, and how the child welfare system can better support families who care for children who are or were in the state’s custody.

“This survey is our opportunity to be heard and ask for what we need so that we can best care for the children who come to our homes,” said Shanna Grey, a foster parent who is a member of the network, in a release. “Our experiences with foster care, kinship care, and adoption are valuable and this survey gives us a chance to share our perspectives to help improve the system.”

Results will be analyzed and shared with the West Virginia Legislature; officials in the judicial system; members of the WV Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network; and others involved in child welfare.

Members of the Joint Health Committee were briefed on the development of the survey during September legislative interim meetings.

“We have children in desperate need of good homes and good foster parents,” said Del. Ruth Rowan, R-Hampshire, chair of the House committee on senior, children and family issues. “We need to do all we can to support foster families and hope to learn from this survey how we can help strengthen the child welfare system.”

Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said it was important for lawmakers to understand the challenges of being a foster, adoptive or kinship caregiver.

“I hope families will take a moment to complete this survey so we will have the most accurate data possible,” Walker said.

To participate in the survey go to www.wvfosterparents.org and click on the survey button. The survey will be available until Nov. 18.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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