OHIO VALLEY —“It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.”
That was the reflection given by Meghan Parry who has spend time over the last two years caring for several foster children in the region.
Parry spoke as part of an informational meeting on foster care services held on Tuesday evening at Soul Harvest Church in Mason, W.Va.
With the increase in drug abuse cases in the region comes many additional problems.
Many of the drug cases not only involve the adults in a home, but the younger members of the home.
Approximately three dozen people attended the hour-long meeting. Some were there to learn about becoming a foster parent, while others were there to provide information, and some were there to show their support.
Meigs County Juvenile Court Judge Scott Powell spoke about the increasing need for foster families in the the region.
Due to a drug epidemic throughout the region, Powell said there has been an increase in children services case.
With the increase in children removed from their homes and the limited number of foster parents, many of the children are not only taken from their homes, but from the schools and communities to which they are accustomed.
Meigs County Department of Job and Family Services representatives Chris Shank and Terri Ingles spoke about the need for foster parents in the area and reviewed some of the requirements to become licensed.
Ingles said that while the goal at the beginning of children services cases is reunification with the parent or parents, several of the children currently in foster care are now in permanent custody or have been in the agency’s custody for many months. After a child has been in custody for 11 months, the agency is required to file for permanent custody of a child.
There are currently 17 kids in foster care in Meigs County, with around half of them in foster homes outside of the county due to only four foster homes being located within the county.
She added that some foster care placements can be short-term (overnight) while some are much longer.
Diana Somerville and Terri Bailey spoke about the need for foster care in West Virginia being similar to that the neighboring counties in Ohio.
Somerville said it generally takes six months for a person to become a licensed foster parent.
It is up to the individual foster parent to determine the age of child they would be willing to care for, the circumstances surrounding the placement and the length of time they would be willing to care for a foster child.
It is important to show the child or children what it feels like to be loved and cared for while they are in your care, Parry added.
“Take yourself out of it, and focus on the child,” Parry said.
The area agency who set up the foster care placements are also available to provide 24 hour support to those who provide foster care.
Requirements vary slightly from state to state, but all foster parents are required to be licensed.
In Ohio, those requirements include an application, a medical statement, background checks and a fire marshal inspection.
Potential foster parents are also required to complete training classes and ongoing training hours throughout the year.
Ingles and Shank said the agency would help with the cost of the application process if that is one of the things standing in the way.
Ingles said that training is offered in areas around the state, but it would be possible to have a local training class if there were six to eight people interested in completing the class.
In West Virginia, the requirements are similar, with the training times and application materials varying slightly.
Those interested in foster care or completing the foster care training can call Ingles (Meigs County) at (740) 992-2117 ext. 123; Somerville (West Virginia) at (304) 586-1517; and Gallia County Children Services at (740) 446-4963.