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Swamped by Opioid Crisis, Foster Network Seeks Input to Support Caregivers

Julia Hamilton and her partner, Zack Cruze, hope to get more support for their foster children, who were both born to drug-addicted parents. (Julia Hamilton)
Julia Hamilton and her partner, Zack Cruze, hope to get more support for their foster children, who were both born to drug-addicted parents. (Julia Hamilton)
October 25, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With the opioid crisis pushing more children into foster care in West Virginia, supporting foster parents is more crucial than ever.

Julia Hamilton is a foster parent of two in Morgantown. She says she wishes case workers were able to touch base more often with her, especially to help her two-year-old son, who was born addicted to drugs and has special needs.

A new survey being sponsored by the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parents Network is looking for input from foster parents such as Hamilton to get lawmakers to give them more support.

"To just give us a voice at the table would be life changing because right now it truly feels most days like it doesn't matter what we have to say,” says Hamilton. “It's not taken into consideration when making decisions for that child."

The Parents Network is partnering with Marshall University and the state's Department of Health and Human Resources to develop the survey. Foster parents can participate at wvfosterparents.org.

Hamilton and her partner, Zack Cruze, are sharing foster parenting for a 17-year-old girl and the toddler. Hamilton says taking care of the toddler requires more resources.

The boy was born premature and had to be weaned off of morphine. She says he has a lot of developmental delays as a result, including poor vision, which happens often with opioid babies.

He has improved in the past six months thanks to a team of therapists, which she's thankful for, but she says more needs to be done.

"I think that in general, there needs to be better support,” says Hamilton. “You know it depends, of course, on the foster agency you're with – whether or not you're going strictly through DHHR. But the kind of training you receive as a foster parent can sometimes be a little limited for the behaviors that you're running into."

According to state statistics, almost seven thousand children are in foster care in the state, and only four thousand foster and kinship homes. The survey will give lawmakers a better understanding of how to help these important caregivers and change child welfare policy to make the system better.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV