WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Most parents say they will do anything to help their children. But what happens when children who need help don't have a parent or guardian to step in?
There are currently 34 children in the Washington County, Virginia foster care system. For the sake of comparison, Dickenson County, Virginia currently has 87 kids in the system.
Washington County Department of Social Services Director Randall Blevins said the low number in the county is due to the efforts of his staff. "We've really put a primary focus on prevention here. We believe if we can address issues with families and crisis situations as early as possible, maybe some of these children wont have to be separated from their parents," said Blevins.
While there is a small number in Washington County, Blevins told News 5 there is still a need to foster parents willing to step up to the plate. "We always want options for our children. There are issues like keeping sibling groups together. There are issues about keeping them in the same school," said Blevins.
According to Director Blevins, a surplus of willing foster families is a good thing, even if just to give current foster families a respite.
There is also a need for families to help raise children with special needs.
Highlands Community Services, an organization that provides mental health, substance abuse and intellectual disability services to Washington County and Bristol, Virginia helps place children who fall into those categories into homes.
Drew Porter, Unit Manager for the Embrace Sponsor Home program, said the program holds between 10 and 18 children in 11 approved homes. "We find that a lot of kids coming in to the foster care system have a lot of background issues that they need to be working on. A lot of behavioral issues, mental health issues," said Porter.
Porter said these children are usually older and come from a troubled home. " A neglect or drug abuse situation, and the kids are removed from that home. Unfortunately that happens more often than not and it's kids in middle school or above," said Porter
HCS, like the Washington County DSS, aims to help kids and families work through some of these issues so the children don't end up in the system. Porter told News 5 this doesn't always work. The children are pulled from the home, and need a new place to live.
"We're always looking for parents who are willing to help, willing to go that extra mile for kids in our community. What we're seeing right now is that we have so many kids in the foster care system that they are having to go to other communities because we don't have enough homes in this area, " said Porter.
For more information on Highlands Community Services and how you can become a foster parent, click here to visit their website.