Due to COVID-19, courts may require face coverings for all meetings or hearings. We recommend taking one with you so you are not turned away.

Foster Care in West Virginia

Last Updated On: 11/15/2019 4:31:19 PM

When is foster care appropriate?

A child must face imminent risk of removal from the home by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) to enter foster care.

There are six (6) instances in which foster care is appropriate.

  1. A parent may request temporary help in caring for their child during a family crisis.
  2. A parent may request help in meeting the child’s physical or mental health needs.
  3. Child Protective Services (CPS) may take a child into emergency custody, or go through the court to take custody, if the child has been abused and/or neglected.
  4. A status offense brings the child to juvenile court.
  5. The child has been charged as a delinquent for engaging in criminal behavior.
  6. A former foster care youth age eighteen (18) or older may continue living as a foster child, as long as he/she consents to continue receiving foster care services and he/she is attending an educational program.

Who are foster parents?

In the state of West Virginia, foster parents are often kinship caregivers. Grandparents or aunts and uncles are common examples. West Virginia defines a kinship caregiver as one who is related to the child by blood or marriage and/or one who the child considers to be a relative. Sometimes the DHHR may place a child with a kinship caregiver temporarily without the kinship placement becoming a certified foster parent. If an abuse and neglect case is filed in Circuit Court, the kinship caregiver should consider becoming certified as a foster parent. Also, if you hope to obtain placement for a child, you should begin the certification process to become a foster parent. 

Foster parents are also people who have no blood or kin relation to the child , and may not have a relationship to the child prior to choosing to become foster parents.

West Virginia needs foster parents.  Close to 6,000 children are currently in the foster system in large part due to the opioid crisis. 

What steps will I have to take to become a certified foster parent?

  1. Check to see if you are eligible to become a foster parent.
  2. If eligible, register as a foster parent.
  3. You will receive an informational packet in the mail, including the application.
  4. Attend training.
  5. Complete the home study.

ELIGIBILITY

What makes me eligible to be a foster parent?

You must meet these requirements. The DHHR will screen you and will easily verify if you are eligible or not.

  • Age
    • You must be 21 years of age or older.
    • You may not be older than 65 years of age, unless you obtain a waiver.
  • Citizenship
    • You must be a United States citizen and a resident of West Virginia.
  • The caseworker will ensure you have the following characteristics. He/she will do this through: observing you, interviewing you, and contacting your references. This happens during the home study process.
    • Nurturing
    • Responsible
    • Patient
    • Stable
    • Flexible
    • Mature
    • Healthy, both mentally and physically
  • You must be able to meet the child’s individual needs.
  • You need a stable and secure income.
  • You cannot have child abuse reports or a criminal background.
  • You need a stable family relationship and must have the ability to commit to a child.

How will my health be considered for eligibility?

  • You must possess good physical health. You must be free from disease, illnesses or disabilities which interfere with your capability to care for foster children.
  • You must have a physical exam within one (1) year of the home study process.
  • You must be up-to-date on immunizations.
  • You must be mentally healthy. The DHHR may require you to take a psychological evaluation or substance abuse assessment, if they feel one is needed.

If I have a disability will I be denied from becoming a foster parent?

As long as you are capable of providing care for a child, you are still eligible to be a foster parent. Being determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administation does not prohibit you from becoming a foster parent.

How will my financial/employment status be considered for eligibility?

While there is no specific income requirement, the DHHR will ensure that you have adequate financial resources to provide a reasonable standard of living for the child and your household as an entirety. You may be asked to provide copies of tax returns, check stubs, copies of monthly bills, etc. The DHHR may provide a subsidy for children placed in your care to provide for the child’s needs.

How will my background be considered for eligibility?

If you, or a household member, have any conviction(s) for which there is no waiver permitted, you will not be approved.This includes:

  • Any felony crime
  • any misdemeanor or felony crime against a person, such as violent crimes including assault or battery, kidnapping, neglect/abuse of a child or adult, exploitation, etc.
  • Any two or more misdemeanor offenses.
  • Currently serving parole or probation.

Additionally, if you refuse the criminal background check, you will not be approved.

Whose consent do I need to become a foster parent?

If you have multiple people in your household, the decision to become a foster parent must be agreed to by all members of your household. This includes children over the age of twelve (12).

REGISTRATION PROCESS

How do I register as a foster parent?

There are multiple ways to register:

  • You can complete the DHHR’s initial inquiry form online.
  • You can call Mission WV, a nonprofit child placement agency, toll free at 866-CALL-MWV (225-5698).
  • There are also several private agencies you may consult.

APPLICATION PROCESS

What will I be asked to provide in my application?

You will be asked to provide:

  • Identifying information (name, address, date of birth, phone number, etc.)
  • A list of individuals residing in your home
  • A list of children not residing in your home
  • Marital history
  • Employment information
  • Residence information (number of bedrooms, rent/mortgage payments, the source of heat and water, etc.)
  • Transportation information
  • Insurance carrier details
  • Health status information for all individuals in your home
  • A list of extended family members, including those not residing in the house
  • Any preferences or desires you may have regarding the foster child
    • Including approximate ages, gender, number, disabilities you are willing to accept, etc.
  • A listing of five (5) references. No more than one (1) may be a relative.
  • An autobiography of yourself
    • Discussing your significant life experiences, your parenting experience, your ideas about discipline, etc.

TRAINING

What is PRIDE training?

PRIDE stands for Parent Resources for Information Development and Education. All foster parents must be PRIDE certified. PRIDE requires teamwork and strengthening ties between all the child’s families: birth, kinship, foster, and/or adoptive.

If I attend any of the PRIDE sessions am I obligating myself to accept a child?

No, the sessions are simply offered for informational purposes.

How are the PRIDE sessions conducted and how much time do I have to commit?

The PRIDE sessions are divided into two groups: pre-service training (before placement) and in-service training (after placement).

  • The PRIDE pre-service training is held as nine (9) group sessions, which last three (3) hours each: a total of twenty-seven (27) hours. These sessions provide prospective parents the chance to learn from each other through discussion.  
    • For a training schedule, see here.
  • The PRIDE in-service training is more individualized to you and your foster child than the pre-service training. You must partake in at least twelve (12) hours of this training per year, at your leisure and on your own doing. For example, training might include watching an instructional DVD or reading a book.

Will I ever have to re-do the training?

As long as your home remains certified as a foster home, you will not have to redo the training. You will, however, be reviewed annually on PRIDE competencies, so it will be necessary for you to fully understand the PRIDE model. If you fail to maintain your certification, you may have to go back and attend the PRIDE classes again.

In addition to being PRIDE certified, will I have to complete any other training?

Yes, before a foster child is placed with you, you must become CPR Certified and First Aid Certified on your own. Both take about three (3) hours each. Additionally, you will have to keep the certification up-to-date, which may require ongoing training.

Will I have to make arrangements to care for my foster child during training?

Yes. The DHHR does not provide child care during training. Nonetheless, they may be able to assist you with locating resources or scheduling the training to allow you to attend.

HOME STUDY

What is a home study?

It is a process in which the DHHR or an approved agency will thoroughly inspect your home and home life on multiple occasions, interview household members and references, review your medical records, and run a background check on you.

The study considers your home’s safety, the space you have for a child, your resources, and capacity to parent.

How will my home be inspected?

Safety is the paramount concern when placing a child. The DHHR is less concerned about how your home looks and what material possessions you have.  DHHR is concerned about how safe your home is. The caseworker will be looking for things like exposed wires, how many fire extinguishers you have, fire escape routes, etc. – not how your furniture looks.  

The safety requirements are pretty thorough. They are listed in West Virginia’s Homefinding Policy, pages 22-24. Use this general checklist as a guide to ensure your home will pass the test. In order to become certified, you will have to make arrangements for any firearms you own to be locked.  You may have to purchase additional safety equipment. The DHHR can help you determine what you may need to do.

How much space in my house will I need to raise a foster child?

It is a common misconception that every foster child has to have his/her own room. The DHHR’s rules on space are as follows:

  • No more than 4 children, including your own children, may share a bedroom.
  • All children sharing a bedroom must be of the same sex.
  • Each child must have his/her own bed with mattresses and linens.
  • All children, except those under two (2) years of age, must have space for their personal possessions and a reasonable degree of privacy.
  • Adults should not share a bedroom with a child, unless the child is under the age of two (2) years or the child is medically fragile.

What must I provide in terms of a bedroom?

  • The bedroom cannot be detached from the house. It can, however, be in an attic or basement, provided it meets the standards for a regular bedroom (below).
  • Each bedroom must have a window to the outside and a door.
  • A child’s bedroom cannot be used for any other purpose by any other person.
  • The home must have enough bedrooms to allow sufficient living space.
  • Rooms not designated as bedrooms cannot be used for sleeping purposes on a continuous basis.

DENIAL RIGHTS

What rights do I have if I am denied from becoming a foster parent?

You have the right to have a conference with the Homefinding Supervisor and/or Child Protective Services/Foster Care/Youth Services Supervisor to review the matter. He/she will assist in arranging an appointment.

If no solution is achieved, he/she will inform you of the right to file a grievance. A grievance hearing will be scheduled by one of the state’s hearings officers.

You have the right to appeal the decision of the hearings officer to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. Kanawha County is where all appeals of this kind are heard, regardless of the county you are located in. 

SUBSIDIES AND ASSISTANCE

What subsidies will I be eligible for when I become a foster parent?

If you are a certified foster parent, you may receive a Foster Care Subsidy of $600 per child per month. The child is also eligible for Medicaid and School Clothing Vouchers. You may also receive a one-time clothing allowance of up to $300 per child. Child care assistance may be available if the foster parent is employed or in school. You can also be reimbursed for mileage when you take the child to supervised visits with family and to the doctor.

The child may also be eligible for the Foster Care Tuition Waiver program. This program will allow the child to go to a West Virginia public institution of higher education.

PLACEMENT OF FOSTER CHILDREN

How long will the child be placed with me?

Length of placement with you is determined by a number of factors. Permanent placements, such as reunification with the biological family, should be achieved within two (2) years. That timeframe may change depending on the situation.

Can I get permanent custody of the child?

First, the parents must relinquish or have their parental rights terminated. For example, a court finds them unfit or finds that they abandoned the child. If that is the case, and placement with you is in the child’s best interest, you may be eligible to adopt the child. Additionally, certain kinship placements result in a permanent guardianship as opposed to an adoption. When an adoption happens, it is like the child was born to the adopting parent. Permanent guardianship is a court-ordered custody of the child. These may have substantial differences in benefits that the foster parent and/or the child is eligible for. You should talk with an adoption worker at DHHR to see if the child is eligible for post-adoption assistance or subsidies.  

What restrictions can I put in?

The Homefinding specialist will ask for your preferences, including personality, age, etc. You should also make any other preferences known. 

RESOURCES

Where can I learn more?

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.