Fostering Growth, Connection
I have worked at Madison Elementary School for the last 14 years and have seen many children go through “the system,” meaning they have been removed from their families and homes and been put into foster care. It is a heartbreaking and difficult procedure to see, and it happens way too often.
With that being said, once again, I find myself sharing a new adventure that has been bestowed upon me.
A little over a month ago, I was called down to the office (I actually had a very anxious feeling, which is not normal for me). As I entered my school counselor’s office, I was met with my principal and counselor. They both had looks of concern on their faces and reassured me there was no problem with any of my family members. I was not expecting what came next: My principal looked directly at me and asked, “Would you be willing to take Jane to live with you?” Without any thought or questions, I responded immediately, “Yes!”
They both responded instantly with: “Wait, that was too fast. Think about it, and you have to speak to your husband first.” So, I did just that, and his response was “Do what you need to do and I will support and help you.”
I am now a foster parent.
It is not the norm to ask teachers to take in students who are being removed from their homes; however, there is a great deficiency of foster parents in our area. Many of the children removed from their homes end up in the lower part of the state. We have to realize that school is often the only constant safe place these children have. They know that they will have warmth, food, guidance and love at school. So when they are uprooted from their families, trying to keep them in the same school could be the only stability they have.
I started doing some research myself. According to AdoptUSKids.org, as of January, there are 5,040 children in foster care in West Virginia. Many of these children are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, abandonment OR illness, death, homelessness OR alcohol and other drug abuse. These children all endure hardships, sadness, loss of relationships and emotional distress. These children have a greater risk of not doing well in school, experiencing homelessness and being unemployed in their future.
Considering we are now entering the holiday season of giving, please take into consideration that there are many children who need our help. All it takes to become a foster parent is to: be 21 years of age, have good physical/emotional health, have a high school diploma/GED, complete a home safety check and a criminal background check.
All children need and deserve to have their basic needs of food, shelter, safe environment, love, guidance, emotional support and discipline provided.
I must honestly say that this experience has given me a new perspective. In the matter of one afternoon, I went from being an empty nester of a 19- and 21-year-old in college to now having an elementary school student living under my roof. I have without doubt made major adjustments, but it is all worth it in the end.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, go to: dhhr.wv.gov and go to the Adoption/Foster Parents page. All the information you need is there.
Cathy Whorton, a National Board Certified Teacher, is the Title I reading teacher at Madison Elementary School in Wheeling. She is the Ohio County Teacher of the Year for 2015-16.