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Youth Advocate program aims to recruit foster families

The National Youth Advocate Program set up a display at Big Sandy Superstore in Parkersburg to educate the community about the need for foster parents. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — Becoming a foster parent is not an overnight decision.

The National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) location in Vienna works with families to be sure they are ready and comfortable during the process of opening their heart and home to a youth or sibling group in need. Each year, the NYAP holds an annual campaign to raise community awareness of area and state need and help spread information.

“Many people are often interested in the idea of fostering or adoption but don’t know where to begin or have been turned away by other agencies,” said Andrea Parsons, licensing coordinator and recruitment specialist with NYAP.

According to Parsons, while they do not accept applicants who are on S.N.A.P. or federal Housing and Urban Development benefits, they are very accepting of everyone in the community.

“We work with members of our LGBTQ community, single parents and those who are not legally married,” she said, noting their only requirement is that couples have been together for more than a year.

Last year, their campaign goal was to gain 30 new foster families in 60 days. This year they want to add 35 foster families who are interested in sibling groups in the same period.

“In years past, we have seen a great return after blitzing the community with information on how and where to start,” said Parsons.

Because of COVID-19, classes required by the state to prepare families for fostering and adopting are being held online only.

“We are hoping to be able to keep the broader class schedules and online option following the pandemic, as it has really helped many families,” said Parsons.

Fostering is not for everyone though. It can be particularly difficult if the children become eligible for reunification with their families.

According to Parsons, reunification is typically the goal, but children can become available for adoption. NYAP is capable of facilitating those adoptions as well.

“It is very difficult to give a child back once in your home, but you know they have received love, stability and safety for the time with you; and that itself is a reward for the time and energy given to the child,” she said.

The NYAP partnered this year with Big Sandy Superstore in Parkersburg to help educate the community on the need.

“Right now there are over 7,000 children in foster care in our state,” Parsons said. “Children in foster care are often stigmatized as bad kids, but they are in the system due to no fault of their own.”

More information is available by contacting Parsons at aparsons@nyap.org.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com

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