ALL kids worthy of love
On Dec. 30 The Washington Post published an expose on the foster crisis, with an intense focus on how West Virginia’s older youth were suffering through group homes and incarceration. While we are all aware that the United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, there is no doubt that WV children are the most vulnerable victims of this crisis. According to the statistics released by DHHR in November almost 7,000 children are in foster care. There are more WV children in care than the entire population of Belpre. These children number more than the incoming freshman class of West Virginia University. The response to this crisis by our lawmakers? Restrict accesses so that LGBTQ children and LGBTQ foster parents are tossed aside.
In order to be a foster parent, the state must screen an adult’s income, health, home, and record to make sure they are placing youth in a safe environment. All foster children and families are routinely checked and reviewed. By voting to turn away LGBTQ foster parents you are turning away a group that the statistics show is “six times more likely to foster and four times more likely to adopt” (Gates, 2013). Children need loving and caring families, and anyone qualified to step up should be encouraged to do so. As a WV teacher I have seen children blossom in all kinds of environments — the common denominator to caring for any child is love and support, and that support can come from families of all types.
Another reprehensible part of this legislation is the exclusion of LGBTQ youth. Our legislature is telling youth who have already suffered through the trauma of losing their families and support network, often moving schools and away from friends, that they may be found ineligible of being placed due to their sexual preferences. When you tell a child — any child — they are ineligible for a family they will always read that as being unloved, not good enough, and inadequate. Regardless of your family support system, every teen that I have ever known questions, at some point, whether they are good enough and worth enough, and this legislation puts to law the belief that these teens are not good enough, not worthy of love, and we as a state should find that unacceptable.
Every article about this legislation mentions the increased suicide rates and the ramifications on LGBTQ youth, but they fail to address the deeper problem: Is this the WV we want to be?