An advocacy network for foster families and state officials has released a survey on the needs of foster and adoptive families in West Virginia.

The WV Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network said, in a news release, that lawmakers and the state Department of Health and Human Resources will use the results to “gain a better understanding of the needs of these groups, the effectiveness of training and services currently provided, and how the child welfare system can better support families who care for children who are or were in the state’s custody.”

West Virginia has the highest per capita rate of children in state custody in the United States, a child welfare crisis driven by the addiction epidemic. Last month, advocates with A Better Childhood and Disability Rights of West Virginia filed a class action lawsuit against West Virginia officials, alleging that while the state is quick to terminate parental rights, it doesn’t have adequate foster families and adoptive homes in which to place those children.

Foster parents, adoptive parents, and certified and non-certified kinship/relative caregivers are eligible to take the survey. Marshall University and DHHR partnered on the survey.

The WV Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network represents over 500 parents providing care for children who cannot be with their birth families, according to the release.

“This survey is our opportunity to be heard and ask for what we need so that we can best care for the children who come to our homes. Our experiences with foster care, kinship care, and adoption are valuable and this survey gives us a chance to share our perspectives to help improve the system,” said Shanna Grey, a foster parent who is a member of the network.

Those interested in participating in the survey may go to www.wvfosterparents.org and click on the survey button, as well as share the link with other foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship/relative caregivers. The survey ends Nov. 18.

DHHR officials have said that West Virginia has about 7,000 kids in state custody, and that the number has increased by 67 percent since 2013. During that time, the number increased nationally by 11 percent, according to DHHR.

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