ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – The nonprofit Depaul Community Resources hosted a panel at Melrose Public Library to raise awareness about the issues of foster care that affect many Commonwealth children. There are more than 300 foster children in Southwest Virginia alone, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services.
And most are sleeping in emergency rooms or hotels due to shortages. Depaul hopes the number will dwindle after hearing the stories from the panelists.
“They’ve been with us for about two months now,” said Crystal Wade, Foster’s parent.
Being a foster parent isn’t easy, just ask Crystal Wade who is now a mother of three. She already has a biological son but wanted to provide a loving home for an adopted child.
“Their kids and all the kids, they just need a home. Whether they are white, black, Asian, we just have to focus on the fact that they are children. I learn their culture from them. It starts with music in the car. The books they like to read,” Wade said.
Wade’s new experience could not have happened without the help of Depaul Community Resources who need more people like Wade to help with foster care shortages.
“The 1st of Aprilst our governor has set up a task force on the fact that too many children in the state of Virginia are sleeping in inappropriate locations,” said Jamie Snead, director of marketing for Depaul Community Services.
According to Governor Youngkin, over a six-month period in 2021, 163 children were moved for at least one night in unsuitable sleeping conditions. Most of the children were young blacks. A statistic which, according to Snead, is unacceptable.
“We really want to make sure children have the opportunity to live in family homes. To have healing, hope and love in a family home at a table and a bed of their own.
Snead says there are myths that need to be debunked about fostering a child.
“I know people assume you have to be a married couple and own your own house. You don’t have to be those things,” Snead said.
While welcoming a child has been a great experience, for Wade it’s all about always making sure the child is a top priority.
“We have to make sure we instill the positive things in them now, so hopefully they make those decisions later,” Wade said.
Depaul says you don’t have to be a full-time parent to help. There are other ways to take care of children, such as mentoring. You can visit https://www.depaulcr.org to learn more.