The National Youth Advocate Program is recognizing and celebrating National Foster Care Month during the month of May, with a variety of promotions and planned events.

It’s no secret that the need for foster parents is increasing nationwide. The latest available statistics from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) show that for fiscal year 2014, 415,129 children were in foster care in the U.S., a 4 percent increase from 2012. In that same time period, 264,746 children entered care. That translates to a child entering care every two minutes in the U.S.

The search for qualified foster parents in West Virginia is particularly urgent. Statistics from a 2015 Department of Health and Human Resources report indicate that children are entering care in WV at a rate of 8.5 percent per 1,000 children in the population, which is 5.3 percent above the National average of 3.2 percent.

Allison Burnell, NYAP’s foster parent recruiter stated, “The right home can absolutely be a much-needed source of hope for a child or youth who has hit a rough patch in their life, and needs a helping hand. Children in the system have been abused, neglected, abandoned, and face tremendous obstacles. Foster parents are a very important link in the chain of care that can help a youth go on to lead a happy, productive life. Foster parents can lift up a child or youth, and give them hope for their future.”

The choice to foster a child, youth or sibling group is an important decision in the life of a foster parent, and especially the child or children in their care.

Scott Nelson, Licensing Coordinator with the Fairmont, WV office of NYAP said, “We provide our foster parents with all of the support and resources that they need in order to be successful.  From training classes to 24 hour, seven day a week support, everything we do is focused on helping our foster parents be successful, and to be able to provide the stability, love and support that foster children need.”

The National Youth Advocate program, based in Columbus, OH, has 31 offices serving seven states. NYAP’s West Virginia offices are located in Fairmont, Parkersburg, Wheeling and Martinsburg. Individuals interested in getting more information about foster parenting can call 304-366-5832, go to www.nyap.org to request an information packet, or connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/National-Youth-Advocate-Program-West-Virginia-496077783920245/

Additionally, NYAP’s Fairmont office will be hosting a Foster Parenting Information Session on Tuesday, May 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. Staff will be on hand to provide an overview of the training and licensing process, and answer any questions attendees might have.