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HUNTINGTON — Deciding to become a foster parent may be an easy decision for some, but the process takes dedication and time that some may not feel they have.

But now that the pandemic has driven people indoors, now may be the best time for those who want to make a big difference in a child’s life as a lot of the certification process to be a foster parent has moved online.

“We’ve still got over 7,000 kids in West Virginia that are in foster care, and it is imperative that we continue to recruit foster care parents,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said April 8 during his daily press briefing. “Now, we have to have classes for those potential parents; that basically gives them online training and everything. With that being said, because of this shutdown, there are a lot of you out there that think the foster care system is shut down because they can’t do the work to train us. Well, it’s not shut down. It’s online.

“So please, if you feel the calling to step up and take care of a child, nothing could be more important.”

Mission West Virginia, which contracts with the state to coordinate online inquiries into foster care, had an increase of 161 inquiries in the past 30 days, Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said Tuesday, though he said they won’t know if those inquiries will lead to new foster families. The certification process is a three- to six-month process, depending on the family, he said.

“We still need foster parents, regardless if that number is up,” Crouch said. “We will always need foster parents.”

Crouch said parts of the certification process still have to be done in-person, including a home inspection and finger-printing. He said his staff is still performing those tasks needed to certify families.

Crouch said there are benefits to having training face-to-face, but the pandemic cannot be a barrier to getting the families the state needs.

“Families can do much more of this online than they were before,” he said.

The state this year increased the reimbursement paid to foster parents each month, along with passing a Foster Parent Bill of Rights into law.

Interested people can contact Mission West Virginia at 304-562-0723 or visit missionwv.org.

Necco, which contracts with the state to provide foster care, can also assist those interested in fostering. Necco is also offering telehealth therapy services for children and families who may need some extra help dealing with the pandemic.

For more information on these programs and other services, visit the website at Necco.org or call a local office: Huntington, 304-733-0036; Cross Lanes, 304-759-9835; or Logan, 304-752-7830.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.