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Members of the WV Foster, Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network, an organization that serves more than 1,200 parents in the state, will gather virtually on Zoom for the organization’s first conference.

The goals of this five-day event are to provide an opportunity for foster, adoptive and kinship parents from across the state to connect with each other, hear from key leaders in child welfare and gain valuable skills and resources to support them in providing care for children living away from their biological parents, according to a news release. Currently, there are nearly 7,000 West Virginia children in foster or kinship care, with significant increases in the past few years.

The conference will be offered over five evenings on May 4, 6, 11, 13 and 15. The first four days will consist of a keynote presentation followed by three simultaneous workshops. Saturday, May 15, conference attendees will attend a virtual pizza party — an opportunity for families to get to know each other. Following the pizza party, parents may choose one of several support groups to attend. These ongoing support groups are held regularly for network members.

Keynote speakers include Kevin Campbell, internationally known child protection and children’s mental health innovator; Linda Watts, commissioner of the West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families at DHHR; Delegate Danielle Walker, District 51; and Judge William Thompson, West Virginia 23rd Judicial Circuit. Workshops are organized into three tracks: advocacy, parenting and resources and foster care system and processes. The network will host a simultaneous session for children and youth during the parents’ sessions.

The first 100 foster, adoptive or kinship families who register will receive a box of resources and tools to support them in caring for children. People interested in becoming foster or kinship parents are also welcome to attend. Registration is free, and attendees will be eligible to receive a certificate they may use to request annual training hours to meet their certification requirements.

Interested families should visit www.wvfosterparents.org for more information and to register for the conference.

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