McDowell County sees urgent need for foster parents after former hosts adopt
Evan is a child from McDowell County who was adopted by his foster parents.
August 17, 2012 ·
The latest data lists McDowell County with the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the state while the foster service organizations are being forced to place the abused children even further away from familiar homes.
Evan Jackson Reed is a three-and-half-year-old energetic boy with a big smile. He’s a little nervous to see me, a stranger, in his house.
“What are you doing,” he asks Donald Reed, his adopted father.
"I’m talking to a reporter about the wonderful story about how daddy got you," Donald tells him.
“Well," Evan replies.
Donald Reed says it took three years to finally gain full custody of Evan. The boy was one of eight children from McDowell County who Reed and his wife took care of as foster parents.
“At first I can’t really say that I had a desire to be a foster parent," Reed said. "But after seeing the hurt the longing in her eyes especially on Mother’s Day and year after year I thought I’m going to do this for her at first."
"Then once that child comes into your home you just can’t help but not love that child and do you best to help that child to succeed in life and that child becomes your own for the space that you have them.”
McDowell County has the highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the state.
Forty-six percent of students in McDowell County don’t live with their biological parents according to West Virginia KIDS Count.
“There is a huge need and I think it’s across the state probably across the nation," egion four Director of Children’s Home Society, Joanne Boileau said, " but Here in McDowell County there is a great need."
“I think in this community maybe even more so than other communities," she said, "there is a strong value for families to take care of their own whether it’s their nieces or their nephews or their grand-kids or their half siblings or their brothers or their sisters."
"I think there’s that first reaction is these are our kids we have to take care of them. So I’m guessing a lot of those kids that aren’t with their biological parents are with relative placements."
For the children in the county who are not safe with their biological parents and can’t turn to other family for help, staying in their home county might not be possible either.
Boileau says finding a home for these children as close to the area they are familiar with is important.
“They have to leave their home, everything they know their family, even though they weren’t safe in that home, it’s still their family and that’s what they know," she said.
"A lot of kids have to change schools make new friends so it’s so important to be able to just have a supply of foster homes that can hopefully keep a child in their home community.”
The Reeds were the only foster parents through Children’s Home Society, a private foster care agency. The Reeds’ decision to adopt Evan and another child has taken them off the foster parent grid. Other private agencies like Burlington United Methodist and Pressley Ridge don’t have foster homes in McDowell County either.
Private foster agencies generally provide specialized care for children with special needs. Reed says he’s concerned about the need for specialized providers.
“That’s scary because what that translates to is children who are drug exposed or drug endangered children," he said, "are not being placed within their natural environment so these kids are going to go out of county and many times out of state for placement.”
Boileau says while poverty does play a role in some cases, the mounting drug problem is the most common theme for child abuse and neglect throughout the region.
“I would say all the workers here in McDowell county would tell that 90-95 percent of the cases involve some kind of drug involvement," she said. "Whether it’s selling or addictions or using or sharing whatever it’s there’s some kind of drug involvement and reason that family is falling apart.”
Boileau says the organization is always looking for more foster parents.
“I think a lot of people think they couldn’t do it,” she said. "I think the first thing that comes into a lot of people minds is that I would just love them too much and it would be hard for me to let them go back to their mommy and daddy or to their family."
"I think they can do it. I think a lot of people just kind of sell themselves short and underestimate their capacity to take care of a child that is in need and needs a lot of makeup nurturing."
Evan, once a child in need, eventually warmed up to the microphone.
"My name is Evan Jackson Reed," he explained in a timid youthful voice.
The key was putting the microphone in HIS hands. After that I learned much more about this precious little boy.
"I love microphone, dirt-bikes," he says with a little help from his father.
"I love basketball," he says on his own.
"It is a very powerful role to play in the life of a child," Boileau said. "Just to help them restore some hurt and help them have that healing that they need.
Boileau encourages anyone interested in becoming a foster parent to contact the Children’s Home Society or another foster care service agency.