City Council advances ordinance for foster parents

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council has advanced the first reading of an ordinance to provide paid leave time for foster parents.

During Morgantown City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, an ordiance establishing paid leave for city employees who are foster parents passed unanimously on first reading.

“I’m real excited about it, I’ve been working on this for a while now,” said Councilman Zachary Cruze.

“Often times when foster parents get a foster kid, they may come to them at one o’clock in the morning, they might not even have shows on them, and then they have to be at work at 8 am, well you don’t have child care arranged, you don’t have school arranged, sometimes you don’t even have the proper paperwork to enroll in school,” he said.

Cruze, has been very adament about having an ordinance regarding paid leave for foster parents since he was sworn into council earlier this year. A foster parent himself, Cruze has discussed the various everyday occurences that foster parents endure much like other parents. This ordinance, allows those tasks be much easier achieved.

“So anything employers can do to encourage individuals to be able to foster due to some barriers in place is great,” he said.

Amongst the language in the ordinance, are provisons for foster parents who taking guardianship of a child via blood relations. Meaning that an adoptive aunt, uncle etc. would have to used paid time off not allocated otherwise. Cruze says cases like that are more common than people think, hence the need for the inclusion in the ordinance.

“By taking a kinship placement and not allowing the child to go into foster care, they save the state an enormous amount of money but they are nto getting the same benefits to them, help them raise that child, so they often get overlooked,” he said. “So anything that includes them in measure meants to keep a family together is great,” he said.

While this ordiance gives extra benefits to foster parents who are also city employees, Cruze says it doesn’t take away the issues currently in the Mountain State. According to Cruze, the number of foster children in West Virginia are on the rise as a result of not only the issues surrounding state poverty rates, but the unfortunate rise of the opioid epidemic. The hope, is that with the simple passing of an ordinance, a more important goal of placing children in loving homes can be achieved.

“We have almost seven thousand kids in foster care, one in thirteen West Virginian kids is in foster care, and because we don’t have enough foster homes, a thousand of those kids are actually in emergency shelters and group home placements,” he said.