Report to the West Virginia-Western Maryland ELCA Synod
August 30, 2021

Greetings from the West Virginia Council of Churches!

One of the highlights of this past year has been our ministry to support foster, adoptive, and kinship children through our sponsorship of the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Parents Network (WVFAKPN). This year saw the first WVFAKPN conference called, “Caring for our Kids in Care.” The conference included webinars on Resources for Foster & Adoptive Families, The Science of Biological Connection, Understanding Attachment Issues, and Parenting Techniques for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma. In addition to the conference, a number of foster, adoptive, and kinship family trainings are being planned including Connections Matter and a series of videos concerning Parenting: ACES, Trauma, and Attachment Focus.

WVFAKPN now has 10 peer support established covering grief support, a foster care book club, fostering teens, being new to foster parenting, LGBTQ+ families, parenting kids with disabilities, adoptive parents, changes that are happening or will happen in West Virginia’s child welfare system, Ritchie County (and surrounding areas) support, and Kanawha County (and surrounding areas) support.

Through a grant, the West Virginia Council of Churches was able to resource a total of 31 foster/kinship closets and to provide a mechanism for those closets to network with one another. Those closets provided 955 children, 20% of whom were Persons of Color, with 496 household items, such as strollers and beds; 2,779 articles of clothing; and 429 educational items. These goods helped to meet some very real needs that foster and kinship children were experiencing during the pandemic.

We expanded our foster and kinship camp program by partnering with Step by Step to provide support to three new camps in Kanawha, Lincoln, and McDowell Counties. We are shared a VISTA member with the Highlands Educational Project (HEP) who we partnered with in 2020 to do the first foster and kinship camp program.

We have contracted with Loretta Young to lead our faith-based and African American community outreach for the Faith, Scouting, and Foster Care program. Through Ms. Young’s efforts, we have established a new Girl Scout Troop at Walden United Methodist Church in Piedmont, West Virginia, and
have two new Girl Scout Troops starting at Laughlin Chapel in Wheeling in the fall. We also hope to establish troops in Bluefield, Charleston, and McDowell County.

The Faith and Dementia Initiative conducted listening sessions with laity, clergy, health professionals, and caretakers. Dementia trainings are being scheduled for the fall, including Dementia 101, which will be presented at the WVCC Annual Assembly.

The 2021 Days of Hope: A Celebration of Prevention and Recovery will be held the weekend of September 17 – 19, 2021. Our theme this year is “Pathways to Recovery.”

As part of our Interfaith efforts, the West Virginia Council of Churches Interfaith Program Unit hosted a webinar on Ramadan with lbtesam Barazi, Vice President of the West Virginia Islamic Association. The Program Unit hopes to do more webinars on different faiths in the future.

The West Virginia Council of Churches Community Reentry Council Initiative made its goal of establishing 20 Community Reentry Councils in 2020. The Community Reentry Councils continue to help persons leaving incarceration to make the transition back into community. The Council also helped to provide a capacity building training with formerly incarcerated persons. We had a good cohort and hope to repeat the training. We partnered with Jobs and Hope to provide asbestos training in Logan County. Eleven persons completed the training.

Rev. Darick Biondi, Co-Chair of the West Virginia Council of Churches Government Concerns Program Unit, produced four videos on the Council’s public policy positions in lieu of an in-person Compassion Calls Us Day at the Legislature. The videos cover the topics of the death penalty, water, food insecurity, and criminal justice reform. The videos can be found on the West Virginia Council of Churches Facebook page and on our website. We also produced the 2021 Public Policy issues Priorities booklet.

The 140th Annual Assembly of the West Virginia Council of Churches will be held online beginning on October 11 with worship and followed by webinars on October 14 (Digital Worship), October 21 (Interfaith Session TBD), October 28 (Dementia 101 ), and November 4 (Bible Study on Matthew 22: 37 – 40).

Thank you again for all your support of the West Virginia Council of Churches!

Peace,
Jeffrey S. Allen
Executive Director

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