Due in large part to the opioid epidemic, more and more people with addiction problems are leaving their children in the care of friends and relatives, who may be overwhelmed by the additional challenges.

Organizations who want to help are planning a Kinship Care Forum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 8 to provide resources to people who are caring for these children. The event will take place at Grass Lick Baptist Church, located at 178 Pleasant Valley Road, Kenna.

The forum is sponsored by the Jackson County Family Resource Network, the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition, and FRN collaborative partners. It is free and open to the public.

Lunch will be provided. Please RSVP by Friday, April 5, to FRN director Renee DeLong at Jacksoncountyfrn@hotmail.com or 681-358-8722.

While it’s not true in every case, many of these situations are the result of drug and alcohol abuse, particularly in light of an ongoing opioid epidemic that has hit West Virginia particularly hard, DeLong said.

Who should attend? Grandparents, relatives, friends as caregivers, service providers, and community members.

“Often, we see parents who are incarcerated, in treatment, possibly deceased, or otherwise not mentally, physically, or financially able to care for their children,” DeLong said.

The state’s foster system is stretched to its limits. Often, it falls to friends and family members to take on the challenge. Many people in these situations are overwhelmed by the extra responsibility.

“A lot of times, these are grandparents or great-grandparents who haven’t had a young child in their homes for years. Most of them are on a fixed income, so there is a financial strain on household budgets,” DeLong said.

It can also be tough working with children in a more technologically advanced time.

“It’s hard for some to try to keep up with kids who have smart phones and access to the Internet. A lot of folks don’t use modern devices,” DeLong said.

The event will include a resource fair, with opportunities to meet with organizations who may be able to help. There will be several guest speakers.

Gina Taylor of the WVU Extension Service will speak about a pilot project called Grand Families.

“It’s a training session for grandparents and great-grandparents. They’ll be setting up classes that will be available that will talk about the legal issues, school issues, social media – different topics that people have to navigate,” DeLong said.

A representative from Legal Aid of West Virginia also will be on hand to discuss guardianship issues.

“Sometimes children end up in homes, and they haven’t gone through court system. They might be afraid to reach out because they’re worried someone will take the children away from them. We want to dispel these misconceptions,” DeLong said.

“They’ll be able to address some of the legal issues that grandparents can get into, like accessing medical care if you don’t have guardianship of the children,” she said.

Other resources will include a representative from the Jackson County Board of Education, officials from the Department of Health and Human Resources, and many others. The resource fair will include a “vendor-style” setup where attendees can visit various tables for information.

DeLong said the forum also will provide opportunities for caregivers to form support networks. They can meet and connect with other families and individuals to share experiences and needs.

“It’s just such a far-reaching problem. I can’t imagine being 60, 70, or even 80 and trying to navigate the system. We just want folks to know they’re not in these situations by themselves. Hopefully, we can provide them with information and resources. Maybe we can end up with a community support group that generates out of this gathering,” DeLong said.

To get to Grass Lick Baptist Church: Take Kenna Exit 124 off of I-77 and turn right onto Route 34, if traveling south. Turn left onto Route 34, if traveling north. Continue on Route 34 for three-quarters of a mile, then turn right onto Charleston Road (West Virginia 21 north) for one mile. Turn left onto Pleasant Valley Road, Grass Lick Baptist Church is located on Right side of the road.

DeLong said church officials were pleased to offer their facility for the event.