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WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities offers help for families, individuals with disabilities in the foster care system

An image showing two foster parents with their special needs foster children. The

The Bunner family have been with the Specialized Family Care program — a foster care program for children and adults who have an intellectual or developmental disability — for 15 years, primarily fostering children considered to be “medically fragile.” The program is offered by the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities. (Submitted photo)

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Experts at the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities are uniquely positioned to address challenges faced by people with disabilities involved in the foster care system and to help them access important support services.

Each May, National Foster Care Month acknowledges those such as the WVU CED who help the more than 391,000 youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.


“The WVU CED has a multitude of potential services for children and families who experience foster care. These services can be tailored to the particular needs and circumstances for individuals with disabilities of all ages. Prevention of displacement from the home is also a key focus of our center. Assistive technology, counseling and behavioral services are all additional services available at the CED. These services can also help parents with disabilities who are at greater risk of losing their children to foster care placement.” — Lesley Cottrell, director, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, professor in WVU Department of Pediatrics

“Some of the foster youth transitioning from care have a diagnosed disability and also had an Individualized Educational Plan in high school. Many of these youth do not realize that they can also receive supportive services in college to help make the transition and their college education more successful. Our Mentoring with Oversight for Developing Independence with Foster Youth specialists help to navigate and guide these youth to resources that assist them in their education journey.” — Michelle Fleece, MODIFY program manager, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities

“We can change lives by opening a Specialized Family Care home for a child or an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Providers experience growth and witness individuals flourish not only as a person with a disability, but as an individual who needed a loving and nurturing environment to achieve their possibilities.” — Mary Gibbs, program manager, Specialized Family Care program, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities

West Virginia Assistive Technology System is a great resource for families that don’t know where to start when trying to overcome barriers for a child with a disability. WVATS offers 30-day loans of items that a child or family might need to make transitions easier on everyone. We are an easy place to ask questions about assistive devices and how to find funding in West Virginia. There are no requirements for the service, and it remains free to all West Virginia residents.” — Doug Cumpston, principal investigator/program manager, WVATS, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities

“We know challenges can be significant for youth aging out of the foster system particularly for individuals without other support structures in their lives. Regional Transition Navigator Services aims to provide one such structure by connecting them with resources that are helpful as they head out into their lives and can help bridge challenges that they may encounter.” — Sam Wilkinson, assistant director of Operations, principle investigator RTNS, WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities

Learn more about the programs at the WVU CED.



Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing
WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities

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