HOLMBERG: Should a 23-year-old drug crime bar someone from foster parenting?

Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 29, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-29 17:14:13-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Harold and Denise Charity want to live up to their last name.

Both have had good experiences with neighbors and relatives being foster parents. They had raised their own children, who are doing well.

“We wanted to give back,” said Harold, a longtime printing firm worker who owns an auto detailing business with his wife.

So they signed up in Henrico County’s foster care program. Harold said he told them about his arrest 23 years ago for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it, that he had served his nine months in jail and 10 years of probation, that he had kept his nose clean and had his rights restored by Governor Bob McDonnell two years earlier.

He said he was told that wouldn’t be a problem and in September, the couple started taking classes at Henrico County Social Services so they could be foster parents.

They bought clothes and car seats and decorated their spare bedroom for the little girl they prayed would move in.

Seven weeks into the 10-week class they got the word that they were turned down because of Harold’s conviction 10 years earlier, even though the state foster care guidelines show his crime isn’t a so-called barrier crime that would disqualify them.

They’ve appealed the decision and plan to fight it all the way to the governor’s mansion if necessary. And not just because they feel their rights are being violated.

“We’re not going to give up that easily,” Denise Charity said. “Why is he still being punished? There are too many kinds out here who need a home.”