CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — By all accounts, West Virginia is in a foster care crisis, and it will be one of the top priorities when the Legislature arrives next week. Here are the numbers: There are now more than 7,000 kids in foster care in the Mountain State. Those numbers have spiked 147% since the opioid crisis began, and the state is short 200 caseworkers in Child Protective Services. More than anything, drug problems have driven the need.
“These children are exposed to parents who overdose, or parents who are incarcerated, or any myriad of traumatic issues at such a young age. And it’s certainly impacting them in their school performance and just life in general,” said Del. Cindy Lavender Bowe, (D-Greenbrier).
In addition to the children, there are big concerns about caseworkers. Many have quit at an alarming rate. There is strong bipartisan support for getting them better pay and decreasing the workload.
“Because of the lack of funding we have to pay our CPS workers, keeping them in place. We’re down over 200 workers, so it’s really impacting our children,” said Del. Lisa Zukoff, (D-Marshall).
“There are CPS workers going into the homes, at trying times. And you know, we can’t afford to pay them any less,” said Del. Erikka Storch, (R) Ohio.
West Virginia recently set aside $200 million dollars, to pay for foster children’s health care over the next three and a half years.
Ultimately what the state of West Virginia can do to fix foster care, depends a lot on how much money it has available. We’ll get a better idea Wednesday when Governor Jim Justice presents his proposed budget.