During Monday’s Interim Joint Committee Meeting on Children and Families, lawmakers heard about inadequacies within West Virginia’s foster care system and the startling statistic that 12.8 out of every 1,000 West Virginia children enter foster care.
From 2016 to 2022, the number of foster children in state custody rose by more than 1,700 children, for a total of 6,369.
Jeremiah Samples is the Senior Advisor on the Joint Committee on Government and Finance at the West Virginia Legislature. Samples spoke to lawmakers about the alarming number of foster children entering the system each year in West Virginia.
“And so when you have a significant number of kids in foster care, like we do significant number transitioning to adulthood from our foster care system, and then these kids have kids, well, what’s likely going to happen there, you know, we’re perpetuating the problem, except instead of just being cyclical, it’s like a, you know, it’s an avalanche,” Samples said. “You know, it’s a snowball rolling down the mountain, and it picks up steam.”
Samples said he does not believe DHHR policies are to blame, but that the implementation of policies and programs available to foster children needs to be reevaluated.
“So DHHR policies, I would argue that DHHR in terms of policy, has a best practice pretty much equivalent across the board to our peer states. It’s not a policy issue, in my opinion,” Samples said. “There’s areas of policy that we need to improve upon, but really, our major problems are not policy oriented, we have a ton of those.”
To demonstrate the monies and programs available to children who age out of foster care facilities, Samples shared that 15,656 current and former foster children are still eligible for services, if they know how to access them.
“There are a multitude of programs out there again, to help kids that are transitioning, MODIFY is one that’s often referred to- it’s a good program if it works, but we need to make sure that it’s working, we need hard numbers to see, instead of a thing that happens in bureaucracy and government generally, but especially in DHHR,” Samples said. “In West Virginia, I think there’s an outcome versus an output.”