Emily Rice Published

Foster Care Ombudsman Authority Broadened In Senate

A man stands with a microphone and wears a black suit and blue tie in the West Virginia Senate chamber.
Sen. Trump, R-Morgan, speaks on the Senate floor on Tuesday morning.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

A bill allowing the Foster Care Ombudsman more authority to protect children in state care passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.

The Foster Care Ombudsman, a position allowed for by legislation passed in 2019 and 2020, advocates for the rights of foster children, investigates and resolves complaints, and provides assistance to foster families, among other responsibilities.

House Bill 3061 will permit the Foster Care Ombudsman to investigate reported allegations of abuse and neglect for critical incidents and to investigate children placed in the juvenile justice system.

“Currently, the Foster Care Ombudsman can investigate complaints involving a foster child, a foster parents or kinship parent,” said Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, who introduced the bill and its amendments to the chamber. “The bill before us now would expand the ombudsman authority to investigate reported allegations of abuse and neglect, to investigate a child who has sustained a critical incident in order to investigate a child in the juvenile justice system. The bill also allows the foster care ombudsman to investigate complaints on his or her own initiative.”

Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan County, spoke to the importance of the bill after its passing, noting West Virginia’s 6,300 foster children.

“We report it to the DHHR we’ve spent money, this state government, this legislature has funded DHHR to set up a hotline where people can report report allegations of child abuse or neglect,” Trump said. “And it’s sad that it happens. But it does happen in this state, Mr. President, and I think most people who’ve studied it and analyzed it will agree that our opioid crisis has inflamed that, has increased the numbers.”

HB 3061 now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.