Emily Rice Published

Justice Calls For More CPS Reporting, Funding In Wake Of Child’s Death

Governor Jim Justice sits at his desk, gesturing with his right hand. Behind him are the American and West Virginia flags. He is wearing a suit with the top button of his shirt unbuttoned.
Reports surfaced last week of the death of a 14-year-old girl leading to her mother’s arrest. Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that this was not a CPS case.
WV Governor's Office

Reports surfaced last week of the death of a 14-year-old girl found emaciated, and of her mother’s subsequent arrest. Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that this was not a Child Protective Services (CPS) case.

According to reporting from Eyewitness News, Julie Anne Stone Miller, 49, of Morrisvale in Boone County was arrested and charged with child neglect causing death last week.

The girl’s grandmother told Chief Deputy Mark Abbott that the girl had not attended school since late 2019 or early 2020 and had barely been out of the house in years.

This detail prompted the media to ask Justice during his weekly media briefing if the girl had been homeschooled and if so, why an academic assessment hadn’t brought attention to her condition.

“I think the answer just got to be just one thing,” Justice said. “The CPS folks, from what I understand, [had] no idea about this, about this child, no idea whatsoever.”

Department of Human Services Cabinet Secretary Cynthia Persily released a statement Monday. The press release provided no further information on the minor who passed away, but in the headline, she called the incident a criminal case.

Justice also said more funding for staffing at Child Protective Services was necessary.

“The more money we have, the better we’ll do,” Justice said. “The more workers we’ll have, the absolute better we’ll do. You know, we have got to understand that we’ve got to step up in every way, and try to do more.”

According to the Child Welfare Dashboard, child welfare positions are 88 percent filled in the state. Most vacancies remain in the Child Protective Service Worker category with 78 vacant positions. Earlier this year, the Department of Human Services announced an easing of the staffing shortages.

Justice asked the public to speak up and speak out if they see something suspicious.

“This is a tragedy that, I mean, it’s unthinkable,” Justice said. “I mean, it’s totally unthinkable. But stuff like this happens. And really, and truly, we got a lot of people out there that may have known of this kid, or whatever, this child, and speak up. I mean, yeah, this, really and truly, this is no different than being diligent, you know, in every way, from the standpoint of, you see somebody that looks suspicious, something that may be possibly going on, speak up. Tell us about all this.”