Emily Rice Published

Parent Offers A Look Into West Virginia Foster Care

A child wearing a red shirt is seen getting a physical exam from a physician.iStockphoto

A foster parent testified before the Joint Committee on Children and Families during April interim meetings, citing communication problems within the system.

In 2021, Dianna Canifax and her husband Lee decided to become foster parents. In December of that year, they received their first placement. That’s when the family learned about the communication gaps within the state’s foster system.

“There was very little to no information given to us,” Canifax said. “We didn’t know what [our foster daughter’s] history was or her medical issues.”

Canifax is also a trained mental health therapist for children and said she and her husband picked up the seven-month-old from the hospital and learned the child suffered from breathing problems and seizures.

The family spent the next five months attending every appointment and properly treating the child’s ailments. 

However, the most devastating portion of Canifax’s care for the child was the removal.

“She had only seen her parents in the past seven weeks for two hours,” Canifax said. “[The child’s biological mother] had told the workers at the agency ‘I have no attachment to this child.’ And [the mother] did not know she’d had a seizure, or what medication or when she was on her goals for birth to three.”

Regardless, the courts returned the baby to her biological mother.

This experience did not stop the family from continuing to foster. The Canifax family hopes to adopt the two children currently in their care but has had trouble getting in contact with CPS about the status of the adoption.

“But we’ve had, you know a little bit of problems with communication over the last year and a half, which from both professional and personal side, I know that our system is just…we have so many kids that need our help,” Canifax said. “And that’s kind of why we made the decision to go into foster care and hopefully adopt.”

Canifax credits her communication with CPS to her organization and communication skills, noting that she keeps track of custody hearings regarding the children in her care.

In response to a request for comment, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Commissioner of the Bureau for Social Services Jeff Pack said:

“The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) appreciates the tremendous support West Virginia’s foster and resource families and relative/kinship caregivers provide for children in foster care. DHHR is continuing to work with field staff and child placing agencies to create more opportunity for dialogue.”