Emily Rice Published

State Officials Work To Uplift The Foster Care System This Month

Three children are seen walking a forested pathDan Kitwood/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice declared that May is Foster Care Month.

“I have proclaimed the month of May as Foster Care Month in West Virginia,” Justice said. “Everyone knows the battle we have with our foster children and everything from the standpoint of trying to do more and more and more of the right stuff for them.”

He said the purpose is to strengthen and uplift the children in the system and their case workers. 

Interim Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, Dr. Jeff Coben said the Bureau for Social Services is working to become fully staffed, noting a new internship program that has 50 participants signed up for this summer.

“West Virginia DHHR and the Bureau for Social Services is committed to ensuring that all West Virginia children in and out of home care and their families receive adequate support and appropriate services to best meet their needs,” Coben said. “We really rely on the entire community, our families, volunteers, and other members of the community who helped children and youth in foster care, find permanent homes and connections.”

There are currently 6,262 children in West Virginia state custody. According to Justice, more than 55 percent of children in foster care are placed in a relative’s home.

According to the Child Welfare Dashboard, last updated on April 16th, 37 percent of foster children are placed in a certified kinship or relative home and 19 percent are placed in kinship or relatives homes.

Also, according to the dashboard, 26 percent of children are placed in private agency foster homes and 11 percent in group residential care.

These statistics are separate from the percentage of out-of-state child placements. There are currently 416 West Virginia children in out-of-state placements with 19 percent being placed in a certified kinship or relative’s home out of state and 7 percent placed with a kinship relative.

Fifty-eight percent of out-of-state placements were sent to group residential care facilities and 14 percent went to psychiatric residential treatment facilities.

West Virginia sends 25.2 percent of out-of-state placements to Virginia with Pennsylvania and Ohio following close behind at 22.1 percent and 11.5 percent of out-of-state placements relocating to those states.

Nearly 69 percent of all out-of-state placements are between the ages of 13 and 17, and 59 percent are male.

The department is 76 percent staffed with Child Welfare Positions with the most vacancies remaining for social service workers, with 39 vacant positions, and child protective service workers, with 130 vacant positions.