West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources launched its child welfare dashboard on Wednesday.
DHHR Cabinet secretary Bill Crouch says the public information website will be a living, changing dashboard, monitoring Child Protective Services statewide to show how the state is keeping children safe. Right now, the dashboard notes an update will come mid-monthly.
The dashboard includes state and county data breakdowns of children in foster care, out-of-state child placements and a county by county child welfare workforce tracker.
Marissa Sanders is the Executive Director of the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parents Network. She said her organization has pushed for a dashboard to monitor accountability, and to help foster families gain understanding and find answers.
She said she was glad there is now a dashboard and believes it is a good start. However, she said the terms and numbers posted need some public explanation.
“When I look at the number of children and different types of placements, what do we mean when we say agency placement? Or we say therapeutic foster home. What does that mean?” Sanders said. “When I look at the workforce, and I see a list of positions, understanding the difference between a social service worker or child protective services worker versus a child protective services case manager or case coordinator, what are those differences?”
Sanders said she’s glad the dashboard lists the age ranges of foster children by county. She said that can help in the challenge of finding foster parents for teenagers.
“Sometimes we hear anecdotally there’s lots of infants in the system because of the opioid crisis,” Sanders said. ”So people think that’s the need, but really, the need is teens. So being able to see that is one way the dashboard can help.”
Sanders said the dashboard’s demographic breakdown of gender and age should also include race. She would like it to show trends and progress toward performance goals. But she does think it’s a great start.
“I think there’s a lot of room for building on what’s there,” Sanders said. “My sincere hope is that the department will work with foster families and our network and with others to help foster families understand the data that they’re seeing.”