Child protective programs
I would like to call attention to some issues that must be addressed by the West Virginia Legislature. Every day children in this state are being abused and neglected. Regrettably, we are not providing the resources necessary to ensure that Child Protective Services (CPS) workers do their job effectively. These workers are underpaid, understaffed, and as a recent Lincoln County murder case illustrates, they are often expected to work in extreme and dangerous conditions. We are quick to criticize them when we feel they’ve not done their job, but we are not quick to remedy the problems at hand.
Vacancies in these positions exist all over the state. We must employ more CPS workers and must raise their salaries so they do not leave at the first opportunity. We must pay them a salary commensurate with their responsibilities and educational attainment (the law requires they have a college degree and a social worker’s license). Perhaps we could change the degree requirements to make applicants who hold degrees in related matters (Education and Criminal Justice, for example) eligible to fill these positions.
Another gross inequity in how the child welfare system is administered is the fact that kinship (relative) foster care is totally uncompensated. This is not right. Does it make any sense that we would ask a family of five to act as foster parents for nieces or nephews and offer them no financial assistance in doing so, but we would place those same children with total strangers and give them remuneration to assist in the care of these children? Talk about unfair.
Children will have a better opportunity to thrive if placed with familiar and safe relatives. We may be able to expand our desperately-needed foster family base.
Not every county in West Virginia is covered by a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program, made up of unpaid volunteers. These programs are proven winners in assisting children in achieving a safe and permanent home. We need to encourage and fund these programs.
It is time the governor and legislators put at-risk children at the top of the list. I call upon the Health & Human Services Committee of both the House of Delegates and State Senate to place these items on their agenda. I also ask the public to help hold them accountable to the children in our state who have no voice.
Talia Markham Miss West Virginia Morgantown