More than 90% of parents and foster parents who asked for an investigation into problems they had while dealing with the West Virginia foster care system in the recent past said they did so despite fear of retaliation, according to a news account based on the ombudsperson’s first-ever report.
The greatest share of complaints centered on either inappropriate actions child protective services took or failure to take appropriate actions. Other top complaints included a lack of communication and problems with foster care reimbursement or other financial issues.
The report by Pamela Woodman-Kaehler, the first director of the West Virginia Foster Care Ombudsman Office, said the financial and reimbursement issues were most likely to be successfully resolved.
Woodman-Kaehler stated the reports she will now start issuing each quarter will continue to focus on the “sometimes quite intense” fear of retaliation and what can be done to make people feel safe coming to the ombuds office, according to the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington.
“As a large, complex and often involuntary service, the foster care system can be forbidding and intimidating; it is not surprising that fear is a recurring complaint theme,” the report reads. “What is surprising is the pervasiveness of fear and the degree to which fear inhibits, or even obliterates, constructive communication.”
The report found a lack of communication pervades the entire child welfare system. Many complaints said guardian ad litem attorneys do not stay in touch with foster parents, kin caregivers and children. Some said they were never told, for instance, that multi-disciplinary team meetings had been scheduled in their cases.
In addition, some complainants said CPS workers’ expectations of families aren’t realistic and that the workers often don’t know the policies and procedures they are supposed to follow. Workers don’t completely disagree, reporting they don’t receive proper training or get sufficient feedback from supervisors, Woodman-Kaehler stated.