West Virginia is splitting part of its welfare bureau into two smaller pieces as part of a broader effort to improve the child welfare system.
State officials announced the move, which takes effect next month, last week before the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability and, separately, the Joint Committee on Children and Families.
It would break up the Bureau of Children and Families into the Bureau for Social Services and the Bureau for Family Assistance and Supports. The hope is that the move will make things run more smoothly by preventing social services case workers from getting distracted by other issues, such as providing support for foster families, according to a report in several of the state’s newspapers, citing Cammie Chapman, counsel for the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Another aspect of the plan to improve child welfare services includes sharpening and speeding up the kinship family certification process and paying participating kinship care providers $500 to offset the costs of the 90-day certification training. The state also plans to introduce therapeutic foster care for those with behavioral issues and to continue the federally funded Kinship Navigator Program.
Finally, West Virginia plans to tackle a severe shortage of child protective services workers. Almost 30% of those slots are currently vacant across the state, and practically every district has at least one vacancy. According to Chapman, the high vacancy rate is in part due to the Department of Health and Human Resources adding nearly 100 new positions in 2019.
She added that the conditions of the pandemic led to higher even turnover in these essential worker roles that aren’t as recognized or celebrated as other essential workers were last year.