DoHS Reminds West Virginians to Utilize Supports for Child Welfare Prevention

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS) is highlighting the accessible supports aimed at promoting positive family outcomes and reducing the likelihood of involvement with the child welfare system. Collaboratively, DoHS’s Bureau for Behavioral Health (BBH), Bureau for Family Assistance (BFA), and Bureau for Social Services (BSS) coordinate a range of programs and initiatives aimed at preventing involvement with child welfare, ensuring a comprehensive approach to safeguarding families and children.

BBH provides Substance Use Disorder (SUD) prevention grant funding to Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, a national leader in building awareness, providing education, and inspiring hope in everyone involved in the effort to keep children free from abuse and neglect. Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia has partnered with Darkness to Light, a leader in child sexual abuse prevention, to raise awareness and educate adults on how to keep children safe; and the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (WVFRIS), the state’s sexual assault coalition comprised of 11 rape crisis centers and one emerging center, which works with the crisis centers and other allied professionals to develop and strengthen intervention and prevention programs that address sexual violence, human trafficking, and stalking. Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia promotes an evidence-based approach for substance use prevention, used by the West Virginia Expanded School of Mental Health programs, called Second Step to help students build socio-economic skills so they can thrive in school and life. The programs empower preschoolers, teenagers, and all ages in between to build skills for success.
BFA plays a central role in strengthening families and protecting children by addressing the root causes of child maltreatment and family crises. BFA programs address the economic and concrete needs of families, which are fundamental in preventing child maltreatment and family crises. By supporting family stability, self-sufficiency, and child well-being, BFA initiatives play a pivotal role in reducing the incidence of child neglect, abuse, and child welfare involvement. BFA’s major child welfare prevention initiatives include: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program that provides financial assistance to low-income families, addresses economic hardships that can lead to child neglect, supports job training and employment services to empower parents to achieve self-sufficiency, and fosters family stability and reduces the risk of child welfare involvement.Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program that ensures access to nutritious food for families to promote child health and development, alleviates food insecurity by reducing economic stressors that impact child well-being, and prevents child maltreatment driven by hunger and poverty.Child care assistance is a vital support program that subsidizes child care costs to allow parents to work or pursue education while ensuring quality care for their children, enhances early childhood development and family economic self-sufficiency, and provides a safety net that prevents child welfare crises related to inadequate child care.Additionally, the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework is a cornerstone of the services provided by the Family Support Centers (FSCs) funded by BFA through the TANF and Community Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) programs. FSCs leverage the Protective Factors Framework to empower families with knowledge, resources, and support. The Protective Factors Framework forms the basis of services that strengthen families and prevent child welfare involvement through parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of child development, concrete support in times of need, and social and economic competence of children. 

Both BFA and BSS were selected to participate in a federal program to develop innovative prevention strategies that reduce families’ involvement with the child welfare system through partnerships between TANF and child welfare programs. The one-year “Families Are Stronger Together (FAST): TANF & Child Welfare Partnering for Prevention Learning Community (FAST-LC),” hosted by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance, in partnership with the Children’s Bureau, will provide DoHS with individualized training and technical assistance, group learning activities and sessions, and the opportunity to form relationships with peer programs. 

As part of the FAST-LC project, DoHS has established several long-term strategic goals, including the integration of family support services into the Child Protective Services (CPS) Differential Response framework to provide early intervention and support for at-risk families, expanding the availability of federally reimbursable prevention services through FSCs, and enhancing efficient case coordination and data-sharing mechanisms between family support and CPS to ensure a holistic approach to family needs. 

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