Charleston, WV -Lawmakers listened to testimony regarding the obstacles to fostering children in West Virginia during a meeting of the Joint Committee on Children and Families Monday afternoon at the Capitol.
With more than 6,600 children in foster care, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of kids in the system in the country. Finding qualified and willing foster care parents continues to be a challenge in the state.
The goal of lawmakers in the meeting was to learn more about the obstacles and find ways the state can encourage and increase the number of foster families to help support a system in crisis.
Lawmakers raised concerns about paper vouchers foster parents receive from the state to buy necessities such as diapers, clothes and car seats.
Jeff Pack, social services commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said those vouchers used to be accepted at Walmart, but now they are only accepted at JCPenney and Gabe’s. That leaves a lot of the state out of receiving those benefits.
Pack said DHHR is rolling out an app-based voucher system through Apple Pay and Google Pay with hopes of helping foster families purchase the items they need at a variety of retailers available to them.
Christy Beaver, foster parent and Foster Support Coordinator for the SafeHaven Campaign, said inconsistencies in policies and a lack of communication are two issues that have bothered her for years. Beaver has been a foster care parent in Fayette County for 16 years.
“When you have poor communication, it’s hard to take care of the child; it’s hard to know what’s going on,” Beaver said. “It’s hard to know the proper steps to take when it comes to moving the kids back to their biological parents.”
Beaver also spoke of the need for child care, especially for part-time workers. She also mentioned the need for better training, respite care and money to take care of the children.
Lawmakers ended the meeting by emphasizing that there are several issues they need to address regarding foster care policy, communication and logistics during the next legislative session.