DHHR Owes Kids A Better Effort

Some West Virginia children may not be getting the best care because state and federal officials cannot seem to meet in the middle when it comes to funding for foster care.

Three of four federal reviews conducted over a decade found West Virginia’s foster care program did not meet requirements for one kind of funding. In fact, in 2011, the state had to give back $200,000 because it was not in compliance. On the other side of the coin, W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources officials call the federal requirements “onerous and complex.”

Federal officials say the state failed to prove children qualified for the funding, and failed to seek federal funds for those who did qualify.

“There does not appear to be consistent, collaborative application of the federal eligibility requirements,” one review said, “which has led to the unsatisfactory compliance level in this review.”

But the DHHR says “until there are changes at the federal level on how foster care is federally funded, all states will continue to see a decline” in money for the purpose.

Overgrown federal bureaucracy and outdated, unnecessarily complicated regulations are meeting a disorganized, unconvincing effort from state officials.

Now, the DHHR says it is participating in a review of the state’s funding system. But in the meantime, federal money that would help pay for the foster home program is not getting to those who need it.

If federal regulations need to be altered and streamlined, the federal government should make those changes. But until that change occurs, state officials have a responsibility to the children they serve to make sure they are getting every dollar of federal funding available to help them. “Onerous and complex” are not acceptable excuses when the welfare of a child is at stake.