Helping Children Caught in the Crisis

Children are being taken from their homes by the state at a terrible rate in West Virginia. Federal officials rank us as No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation.

Blame the drug abuse epidemic. We see it time and time again right here in our area: Law enforcement officers go to a home, find children being neglected and/or abused, and arrest one or both parents for drug offenses. They need new homes, at least until — or, perhaps, unless is a better word — their parents get clean.

In 2016, the last year for which complete statistics were available, 2,171 children had to be taken from their homes for their own safety.

The situation is growing worse. During the past three years, there has been a 22 percent increase in child abuse/neglect referrals to state officials.

It is the worst child welfare crisis since the Great Depression, state Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch has said. And, he has added, “One of my biggest fears is funding.”

Give the DHHR credit for doing more with less. It has. But clearly, more resources are needed.

If they cannot be obtained on an emergency basis from Washington, it will be up to the Legislature to provide additional funding. Lawmakers should not shirk the duty they have to our children.