We Need to Do a Better Job for Foster Children in W.Va.
West Virginia’s child welfare system is in crisis.
The drug epidemic that’s plagued our state has pushed our current system well beyond its limits.
To remedy the foster care crisis and ensure the health and well-being of nearly 7,000 little Mountaineers, the state Department of Health and Human Resources has dramatically increased staff and raised salaries to fill the department’s vacancies. But this is not enough.
During interim meetings over the past year, lawmakers have been working to analyze those problems and find solutions. We have carefully studied the issues and examined a wide array of potential fixes.
This all culminated with the introduction of House Bill 2010, which begins the process of improving our state’s foster system.
Because of the gravity of this situation, we have carefully vetted this bill by assigning it to three committees. We have worked diligently with our colleagues across the aisle to incorporate their ideas in order to have bipartisan solutions that everyone can support.
House Bill 2010 requires DHHR to change its rules so parents can treat foster children more like they would treat their biological children — ensuring they are able to have more normal childhood experiences like going to dances, having sleepovers, learning to drive or going on family vacations.
It enacts commonsense reforms that remove some of the frustrating barriers for families who want to provide loving homes for our most vulnerable population.
One of the greatest failures of our current system has been a lack of adequate management and tracking of health services and medical records for our foster care children. This means that as our children transition between homes, and even across state lines, their medical records and treatment history have not always gone with them.
We’ve heard horror stories of children rushed to emergency rooms because the foster parents didn’t know the child had a medical condition that required regular medication. We’ve also had children who ended up double-vaccinated because their foster parents and new doctors didn’t know the child’s medical history.
We absolutely must do a better job of managing our children’s healthcare, and the state DHHR is simply not equipped to do it. That is why we have proposed transitioning this system to a managed care system — one that is designed to efficiently and responsibly oversee the records and healthcare of our children.
Some are absolutely opposed to this managed care model, saying it is an experiment that will fail our children. But what they don’t tell you is that this system has been in place since 1996 and is currently serving 400,000 West Virginians.
These children are in desperate conditions. Most come from broken homes that have been ravaged by drug abuse. They deserve as much love, compassion, and continuity of care that we can provide.
My hope is that by the end of this legislative session this bill will be passed into law and our kids will be on their way to having the love and care they deserve.
If you truly believe our children are our future, then you know we can’t wait another minute to start addressing this issue and make sure these children are truly put first.
Delegate Amy Summers is a Republican from Taylor County representing the 49th District in the House of Delegates. A previous vice-chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, she currently serves as House Majority Leader.