CHARLESTON – A split into two more niche offices is part of changes to the West Virginia Office for Children and Families within the Department of Health and Human Resources to improve the child welfare system of State.
The Office for Children and Families split will begin in July, DHHR lawyer Cammie Chapman said Tuesday at the meeting of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Resources Accountability. BCF Commissioner Linda Watts also announced the split at the Joint Committee on Children and Families meeting.
The new offices will be the Social Services Office and the Family Help and Support Office. Chapman said the ministry hopes the split will streamline systems and allow social service workers handling cases not to be distracted by other issues, such as support for foster families.
DHHR is also continuing other efforts to improve the foster care system, Watts said, including introducing therapeutic foster care for people with behavioral issues and continuing the Kinship Navigator program. , which is supported by federal grants.
The ministry is also reorganizing the kinship family certification process. The change stems from remarks from foster families in a 2019 survey conducted by DHHR in partnership with Marshall University and the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parents Network.
Related families, including a couple who testified before the children and families committee on Tuesday, said training for the certification was not suitable for loved ones. The new certification process will only take 90 days and will also include a $ 500 allowance to help offset costs.
However, manpower issues within child protection services remain a concern. There is a 29% vacancy rate statewide and 90% of the districts have vacancies. Region 2, which includes Cabell and Kanawha counties, has 21 vacancies and the southern region has 29.
Chapman said part of the high vacancy rate is due to DHHR adding 95 new positions since 2019, but they are also concerned about rising turnover rates. Chapman said the pandemic had negatively impacted sales as an already tough job became harder to do as “essential workers” without any of the love that other “essential workers” have. received – but even without the pandemic, the department fears rates will rise.
Watts said they are also not receiving requests at the same rate as in the past, but she hopes that will change as the state emerges from the pandemic.
The ministry hopes that the additional CPS senior staff position and additional training will help maintain the workforce by adequately supporting it.
A study of the CPC workforce, including workloads and the time it takes to efficiently complete tasks, will also be carried out.
The Health and Human Resources Accountability Committee also heard from Foster Family Ombudsman Pamela Woodman-Kaehler, who presented his first report. The report found that fear is pervasive throughout the system and communication at all levels is lacking.
Chapman said the ministry appreciates the ombudsman’s work and said it looks forward to future reports to see any progress.
Journalist Taylor Stuck can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.