By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While lawmakers in the West Virginia Legislature look at reforming and splitting up the state Department of Health and Human Resources, bills reforming the state’ foster and child welfare systems are moving through.
According to DHHR, there are 6,151 children in foster care in West Virginia as of Jan. 12. That’s a 17% decrease from 7,441 children in foster care as of April 2020 — one month after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sending the state’s unemployment rate soaring to 15.5% and a year that saw a record-breaking 1,336 fatal drug overdose deaths.
Despite the numbers of children in foster care coming down, the numbers remain high compared to a decade ago, spiking by 47% from 4,153 children in foster care in December 2013 to 6,135 foster children as of the end of this past year.
“We’re dealing with a real crisis here in West Virginia,” said Del. Jonathan Pinson, R-Mason, during a committee meeting Friday. “West Virginia leads the nation per capita in children that are in foster care. If you take all of the children in foster care and you were to put them in one area with one zip code, it would be the 22nd largest city in West Virginia.” …