CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Senate has created a select committee for the 2nd Session of the 84th Legislature to give special attention to addressing legislation related specifically to child welfare.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, has been named the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Children and Families. Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, will serve as Vice Chairman. Other committee members include Senator Sue Cline, R-Wyoming; Senator J.R. Pitsenbarger, R-Nicholas; Senator Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh; Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson; Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, Senator Paul Hardesty, D-Logan; and Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone.
Two of the Committee’s primary areas of focus will be addressing issues that stem from West Virginia’s continuing foster care crisis and substance abuse epidemic. There are more than 7,000 children in foster care throughout the state, and according to a recent legislative audit of the Department of Health and Human Resources Child Protective Services, CPS “did not meet the statutorily required time frame for investigating child abuse and neglect allegations in 50% of cases during federal Fiscal Year 2018.” Additionally, the agency continues to experience high turnover, and the drug epidemic has increased the caseload of CPS workers by 79% since 2015.
While legislation related to these issues typically goes through other committees like Health and Human Resources, it must compete with dozens of other bills. Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said this committee would be able to devote its attention solely to those issues that affect child welfare, and in turn, give those issues more attention than they would possibly receive otherwise.
“Our children are our state’s most precious resource, and it’s clear that despite our best efforts, we are falling way short in adequately providing for the needs of the ones who need us the most,” Senate President Carmichael said. “My hope with this new Select Committee is that the members take a deep dive on these issues and work toward the kinds of solutions that will ensure no child in the state of West Virginia gets lost in a bureaucracy that does not put them on the best path to stability, comfort, and self-worth.”