A representative from Save the Children told lawmakers she hopes to expand a program aiming to build resiliency in children and families.
Angie Boggs, director of West Virginia Save the Children, and Erika Blackburn, Journey of Hope Program Specialist, presented an overview on the organization and plans for the future in Tuesday’s Joint Committee on Children and Families meeting.
Save the Children, a 501 (c)(3) organization, has been in West Virginia since 2010. It provides services including programs to help kids get ready for Kindergarten and increase literacy and math skills with the goal of proficiency by third grade.
Another program, Journey of Hope, aims to build resiliency and coping skills in children and families. The Tulane School of Public Health in cooperation with Save the Children developed this program following Hurricane Katrina with the overall goal of supporting families following natural disasters.
The organization brought the program into West Virginia in 2016 after the devastating flooding that affected the state.
Blackburn said in addition to helping families who have experienced natural disasters, the program also aims to help families and children affected by the opioid crisis.
Blackburn told the committee that evaluations done on the program have showed a 30 percent reduction in behavioral referrals.
The program currently is in 33 counties in West Virginia and Blackburn said they are working with a Family Resource Network in Lewis County and the Harmony House Child Advocacy Center in Ohio County.
Blackburn said the organization partners with school districts and works with Family Resource Networks. Journey of Hope is an eight-week program where school staff members are trained to assist families going through continuous, toxic stress. According to Save the Children’s website, the goal of the program is to help families cope with traumatic events, build resiliency, and strengthen support networks.
The committee also heard from Carrie Stalnaker about the Mutual Consent Adoption Registry. Stalnaker told the committee the database has documented applicants since 1994 and averages 30 applicants a year.
Legislators asked questions about releasing identifying information in certain cases. Stalnaker said she can provide information only after confirmation that both parties have participated in an hour-long reunification counseling session and can then, she can only provide current contact information. She said the law does not permit her to assist in sibling searches.