CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — West Virginia has the highest rate of foster children in the nation, and advocates are again calling for more help. Some have called the foster care system a crisis, and it’s certain to be one of the top three issues when the legislature convenes in January.
For every 1,000 children in West Virginia, 13 of them are in foster care. That makes the Mountain State number one in the nation, and in fact, the rate here is twice as high as the second-place state.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (WVCBP) authored this study. It recommends creating a state child tax credit, just like the federal government does; providing more SNAP and TANF benefits so low-income families get food and cash assistance; and providing more substance abuse treatment for parents before their children are placed into foster care.
“We offer a lot of resources to kids in foster care, and rightly so. But until we extend those same resources to biological families and address issues upfront, before families are in crisis, it’s going to be hard to get our numbers in line with the rest of the country,” WVCBP Executive Director Kelly Allen said.
There are ongoing calls to hire more Child Protective Services workers and pay them better. But the shortage continues. The legislature passed two laws to address those issues this year, but foster and adoptive care advocates say it’s still not enough.
As high as West Virginia foster care rates are, the study said the numbers are even worse, for families of color. The full report is available at wvpolicy.org.