WEST VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE
Select Committee A
Children, Juveniles and Other Issues
2009- 2010 Interims
SENATE MEMBERSHOUSE MEMBERS
Senator Roman W. Prezioso, Jr., Chair Delegate Virginia Mahan, Chair
Senator Corey Palumbo, Vice Chair
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, Vice Chair
Senator Larry J. Edgell
Delegate Bonnie Brown
Senator Dan Foster
Delegate Jeff Eldridge
Senator Jeffery V. Kessler
Delegate Tim Ennis
Senator Joseph Minard
Delegate Ron Fragale
Senator John Unger II Delegate John R. Frazier
Senator Bob Williams
Delegate Tal Hutchins
Senator Donna BoleyDelegate Margaret Donaldson Smith
Senator Frank Deem
Delegate Sharon Spencer
Senator Jesse O. GuillsDelegate Josh Stowers
Delegate Linda Longstreth
Delegate Bob Ashley
Delegate Ruth Rowan
Delegate Robert A. Schadler
Final Report of
Select Committee on
Children, Juveniles and Other Issues
The Select Committee on Children and Juveniles was appointed by the Joint Committee on
Government and Finance following the 2009 Regular Session of the 79th Legislature. The
Committee was not assigned any additional topics for study during the 2009 interim period. The
Select Committee on Health, however, requested that House Concurrent Resolution No. 5
Requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the safety issues of those who
provide home visits to families in West Virginia which had been assigned to it for study be
transferred to the Select Committee on Children based upon the history which the committee had
with that topic. That request was granted.
During the course of the 2009 - 2010 interim period, Select Committee A met and received
information on this topic of study and other important issues related to protection of children and
juveniles. Presentations were made and information was received from state agencies, the West
Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, advocacy groups and other pertinent sources.
The Committee REPORTS as follows:
HCR 5. Requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the safety
issues of those who provide home visits to families in West Virginia.
The Committee RECOMMENDS that they continue to study and evaluate this issue over
the next interim period.
CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES
The Committee continued is efforts to improve the delivery of services by Child Protective
Services and heard from a variety of individuals with an interest in Child Protective Services within
the Bureau for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Resources. The
Committee heard from Steven and Mary Ann Van Clief who presented the Committee with
information on their experience with the foster care system. They provided the Committee with
personal details on children who had been placed in their care through the foster care system. They
recommended some type of dispute resolution system for parents in the foster care system be
developed. They further recommended that this entity not be housed within the Department of
Health and Human Resources.
The Committee also heard from officials at the Department of Health and Human Resources
on this issue. For reasons of confidentiality, the Department would not discuss the specifics of the
case involving Mr. and Mrs. Van Clief, but spoke regarding training issue for foster care employees
and how issues involving disciplinary actions of employees are managed.
The Committee heard from Angie Hamilton, Senior Director for Community Based and
Foster Care Programs at Pressley Ridge. Ms Hamilton provided the Committee with a foster care
perspective from a private foster care agency. She spoke regarding the effectiveness of the foster
care system, most particularly regarding funding and child placement. She recommended that the
reimbursement rates for foster care be examined and increased, if possible.
House Committee Clerk, Mark White, presented the Committee a summary of the manner
in which various states have developed a dispute resolution office to address concerns that arise in
the foster care agency within the state. Mr. White discussed how the offices are constructed and
managed, staffing levels, funding issues which included federal and private grant possibilities, and
where they are placed within the structure of state government. He also provided the Committee with insight into the necessary elements to making such an office successful. These included
autonomy from the state child welfare agency, sufficient funding, qualified staff, and sufficient
statutory authority to carry out investigations and mandate improvements.
Finally, the Committee heard from Nina Williams-Mbengue, a foster care expert from the National
Conference of State Legislatures, Children and Families Division. Ms. Williams-Mbengue indicated
that her research found that West Virginia had placement instability issues, needed to provide greater
training and preparation for foster care providers, suffered from a lack of adequate information on
foster child health and mental health, had recruitment and retention issues. and continued to have
issues with out of state placement. She also stressed the need for continued and constant
confidentiality of foster care records. Ms. Williams-Mbengue also discussed efforts to prevent initial
entry into the foster care system and preventing re-entry into the system. She concluded with an
overview of the Federal Child and Family Services Review and discussed the strengths of the West
Virginia system based upon this review and the concerns that were apparent from the review.
The Committee RECOMMENDS that they continue to monitor the foster care program in
West Virginia. To accomplish this, that they continue to meet with officials of the Department of
Health and Human Resources, advocacy groups and interested parties on this issue.
The Committee FURTHER RECOMMENDS the passage of the following piece of
legislation during the 2010 regular Legislation session:
A bill to create an Office of Child Advocate. This office will not only attempt to resolve
disputes that arise in foster care cases but will also encompass Juvenile Services within the
Department of Corrections.
Senator Roman W. Prezioso, Jr.
Delegate Virginia Mahan