Introduced Version House Concurrent Resolution 48 History

   |  Email
Key: Green = existing Code. Red = new code to be enacted


(By Delegates Hanshaw (Mr. Speaker), Rowe, Pinson, Skaff, E. Pritt, Young, Griffith, and Hansen)

February 21, 2023

Referred to the Committee on Health and Human Resources then the Committee on Rules


Requesting that the Joint Committee on Government and Finance study the social work services

of the Department of Health and Human Resources (hereinafter "the department") provided in and for the circuit courts of the state, in particular, in child abuse and neglect cases before, during, and after hearings, for which professional social service workers of the department are needed but have been unavailable for years due to alarming staff shortages and the fact that social service workers employed by the department have not been always trained, present in court, and fully prepared to manage cases for the department involving hearings or placement services before petitions are filed or after hearings are finalized.

Whereas, Any proceeding involving the removal of children from their homes due to abuse

and neglect allegations create important and fundamental Constitutional issues, moral questions, and can cause extreme pain and distress to children and their families; and

Whereas, Each parent in this state has a constitutional right and duty to properly care for

and rear their children, and children have a constitutional right to be cared for and reared properly

by their parents or other family members; and

Whereas, Currently, the number of children who are involved in abuse and neglect proceedings is overloading the child welfare system and the circuit courts of the state at high cost

to children and families; and

Whereas, Due to this case overload, investigations of child abuse and neglect by the department's child protective services workers (hereinafter "CPS workers") are being delayed and abuse and neglect court cases are swelling the dockets of circuit courts statewide, all causing delay, upset, insecurity and some degree of desperation for children and families, along with high costs of out-of-home placements, particularly for those that are out-of-state placements as may be needed in the best interest of a child; and

Whereas, Families involved in abuse and neglect investigations should, before petitions

are filed, have access to necessary assessments, services, and referrals to service providers that

may provide the tools needed to help keep children in their homes; and

Whereas, The department has not been providing professional social workers when Child

Protective Services workers are needed. As many as one-fourth of the department's positions have been vacant on a regular basis, with hundreds of vacancies maintained for more than two years.  Case workers employed for the department are overwhelmed with growing caseloads and many lack sufficient training, knowledge, skill, and experience to investigate and manage abuse and neglect cases and to have services provided through various services and referrals that would allow children to remain in their homes without experiencing abuse and neglect, which outcome would be in the best interest of the child; and

Whereas, The Legislature should monitor and provide adequate funding appropriations to the department to immediately eliminate alarming staffing shortages of qualified social workers with a focus on competitive and appropriate work titles and pay grades for professional forensic social workers, for which new job titles and pay grades are needed by selection of the department presented to the state division of personnel; and

Whereas, A separate division of forensic social work within the department would encourage professional social work for the department as a whole with professional job titles, and pay grades and salaries requested by the department, which are appropriate and competitive to assure proper and complete forensic services and the mentoring of department staff all to the improvement of services by the department and to the direct benefit to children, families, and circuit court judges on a timely basis before, during, and after hearings and completion of the litigation process in child abuse and neglect cases; and

Whereas, The Legislature acknowledges that special training and certification, including eventual special licensing when ready and available for social work graduates, to perform professional forensic social work services for conduct before, in, and after court hearings and for a general knowledge of court proceedings which would help assure that the best interest of children are being met in circuit court proceedings with timely and appropriate full review of child abuse and neglect cases; and

Whereas, The state has the benefit of a continuing educational social work consortium for

social work services known as the Social Work Education Consortium (hereinafter "SWEC") which brings together the three masters level university programs, and some social work bachelors programs, which can study and recommend to the department and the board of social work certain standards for the in-service training and education of professional forensic social workers, and the consortium would be able to provide or direct education programs for other in-service case workers in the department. The consortium could propose, conduct, and direct in-service continuing education sessions for a variety of workers, and it could immediately establish the requirements for certifications for masters of social work graduates and other specially-trained, qualified social workers, to work on forensic matters for the department, all in general consultation with the Board of Social Work and each of the masters of social work programs at Concord University, Marshall University, and West Virginia University, and the bachelor degree social work schools, and Public Defender Services, the Court Improvement Program, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program, the Foster Care Ombudsman; and

Whereas, The personnel in the division of forensic services may make recommendations to the Legislature from time to time concerning appropriate amendments to the West Virginia code to address issues arising in abuse and neglect cases that may be impeding the speedy and full adjudication of cases contrary to the best interest of children; and

Whereas, A division of forensic services should review how low-level offenses, such as truancy and minor status offenses, may be unnecessarily delaying general family services, pre-petition services, and other forensic services which in turn may cause unnecessary or delayed home removals. The former Truancy Diversion Social Work Program should be examined as to the special handling and perhaps diversion in the first instance of minor cases and juvenile cases away from judicial adjudication where appropriate for the best interests of children; and

Whereas, A division of forensic services could schedule and manage court caseloads on a systematic basis statewide to assure that proper professional social work services are provided in each case on a timely basis without unnecessary court continuances; and

Whereas, In order to further facilitate prompt and effective response to early allegations or concerns over child abuse or neglect, by observant and engaged school teachers and staff, a division of forensic social work services could help the department organize its child welfare intake system to provide a primary social worker to be identified to each school to assure early allegations and concerns of school teachers and staff are handled promptly by the primary social worker, or with his or her timely referrals to other personnel of the department who can report and investigate the allegations and concerns without delay and in the context of the child's known school environment; and

Whereas, A division of forensic social work services would help the department to maintain a professional social work workforce to organize, mentor, direct, supervise, assist, and train workers employed by the department. Its forensic social workers would be certified through the board of social work to have specific professional credentials, including an array of qualifications for work experience, academic educational attainment such as masters of social work degrees or bachelor social work degrees with special forensic training and experience, followed by qualifying continuing education training. Forensic social workers would be compensated by job titles and pay scales special to a division of forensic social work services sufficient to assure that the most qualified, professional social workers can be recruited and retained without alarming staffing shortages to protect children who need the department’s services; and

Whereas, A division of forensic social work services should regularly report in its first two years of operation directly to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance about its progress in screening and managing child abuse cases on a timely basis pursuant to benchmarks to be set by the division with reference to the screening and case management of abuse and neglect cases in other states along with a study of any discovered personal benefits and financial impacts on family services, placement costs, or litigation costs. The department should include a special line in its annual budget proposals for appropriations to the department for a division of forensic social work services; therefore, be it

Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That the Department of Health and Human Resources should immediately reorganize its divisions to improve forensic services for case screening, management, and satisfactory completion of child abuse and neglect cases on a timely basis with a workforce of professional social workers to be immediately certified, recruited, retained, and paid competitive salaries sufficient to create and retain a dependable and effective professional workforce to eventually include licensed forensic social worker graduates qualified to perform forensic servicers for the department while assisting circuit courts in the speedy processing of child abuse and neglect cases which are to be properly screened, timely presented, and appropriately decided on a timely basis, in the best interest of children and other matters related to its processing of child abuse and neglect cases; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the department will inform the Legislature during each interim session in 2023 by providing to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance a written report of its progress on the improvements to be as identified in this resolution; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the House forward a certified copy of this resolution to the Interim Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources.

This Web site is maintained by the West Virginia Legislature's Office of Reference & Information.  |  Terms of Use  |   Email WebmasterWebmaster   |   © 2024 West Virginia Legislature **


Print On Demand