FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS)– As over 7,000 children are in need of temporary homes and foster families, the struggle to find homes to take these children in grows more urgent by the second. 59News spoke to one local foster parent about the struggles she faces and asked lawmakers in Charleston about how to end the social crisis.
Brenda Taylor always wanted to be a foster parent. So when the opportunity arose, she jumped on it. Soon after stepping forward, the mother of three, with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education was met with what she called red tape, and hoops to jump through.
“I had to take college classes on top of that, I forget how many I had to take,” said Taylor. “They came and did a thorough examination of your home and we had to go through each window and each door and you name it.”
She said the process was tedious and disheartening. Something Senate Minority Leader Stephen Balwin (D- Greenbrier,10) said causes potential foster homes to stop the process.
“We’ve put hoops and obstacles and red tape and certainly you’re talking about child safety and child safety has to be taken seriously,” said Baldwin. “But, if you have folks who are qualified and ready and willing to take young people into their home and take them in and raise them then we need to find a way to make that work.”
After months of paperwork, interviews, and proceedings, Taylor welcomed her first foster child into her home. Now, in her third year as a foster parent, she says there’s one issue she runs into constantly.
BRENDA TAYLOR// FOSTER PARENT 3 years
“There’s got to be more caseworkers. More caseworkers, less families for them to keep up with,” Taylor added.
She said she’s had to call upwards of 6 people to get through to someone in the state regarding her foster children. This legislative season, raises were given to caseworkers within the state’s system by reallocating money from current vacant positions. Something Senator Baldwin said isn’t a long-term fix.
“I’m still concerned even if you have those raises,” Baldwin said. “The way we’ve done that is we’ve used money from vacant positions to fund pay raises, that means you still have vacancies. Money is the answer to the question 9 out of 10 times”
Delegate Mick Bates (D, 30th District) from Raleigh County echoes Senator Baldwin’s concerns saying the money is there, and lawmakers have made progress in recent years. But, he believes the root of the problem is something greater.
“Let me just say the resources are there the state of West Virginia has the resources,” Bates told us. “Quite frankly, we cant afford not to. We have to focus on prevention, by spending those resources on the front end, we’re saving money on the long end because if you don’t get it right and you mess it up, you’re going to spend it later on.”
Bates said the problem is foster care and child services fall under the Department of Health and Human Resources umbrella, which is under one secretary for both medical and social services.
“We ran a bill to bust that thing up,” Bates added. “It’s too big. It’s very very real…and it’s not that people aren’t trying, it’s that it’s broken.”
Try or not, Taylor says change needs to come fast because the longer it takes to find solutions, the longer children in danger will suffer or even die.
“We know what our county needs, we know what our state needs, well, step up to make changes,” Taylor told us. “Don’t just leave it the way it is. That’s like making a mistake and saying, ‘I can’t change it,’ no do something about it.”
Of those 7,000 foster children, there are about 2,000 eligible foster homes. Senator Baldwin said the state is currently having to send children to foster homes out of state as a last resort due to the shortage crisis.