CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — There’s a call to reform West Virginia’s Child Protective Services (CPS), and it is coming from both sides of the aisle. And a recent case in Kanawha County is fueling the debate.
The legislative efforts were aimed at increasing CPS workers’ pay and addressing staffing shortages where the workers have the highest caseloads. But with 7,000 children in the state’s foster care system, critics say resources are still stretched to the limit.
Then, on Oct. 2, adoptive parents – Donald Lantz, 63, and Jeanne Whitefeather, 61, of Sissonville, were arrested after two teenagers in their care were living in the squalor of a small shed, and another child was found alone in the home. Lawmakers want complete details of the incident after neighbors said they called CPS numerous times, and no one came. Then they called 911.
“Sissonville, certainly that is a horrendous case. Everybody’s heart breaks when they see the facts behind that matter. But if CPS was notified previous to this news story where the arrests were made, I think it’s important that we understand that,” said State Sen. Mike Stuart, (R) Kanahwa, and a candidate for West Virginia Attorney General.
“First and foremost, we’ve got to make sure that we are paying our CPS workers at an adequate level. But also doing everything we can to attract them to that field,” said Del. Sean Hornbuckle, (D) Cabell – Minority Leader.
The state says last year there was a 33% vacancy rate in the number of CPS workers, but that number has now dropped to 19%. Still, State Senator Mike Stuart says more needs to be done, and believes an outside, independent audit of CPS needs to be conducted.
While state lawmakers discussed CPS problems during last week’s interim committee meetings, they probably can’t do much on the issue until the full legislature convenes in January.