New senate committee to fix and strengthen West Virginia’s foster care system

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – A newly formed state legislative committee is just getting to work identifying problems and looking for solutions in the state’s overwhelmed foster care system.

On January 8th, 2020, Senate President Mitch Carmichael announced the formation of a new senate committee that’s designed to strengthen the foster care system within the state, which is a first.

Putting foster children and foster families first is a bipartisan goal for the 2020 legislative session. According to the Legislative Foster Care Placement Report, over 7,000 children were in the foster care system last month and over the last 12 months, that number has grown.

Executive State Director of NECCO West Virginia, Amy Rickman, “we’re actually seeing this in our partnering states as well, Ohio and Kentucky. We’re all kind of facing the same issues, but it’s really is going to take partnership and people really making decisions on how things can be streamlined.”

The new senate committee will first take past legislation and tweak it as they see fit, while working alongside fostering organizations, like NECCO, to create new legislation and programs in the future.

Senate Majority Leader, Tom Tokubo (R – Kanawha): “first and foremost, we want to make sure that those kids are in a safe environment, but once we do that, we want to figure out how can we best support them financially, but socially, medically, the wrap-around services that those kids are best protected and cared for and placed on a path for success so that they don’t fall maybe into some of the same traps that their parents fell into.”

Susan and Ray Blust have been foster parents to two young children for about a year now and things a part of the problem is that stereotypes surrounding fostering are what keeps people from pursuing it.

Ray Blust said “I just think a lot of it needs to be more in the spotlight and I think that part of it is there needs to be a lot more campaigning of what it’s like to be a foster parent. I had my idea, and my first thought isn’t how it’s been that way.

Amy Blunt said, “there are so many kids out there that need a home. I just felt like we should open our home. We have room. These kids just need our help”

NECCO serves the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia. For more information on becoming a foster parent, visit the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

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