CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Democratic members of the House Finance Committee sent a letter to DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch on Tuesday, asking him to be prepared to answer questions about his Department’s budget for Foster Care.
“The House Finance Committee will be hearing from the Department of Health and Human Resources on Thursday,” said Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion), who sits on the committee. “We want them to know that there will be questions about this issue so that they can have the relevant data to share with us.”
As a state, West Virginia is placing more children into foster and kinship care than any other state in the country, per capita. Since 2013, the number of West Virginian children in the system has increased 67%, while the national trend has been 11% growth.
“Our colleagues in other committees have heard arguments against increasing the amount of money that we give to families who take care of these displaced children,” said Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), Minority Chair of the Finance Committee. “We have the chance to ask the Secretary directly how much our proposed increase would actually cost and whether all the additional money would go directly to foster families or if it would be used for administrative costs.”
HB 4092, Relating to Foster Care, came before the Committee on Health and Human Resources on January 17, 2020, where it was amended to allow kinship families the same daily pay as foster families. Kinship families consist of anyone who may have previously known of the child or her family as well as blood relatives. The pay increase (from roughly $20 to now $30 per day per child) for both foster families and kinship families in this bill is estimated to cost $14 million.
“West Virginia’s children are at risk right now,” said Delegate Jason Barrett (D-Berkeley), Minority Vice-Chair of the Committee. “Recently, our state made national news because one of our foster families couldn’t afford to both fix their roof and afford to care for the children they are selflessly caring for. We want to know how our daily rates per child to house foster children compare to surrounding states and whether increasing the daily rate could give more families the ability to take care of the children in the system who need it.”
Additional members of the Committee who signed the letter Delegate Brent Boggs (D-Braxton); Delegate Bill Hartman (D-Randolph); Delegate Dave Pethtel (D-Wetzel); Delegate Larry Rowe (D-Kanawha); Delegate Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha); Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton); and Delegate John Williams (D-Monongalia).