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WV Looks to Meet DOJ Goals for Foster Kids' Community Care

West Virginia aims to reduce the number of foster children with mental-health disabilities in residential treatment to about 700 by 2024. (Adobe stock)
West Virginia aims to reduce the number of foster children with mental-health disabilities in residential treatment to about 700 by 2024. (Adobe stock)

November 20, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is on track to meet requirements handed down by the Department of Justice last year to move more foster children with mental-health issues out of institutions, in favor of community-based care.

Cammie Chapman, associate general counsel at the state Department of Health and Human Resources, noted that her agency is working with groups as part of the
DOJ agreement to have no more than 712 foster children with serious emotional disorders in residential treatment facilities by the end of 2024. Chapman expects the state to reach that goal.

"As of Oct. 31, 2020, our number for kids that are in a residential mental-health treatment facility, that are foster-care children placed in DHHR custody, was 822," she said, "so, we are on target."

She said the number of referrals of foster children has dropped during the COVID-19 crisis while schools are closed, and acknowledged that the number of children in institutions might rise when schools open again.

In 2015, the DOJ found that the Mountain State violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily placing foster children with serious emotional or behavioral disorders in institutional care, instead of providing in-home or neighborhood care. Chapman said the 2019 agreement requires the foster system to shift to using services closer to kids' homes.

"An important part of this agreement is really making sure that everyone knows about the increased community-based services that are available," she said, "and that includes teachers, front-line workers and also judges."

The number of West Virginia kids in foster care has doubled since 2015, mostly due to the opioid epidemic. As of May, more than 7,200 children are in the system.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV