Foster Homes: West Virginia must find a way to reverse alarming trend
West Virginians find solutions to tough problems. We always do. But one reported last week will be difficult.
We have to do something — this one involves our children.
Due in large measure to the substance abuse crisis, our state’s foster home network is terribly overloaded. The bottom line is too many children need help and there are not enough resources to provide what they need.
When children are taken from parents or become orphans, the state tries to place them in foster homes. But last year, 791 youngsters ran away from temporary or foster homes, legislators were told by Department of Health and Human Resources Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples.
Already this year, 651 children in state custody have run away, meaning we are on track to surpass the 2018 total.
Of the 791 youngsters last year, 205 were classed as long-term runaways. As of June 12, nearly 100 of them had not been located.
Nearly all children who run away from state custody are teenagers, for obvious reasons. Most are boys and most leave emergency shelters or temporary facilities, rather than foster homes.
“What has happened to those children? When we talk about sex trafficking and dangers of the modern world, it’s just an alarming number that we have to find some solutions to,” Samples told lawmakers.
He is right, of course; but what is there for the legislature to do?
Finding more true foster homes would help. If you think you may be able to provide one, contact the DHHR.
But clearly, that is a long-term solution. It will not stop many of the runaways later this year — and it will do nothing for those already out on the streets, who knows where.
This is a tough one. But we’re talking about children. If the DHHR needs supplemental funding to help alleviate the problem, legislators ought to provide it. If we West Virginians need to put up with a few more potholes to cover the cost, so be it. The kids come first.