Children: Governor’s proposals should be approved

We West Virginians — or, at least, our public officials — talk a lot about “investing in the future.” If there is a foundational aspect to that, it is ensuring our children grow up safe and healthy, both physically and mentally.

Two proposals by Gov. Jim Justice, outlined during his State of the State speech Tuesday, would go a long way in that regard.

First, the governor wants to allocate another $26.4 million a year to Child Protective Services. It is the arm of the Department of Health and Human Resources dedicated to safeguarding children against abuse and/or neglect.

In part because of the drug abuse crisis, CPS in some areas of the state has been overwhelmed by cases during recent years. Slightly more than half the children the state has to remove from their homes are at risk because of drug abuse.

Turnover among CPS caseworkers is high. The stress level is enormous, as you may imagine. Higher pay is needed to attract and retain CPS personnel.

Give credit to DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch and his staff. During the past few years, they have been shuffling funds around within their agency to provide more resources for the CPS. Justice’s proposal recognizes that even more money is needed to do the job properly. He wants $26.4 million.

A second proposal deals with children coping with intellectual/developmental disabilities who receive help from the state. Some would be better off getting that assistance in their communities instead of in institutional settings. The state Medicaid program has a mechanism for that — but it has an enormous waiting list of families.

Justice wants legislators to provide another $19.7 million to “to eliminate the wait list.”

Good for the governor. Both proposals ought to be approved by lawmakers, without hesitation. Is the combined total requested, $46.1 million, a lot of money? Yes.

But it involves even more than “investing in the future.” Initiatives such as Justice cited are essential to ensure that some Mountain State children have a future.


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