When Becky Baldwin first took a foster child into her home, she wasn’t sure what to expect.

“She didn’t have a lot of emotion, very blank in the face,” she said.

But after three years of living together, she and her husband have now adopted Carolynn, who is flourishing like any other 4-year-old.

“She laughs more, smiles more, make jokes…it’s just been very rewarding,” said



There are more than 4,000 kids in the

West Virginia

‘s welfare system, and many aren’t as lucky. About 27 percent are placed in residential group care, as opposed to with immediate, extended or foster families.

“Most of them don’t need to be there, it’s harming them for them to be there, and there are other solutions we can apply,” said Margie Hale, the executive director of WV KIDS COUNT.

According to KIDS COUNT data,

West Virginia

ties for third place for the percent of kids in group care. Research shows young teenagers who do not grow up in families are at greater risk of being abused or arrested. It also costs significantly more for taxpayers.

“I don’t know why it resists solution, but it does,” said Hale. “It’s like why do we always have to be last in everything.”

Experts say the ideal solution is to provide services to families in crisis, so kids can stay with their parents. It’s also important to find more loving foster families.

“Having her part of our family and having that one on one interaction and just loving her like you would like any other child,” said Baldwin.