Legislation aims to keep children out of foster care


New legislation would let more children of parents with substance use disorders stay in their homes instead of foster care. 

Officials at Child Protect in Mercer County said the opioid crisis is having a huge impact on the child welfare system in the area. In fact, the State Department of Health and Human resources says 85 percent of children in foster care in West Virginia were placed there because of a parent or guardian’s substance abuse problem.

Shiloh Woodard, Executive Director of Child Protect, said, “Certainly here in Mercer County we’ve been affected by the opioid crisis and I think we see that on every level of child welfare, whether it’s the criminal aspect of it or looking at whether children should live in their biological homes.”

The Family First Prevention Services Act  would provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The belief is that children are better off with their own families.

However, Woodard said each case must be looked at individually.

“I think keeping children in their biological homes is always the goal of child protective services, but in many situations that’s just not possible and foster care is a reality for many children in our community,” said Woodard. 

FFPSA allows for the government to help pay for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training for at risk families. Woodard said that is a goal she can get behind.

“I think funding to give them additional resources and support is money well spent,” Woodard said.

FFPSA was passed in a federal spending bill. It will take effect in October 2019.

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