Select Committee A

Children, Juveniles and Other Issues

2009- 2010 Interims

Senator Roman W. Prezioso, Jr., Chair Delegate Virginia Mahan, Chair
Senator Corey Palumbo, Vice Chair
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, Vice Chair

Senator Larry J. Edgell
Delegate Bonnie Brown

Senator Dan Foster
Delegate Jeff Eldridge

Senator Jeffery V. Kessler
Delegate Tim Ennis

Senator Joseph Minard
Delegate Ron Fragale

Senator John Unger II Delegate John R. Frazier
Senator Bob Williams
Delegate Tal Hutchins

Senator Donna BoleyDelegate Margaret Donaldson Smith
Senator Frank Deem
Delegate Sharon Spencer

Senator Jesse O. GuillsDelegate Josh Stowers

Delegate Linda Longstreth

Delegate Bob Ashley

Delegate Ruth Rowan

Delegate Robert A. Schadler

Final Report of

Select Committee on

Children, Juveniles and Other Issues

The Select Committee on Children and Juveniles was appointed by the Joint Committee on Government and Finance following the 2009 Regular Session of the 79th Legislature. The Committee was not assigned any additional topics for study during the 2009 interim period. The Select Committee on Health, however, requested that House Concurrent Resolution No. 5 Requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the safety issues of those who provide home visits to families in West Virginia which had been assigned to it for study be transferred to the Select Committee on Children based upon the history which the committee had with that topic. That request was granted.

During the course of the 2009 - 2010 interim period, Select Committee A met and received information on this topic of study and other important issues related to protection of children and juveniles. Presentations were made and information was received from state agencies, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, advocacy groups and other pertinent sources.

The Committee REPORTS as follows:

HCR 5. Requesting the Joint Committee on Government and Finance to study the safety issues of those who provide home visits to families in West Virginia.

The Committee RECOMMENDS that they continue to study and evaluate this issue over the next interim period.


The Committee continued is efforts to improve the delivery of services by Child Protective Services and heard from a variety of individuals with an interest in Child Protective Services within the Bureau for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Resources. The Committee heard from Steven and Mary Ann Van Clief who presented the Committee with information on their experience with the foster care system. They provided the Committee with personal details on children who had been placed in their care through the foster care system. They recommended some type of dispute resolution system for parents in the foster care system be developed. They further recommended that this entity not be housed within the Department of Health and Human Resources.

The Committee also heard from officials at the Department of Health and Human Resources on this issue. For reasons of confidentiality, the Department would not discuss the specifics of the case involving Mr. and Mrs. Van Clief, but spoke regarding training issue for foster care employees and how issues involving disciplinary actions of employees are managed.

The Committee heard from Angie Hamilton, Senior Director for Community Based and Foster Care Programs at Pressley Ridge. Ms Hamilton provided the Committee with a foster care perspective from a private foster care agency. She spoke regarding the effectiveness of the foster care system, most particularly regarding funding and child placement. She recommended that the reimbursement rates for foster care be examined and increased, if possible.

House Committee Clerk, Mark White, presented the Committee a summary of the manner in which various states have developed a dispute resolution office to address concerns that arise in the foster care agency within the state. Mr. White discussed how the offices are constructed and managed, staffing levels, funding issues which included federal and private grant possibilities, and where they are placed within the structure of state government. He also provided the Committee with insight into the necessary elements to making such an office successful. These included autonomy from the state child welfare agency, sufficient funding, qualified staff, and sufficient statutory authority to carry out investigations and mandate improvements.

Finally, the Committee heard from Nina Williams-Mbengue, a foster care expert from the National Conference of State Legislatures, Children and Families Division. Ms. Williams-Mbengue indicated that her research found that West Virginia had placement instability issues, needed to provide greater training and preparation for foster care providers, suffered from a lack of adequate information on foster child health and mental health, had recruitment and retention issues. and continued to have issues with out of state placement. She also stressed the need for continued and constant confidentiality of foster care records. Ms. Williams-Mbengue also discussed efforts to prevent initial entry into the foster care system and preventing re-entry into the system. She concluded with an overview of the Federal Child and Family Services Review and discussed the strengths of the West Virginia system based upon this review and the concerns that were apparent from the review.

The Committee RECOMMENDS that they continue to monitor the foster care program in West Virginia. To accomplish this, that they continue to meet with officials of the Department of Health and Human Resources, advocacy groups and interested parties on this issue.

The Committee FURTHER RECOMMENDS the passage of the following piece of legislation during the 2010 regular Legislation session:

A bill to create an Office of Child Advocate. This office will not only attempt to resolve disputes that arise in foster care cases but will also encompass Juvenile Services within the Department of Corrections.

Respectfully submitted:

Senator Roman W. Prezioso, Jr.
Delegate Virginia Mahan