CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The list of issues found within Child Protective Services, which provides help to kids who are neglected or abused in West Virginia, is long.

A legislative audit focused on CPS, which is part of the Bureau for Children and Families in the state Department of Health and Human Resources, was detailed at the State Capitol earlier this week during August interims for lawmakers.

The report found a high staff turnover, delays in investigations, shortfalls in recruiting and retaining workers and little willingness to change.

“I was appalled by it,” Senator Donald Cookman (D-Hampshire, 15) said of the audit’s findings.  Before retiring, he spent a lot of time on child neglect and abuses cases as a judge in the 22nd Judicial Circuit comprised of Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties.

“It’s not really flashy and doesn’t attract some people, but it is so important and it takes up the majority of any circuit judge’s time who deals with abuse and neglect.”

At times in recent years, the audit found West Virginia has lead the nation in child deaths tied to abuse.

When cases are reported, those with CPS have 14 days to respond.  That window closes to 72 hours if a child is believed to be in danger.  However, the audit found in 2011 those minimum thresholds were routinely not met across West Virginia.

Cookman said the CPS workers should not shoulder the blame for that.  He said they’re doing one of the most difficult jobs in the state.

“They’re underpaid.  They’re overworked,” he said.  “I can’t imagine going to the places that they go to and trying to work with the families and, then when they have to take the child out of the home, what they have to go through there.”

Susan Hage, the interim commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families, told lawmakers Wednesday the report is being taken seriously and changes are already being made based on its 14 recommendations.

One of those recommendations deals with the creation of a centralized intake system so cases of abuse and neglect can be better monitored.

The CPS review is a component of a larger review of the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

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  • HW

    Leo....Great Point! I know of a few cases that were referred by a Licensed Social Worker with aparent child abuse (sexual), and both cases were "swept under the rug." The Social Worker even had taped recordings of the incident, and nothing happened. However, I think the name of the family of the perpetrator had more weight than the actual crime itself. It is a shame!

  • Leo

    In our school system we as teachers are mandatory reporters, if we don't report a case of suspected child abuse, we can lose our license and be fired. Maybe these government agencies need to adopt the same standards. I know for a fact that I have made calls that were not dealt with.

  • HW

    I think the news about the audit is to cover up the many complaints that have been filed on CPS over the past several years. By simply reporting the "issues" makes it sound like there is oversight in this agency. Well, there is not. CPS needs a complete overhaul. The department heads need to be removed (most have been in the position over 20 years), and a revamping of the system needs to be initiated. Many CPS case workers allow for personal feelings to outweigh professionalism, for retired workers "control" what current workers are doing, etc. I know of a few cases that were completely child abuse and child neglect, and nothing has happened. I was even told by a case worker that I needed to "overlook" marijuana use in the household as there are "more dangerous drugs that the children could be involved with." Since when do we overlook marijuana? Maybe that was the drug of choice by the caseworker. I have had dealings with several DHHR offices....Marion, Mon, Upsher, Randolph, etc. By far, Randolph has been the worst to deal with......that office needs a complete rennovation, and new employee's need to be hired!!! They are highly unprofessional, and certainly do not perform their duties using the taxpayers monies!!!

    • Worried About The Kids

      Mother investigated for blatant neglect and drug abuse in the home. Strong evidence to prove all even the mother's admission. Mother's family member is a retired cps worker who is buddies with the supervisor in Elkins. CPS worker even notifies mother of date and time of house inspection. The day before the inspection the mother's family member buys food for the house and hires someone to clean it. Because of all this the mother is magically deemed fit and the children are left to suffer. Such a shame. No consideration for what the children will go thru for the rest of their lives.

    • Concerned

      I agree. I have to call CPS in the past for very serious concerns to a local child. 72 hours? They never showed up.

    • susanf

      I would agree w/you, esp. about Randolph Co. With all the drug abuse in the county, child abuse and neglect is rampant. And I have made referrals as well to CPS with no results.

  • the truth

    Look Tomblin is running state agencies in the ground. If you read the news you hear about problems with DOH, Corrections and DHHR and it is the same problem. Poor management and low pay. You cannot keep anyone in DHHR because you cannot reward good employees and the only way you can get a raise is to leave. Tomblin has forbidden raises based off merit and lets get real, he has done nothing for his employees. Are you aware that DHHR is in violation of state law over case load standards? DHHR has never followed the law and then set up a work group to make recommendations. The work group is done but they have no one in DHHR to give the recommendations. DHHR runs about 5 or 6 times the nationally recommended case load. The other issue is DHHR is worse to other employees in DHHR, the sad thing is CPS is one of the higher paid positions. They due this by screwing every other worker in DHHR. You cannot keep professionals and treat them like serfs.

  • Debra

    Could also look at judges who take to long to resolve cases that should already be settled.

  • JD

    Uh....wake up citizens and legislature. Adult Protective Services is going through the same issues, recruitment and retainment but this is never given consideration.
    CPS, CPS, teachers, teachers, CPS, CPS...what about the adults...
    Just give CPS more money(like in the past) and screw the elderly population and the hard working Adult Protective Service Workers.
    Here is a clue that can not be bought at Walmart---look at the CPS Supervisors..this is a HUGE reason for retainment.!!

    • km

      The article stated, "When cases are reported, those with CPS have 14 days to respond. That window closes to 72 hours if a child is believed to be in danger." This was how CPS was before SAMS. Currently, CPS has at a maximum 72 hours to respond to an accepted referral. Many changes have been made in CPS to focus on the safety of children. The job is a very difficult one. As a CPS worker, you know that few people appreciate what you do; or even understand what you do. The job is thankless. The pay is lower than all of the neighboring states. Without merit pay, supervisors cannot even reward their hardest working, most dedicated workers even if they wanted to. So years can go by without any pay raise and workers leave.

      Every day CPS workers are facing unknown situations. You may go out on a referral regarding a dirty house and find yourself in the middle of a meth lab; or dealing with mentally unstable individuals. More and more is expected with no resources or assistance.

      Family situations have also changed over time, and have created a more dangerous environment for children, which creates a more dangerous environment for the CPS worker going into the home. CPS workers burn out due to the pressure of the job, the danger, the lack of support, the lack of appreciation, and the poor pay.

      There are many public service workers who are over worked and under paid. APS workers face many of the same problems as CPS workers. The public does not understand that when a call is made to CPS/APS; it does not mean someone will respond. There are criteria that must be met before a referral is accepted.

      When a referral is accepted for CPS involvement, the public does not understand how difficult it is to work with a family who only thinks you are there to remove their children. It is a barrier which must be broken before true collaboration can occur. In those occasions where children must be removed for their safety, nobody ever considers how that affects the CPS workers involved.

      The retention rate is terrible in CPS. Without tenured workers you do not have the benefit of experience. Due to the constant turn over, CPS workers never know what their job is as their functions continue to change to try to meet the need within the unit. With ongoing turn over children and families suffer because they do not have the opportunity to develop a working relationship with one worker.

      I respect both CPS and APS workers for what they do. The public rarely hears about the good things they have done or the lives that have been saved or changed. Protective Service Workers cannot do their jobs alone. They rely on help from the judicial system, law enforcement, medical professionals, educators, foster families and many providers who provide treatment/services. They rely on the legislature to update laws to provide for the safety of children and adults.

      CPS gets blamed for so many of societies problems, but nobody looks at personal responsibility. It does not matter how dedicated a CPS worker is, how involved the judicial system is, or how much money is available to provide treatment services, if an individual truly is not committed to changing then there will be no progress.

      In closing, I want to thank Senator Cookman for his insights into the problem. Due to his personal experiences as a Circuit Court Judge, Senator Cookman understands what CPS workers go through and the problems they face. Thank you Senator Cookman for all that you have done to protect children!

    • G

      Thank you jd,
      APS is often an overlooked part of the protective service population. With the elderly population growing, this is only going to be worse. There are generally only 1 or 2 APS workers per office. The caseload is triple to that of CPS workers. However, there is currently ZERO federal funding for this.

  • JC

    Let me tell you from experience, everything mentioned in that article is accurate, not to mention a reluctance to get involved except in the worst cases. But the problem isn't the soldiers, it's the generals.

  • Barb

    I am very sorry that the system has been such a burden on our society especially our children. The sys needs to be totally rebuilt from the ground up. Look at the sys from the children that have gone through the sys and is now very successful in their lives. There is a way to be supportive of our children and their families so that we can meet their needs. The CPS sys can be very productive but also be non-productive. I have seen first hand how the sys was and is now.

  • Debra

    Oh, and by the way I'll bet you that this story gets way less comments than football, basketball or third teir media rights!

  • Realist

    It took an audit to figure out CPS has issues? Just try calling and filing a report and you will quickly realize they are understaffed and poorly trained. At least they have the issues documented now.

  • Marcus

    Or have severe cases swept under the rug specifically from the Elkins office because the case worker is incompetent and is afraid of family member of person being investigated. Also, the supervisor is failing to do their job.

  • Dave R.

    there is enough money to fund the system , you have to have dedicated people , willing to work, and get out from behind their desk,,,,,

    • Debra

      So are you going to apply for one of those positions? No, the workers are not paid enough. There is not enough money , family services or foster homes.

  • Dave R.

    duh, anyone could of told us that

    • J

      "Could have" or "Could've."

      Please don't murder the English language.

      • ConservativeRealist

        Proper English, diction and grammar died a long time ago on this website...both from the reporters and the commentors...

  • Debra

    Look people, there are procedures you must go through in order to remove children from their homes. Then you must continue through the improvement period process, if need be you must find foster homes for kids, find programs to help families meet the improvement period requirements, and support the DHHR workers trying to implement the services. There is not enough money to properly fund the system. We currently don't have enough foster homes for the children already in the system. If I am recalling correctly, we also failed a audit of the foster care system. Money is sorely lacking in the system.

    • Jammy Bell

      If they would give services before removing the kids then there wouldn't be as many foster children all our family needed was some counseling now our kids are in the system and will be for atleast six months.

  • Kevin

    Wow, this is a big surprise. I know of numerous times that CPS has been called to different locations and they either blatantly state they are not going, and/or don't show up at all. Another government agency that doesn't do their job that they are paid to do. I just hope that they actually fix the system, but if it is like everything else in government, nothing will happen.

    • Scott

      Kevin, you try doing their job that they're paid to do....underpaid I should add. They are understaffed and overwhelmed. I know a worker personally who has just under 200 cases by themself. How on earth can someone be expected to handle and monitor 200 individual and unique cases? Those social worker are facing unbelievably difficult circumstances and should get more support, not just from their employers, the State of WV, but from its citizens as well.