CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Department of Health and Human Resources will add 48 Child Protective Services positions across the state in attempt to reduce caseload numbers that have ballooned in the last four years because of the drug epidemic.
The agency announced plans Thursday to eliminate vacant positions in other parts of the agency and reallocate the jobs to CPS. The need is tremendous, according to DHHR Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples.
“West Virginia leads the nation in removals of children from the home. We have seen extraordinary increases in conjunction with the drug epidemic of CPS referrals and open cases,” Samples said.
There has been a 46 percent increase in number of kids taken into custody in the last four years and the state has experienced a 34 percent increase in its CPS caseloads over the past three years, Samples said.
“I really can’t articulate the degree of suffering this drug epidemic is having on our children in West Virginia and we need more people within DHHR that are keeping an eye on the children of this state,” Samples said.
The additional staff will be added to counties where the caseloads of CPS workers are higher than the 15 per worker agency target.
The counties and regions with additional positions added include: Barbour/Preston/Taylor counties; Boone/Lincoln counties; Brooke/Ohio/Hancock counties; Calhoun/Gilmer/Wirt counties; Doddridge/Pleasants/Ritchie counties; Harrison County; Kanawha County; Logan County; Marion/Monongalia counties; McDowell County; Mercer County; Nicholas/Webster counties; Putnam/Mason counties; Raleigh County; Randolph/Tucker counties; and Wood County.
Lowering the caseload is vital, Samples said.
“It allows them to spend more time with the children they’re aiding, with the families they are supporting. If we can try and save these families, the families that can be saved, that’s what we want to do,” Samples said.
Samples said the agency has put together several strategies to increase the pay of CPS workers. He said they will benefit from the five percent raise signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice earlier this month. Additionally, the agency plans to eliminate other vacant positions across DHHR and use the money to increase the pay of CPS and child welfare workers by another two percent. The ageny is also offering sign-up bonuses and retention bonuses.
“These are the hardest working people in the state of West Virginia,” Samples said. “They put themselves in harm’s way and deal with emotional turmoil. We are doing everything to bump those salaries,” Samples said.