The chairman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee has been named to lead a newly created state bureau to manage child protective services.
Jeffrey Pack, a 41-year-old Republican from Raleigh County, will be the new commissioner for the Bureau of Social Services. He will resign his House seat before assuming the job with the Department of Health and Human Resources.
“Jeff’s experience serving as the chair of the House Health and Human Resources Committee is a great asset for the state,” stated DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch.
“As a legislator, he has seen first-hand the issues that many families face and has demonstrated great dedication to West Virginia’s children and families. He has led the effort to provide funding for Child Protective Services as well as shepherded the transition to managed care for our CPS population. I am confident he is ready to tackle this new bureau with a fresh perspective.”
Pack, who was first named to the House in 2018 and then re-elected, shepherded a broad-ranging bill of foster care reforms through the legislative process two years ago. That bill enumerated rights for foster families and increased per diem for foster families while establishing an equivalent rate for kinship families.
There are about 7,000 children in West Virginia’s foster care system at any given time, with a myriad of challenges.
“We have appreciated his concern for families and willingness to listen to their needs and concerns during his tenure as a delegate and committee chairman,” said Marissa Sanders, executive director of the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive, & Kinship Parents Network.
“He was instrumental in the passage of strong bills of rights for foster children and foster parents. We hope he will bring that focus on families to the new Bureau, including by interacting directly with youth and families who are part of the child welfare system. We look forward to working with him to make needed reforms to ensure that our child welfare system truly meets the needs of West Virginia families.”
Jim McKay, the state coordinator of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, noted that Pack oversaw passage of significant legislation to improve the state’s child welfare system, including the creation of an ombudsman’s office. Pack took special interest in listening to the voices of families, McKay said.
“We hope he will bring this same focus and dedication to listening to the lived experience of families with him in his role as Commissioner. This is a critical time for the field of child abuse prevention and child welfare in general,” McKay said.
“While there are great challenges, there are also innovative, effective, evidence-based strategies that help strengthen families, prevent child abuse, and reduce the need for foster care.”
Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is a longtime member of the House Health and Human Resources Committee who has perspective on the challenges the state faces with child welfare.
“Managing foster care and protecting the health and welfare of at-risk and vulnerable children is one of the most important responsibilities of our state. I have worked on this issue for years, but whatever good we’ve achieved has been upended by the destructive effects of the opioid crisis,” Fleischauer said this afternoon.
“It is hard to summarize how much it has affected families- – orphaning hundreds of children, harming their ability to get a good education, disabling and incarcerating parents — the list of negative effects is far too long. Delegate Pack will need many, many talented people and a lot of teamwork in his new position to improve on our state’s rather dismal record. I wish Jeff Pack well, and will do all I can to help our state’s children to thrive.”
The new role with DHHR came about after this year’s retirement of Linda Watts, the commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families.
Watts testified in early June before a joint health committee chaired by Pack that leadership at the Department of Health and Human Resources had decided to split the bureau that deals with child welfare issues into two.
One will be the Bureau for Family Assistance and Support, which will administer family assistance programs.
The other will be the Bureau for Social Services, which will manage protective services.
Today, DHHR said it would continue recruitment for a commissioner of the newly created Bureau for Family Assistance.
DHHR said the position leading the Bureau for Social Services pays $90,000 annually.
Pack is a graduate of Concord University, is a former coal miner and an Air Force veteran. The House district he represented covers parts of Raleigh, Summers, and Monroe counties.
“I am very blessed to be granted this opportunity to effectuate change within our child welfare system,” Pack stated. “We have the opportunity to enhance the lives of so many children who have faced significant challenges. I look forward to getting started.”