CHARLESTON, WV - A dashboard showing detailed information on West Virginia’s foster care and child welfare system will be available today on the website of the Department of Health and Human Resources.
Bill Crouch, cabinet secretary for DHHR, said the new child welfare dashboard will be online at dhhr.wv.gov. It will include data on child placements, referrals, and staffing numbers.
“This will be a living document and we’ll make changes periodically as we have with the COVID dashboard to improve the information on the dashboard or add to the information on the dashboard,” Crouch said Wednesday during Gov. Jim Justice’s virtual briefing. “We will update it monthly, and we welcome feedback in regard to that dashboard and we look forward to suggestions and changes.”
House Bill 4344, a foster care reform bill that had wide bipartisan support in the House of Delegates, but foundered in the Senate after being gutted, had language creating a foster care dashboard as it came over from the House. The Senate Finance Committee gutted much of the bill, including removing the dashboard language at the request of DHHR. The bill ultimately died before the end of the legislative session.
“Certainly, we were working with the Legislature during the session on the legislation to create a dashboard,” Crouch said. “The appearance of any pushback probably had to do with what was on the dashboard that was being proposed.”
Crouch said that DHHR had concerns about some of the information lawmakers wanted available through their proposed dashboard. The overwhelming concern of state welfare officials was breaching confidentiality of children within the foster care and child protective services systems.
“Child welfare is a tough, tough issue for a variety of reasons,” Crouch said. “For one, the confidentiality of those children. We are very, very serious about making sure our children are cared for adequately when they come under our care; and that information about those children is not released. I think that was probably the issue there. We have created a dashboard that will probably not satisfy everyone.”
During testimony before the Senate Finance Committee in March, Jeffrey Pack, commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau of Social Services, said the dashboard as proposed by lawmakers was problematic. Speaking Tuesday, Crouch said the dashboard will become more comprehensive as time moves along. DHHR officials are also considering what could go into a new foster care bill similar to HB 4344 next year.
“What ended up in the legislation was very comprehensive. A lot of the information may get to that point,” Crouch said. “We discussed last week that legislation that we could include or not include initially in a dashboard. We’re rolling this out. I have always been supportive of a dashboard and providing public information. We haven’t done enough in terms of child welfare. I’m confident with Commissioner Pack that we’re going to tackle these things. The dashboard is a part of that.”
Bill Crouch, Cabinet Secretary for DHHR