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Senate Committee Aims To Improve Child Protective Services Plagued By Vacancies, High Turnover

Will Price
West Virginia Legislative Photography
Sen. Ryan Weld (shown in foreground), R-Brooke, and Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, are pictured during a meeting of the West Virginia Senate's Select Committee on Children and Families on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2020.

The West Virginia Senate’s Select Committee on Children and Families has advanced a bill that would create a string of reforms for employees of the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Children and Families. Senate Bill 312 would focus on pay, create a registration system for caseworkers and hopes to address issues of vacancies and turnover that have plagued the bureau.

The proposal would create a salary structure for different classifications of child protective service — or CPS — workers. Those new classifications would include trainees, investigators, caseworkers and supervisors. 

Additionally, Senate Bill 312 would create a registration system for the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor licensure status of social workers. Legislative auditors reported in November 2019 that DHHR has no way to monitor the licensure status of child protective services employees.

Lawmakers are also aiming to address vacancies and high rates of turnover in the bureau. 

According to the legislative post-audit report, 18% of child protective service caseworker positions across the state were vacant as of June, 2019. That same year, the state saw a 27% turnover rate, with that calculation being the number of employees who left divided by the average number of employees within a specific timeframe.

Select Committee on Children and Families Chair Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, asked West Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers CEO Sam Hickman why more college graduates with social degrees aren’t taking jobs with DHHR.

“The issue is not the number of people coming out of social work degree programs. The issue is whether or not they want to work for the DHHR — and whether DHHR can make them want to work for them,” Hickman responded. “The only thing I see that you haven't tried is a salary differential or a little bit of a pay bump for somebody who's really coming in with the degree that you want to put it out in front of our kids and families.”

The measure would also allow for the Bureau for Children and Families to create a team of five to ten caseworkers to specialize in bringing children in out-of-state residential facilities back to West Virginia.  

Senate Bill 312 now heads to the Finance Committee for consideration.

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