How Scientists, Faith Leaders, And Foster Parents Are Fighting Adversity Inside Appalachia

Oct 18, 2019

Adversity isn’t new to Appalachia. We’ve faced boom and bust cycles for over a century. This episode of Inside Appalachia looks at some of those struggles and various efforts to curtail them. We’ll hear stories about West Virginia’s overwhelmed foster care system, to questions about what is killing off apple trees. And we’ll explore the research behind job creation programs ⁠— many of which are supported by federal grants. Do they bring long-term economic impact to Appalachia? 


In This Episode: 

Foster Care

In many states, the opioid crisis is contributing to a surge in foster care cases. West Virginia has been hit especially hard. Child advocates are suing the state for allegedly failing to protect kids from abuse and neglect.

West Virginia has the highest rate of children in foster care in the country ⁠— about 17 out of every 1,000 children in the state are in state care, according to a recent report by Child Trends

There are a lot of families who are stepping up to take in foster kids, but many say they feel unprepared for the looming task of taking care of the children who are placed in their homes.

Salia’s Story

Salia's parents are in recovery after struggling with addiction and share her experience with the show's Karli—whose muppet character has a mom who is also in recovery.
Credit Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press

Kids whose parents struggle with addiction often don’t get the chance to talk about what they are going through. And the stigma that follows people with addiction often has long-lasting impacts on families. 

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Sesame Street launched a new short film to help kids who are going through tough times when their parents are struggling with addiction. 

Homelessness

The Charleston Gazette-Mail recently reported that four percent of all students in West Virginia are homeless, based on data from the state Department of Education. In Jefferson County it’s as high as 16 percent. Homelessness is everywhere, but in rural parts of Appalachia, it can be challenging to find resources to help get back on your feet. 

A pastor in St. Albans, Kanawha County, West Virginia saw that a homeless encampment consisting of about 10 tents in his community was being pushed out. People there were being told they had to leave. So, he decided to help. But not everyone in the town approves of the work he’s doing. Producer Kyle Vass reports. 

Job Training and Retraining

Finding long-lasting solutions to create jobs in Appalachia isn’t easy. There are programs trying to help, but are they really working? Some say we need investors to bring more industries. Others say we should be investing in our own entrepreneurs who can create home-grown businesses. Most economists say it will likely take many different approaches to make real progress.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced nearly $5 million for worker training programs in Appalachia. It’s the latest influx of funding aimed at blunting the job losses in the region’s coal sector. But critics of those programs say worker training alone is no solution. Becca Schimmel brings us this story.

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Promoting Nature Tourism Through A Local Legend

The Woodbooger statue in the Flag Rock Recreation Area in Norton, Va.
Credit Brittany Patterson / WVPB

One way people are looking to boost our economy is through tourism. Generally, jobs in outdoor recreation aren't as high-paying as those in the coal industry, but outdoor recreation is a multi-billion dollar industry. Other countries and some cities in the U.S. have been able to leverage their wild places as destinations for nature lovers. Some people have wondered, could Appalachia benefit from a similar approach? Reporter Brittany Patterson visited one community in southwest Virginia is using a local legend to help appeal to national tourists.             

Apples

Farmers in parts of Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina are losing their apple trees from what researchers call Rapid Apple Decline and researchers are trying to figure out what’s causing it.

Last year, we produced an episode about apple cider and apple pies. Here’s a recipe that West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard shared with us on how to make a delicious apple pie crust:

Nothing in the House Pie Crust

This is the standard crust recipe Emily Hilliard uses for most pies that call for a pastry crust. It makes enough for 1 double-crust pie. If you only need a single crust, halve the recipe, or make a full recipe and save half of the dough for a future pie by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and storing it in the freezer or fridge.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or 1 c. all-purpose + 1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour*)

1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 sticks COLD unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into slices

1/2 beaten large egg, cold (save the other half to brush on top of the crust)

1/4 cup ice-cold water

1/2 tablespoon cold apple cider vinegar (I keep mine in the fridge) 

Credit COURTESY EMILY HILLIARD

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or fork and knife, cut in the butter. You want to make sure butter chunks remain, as that's what makes the crust flaky.

2. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the COLD liquid ingredients. (Using cold liquids ensures that your butter will not melt — another crucial detail for a flaky crust!)

3. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour-butter mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Mix until dough comes together but is not overly mixed (it should be a little shaggy). Form into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before rolling out.

*If you use whole wheat pastry flour, you may need to add additional liquid.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WKU, the Allegheny Front, and the Ohio Valley ReSource, which is made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. 

Roxy Todd guest hosts this episode. Eric Douglas is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Brittany Patterson edited our show this week. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.