The Times West Virginian

August 23, 2013

Immediate fix, not more study, must occur to protect children

Times West Virginian

— As a society, we need to protect those who are helpless, those who have no power to help themselves.

And in West Virginia, we need to do a better job at it.

In an audit released to state lawmakers earlier this week, workers with Child Protective Services are responding to complaints in a timeframe set by state law less than half the time. The audit found that in 2011, only 48 percent of complaints of abuse and neglect were investigated within the 14-day window, or 72 hours when danger is imminent.

This report comes off he heels of a national study that reported that West Virginia has the highest rate of children dying from abuse or neglect. The report, released by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, found West Virginia had a death rate at 4.16 children per 100,000 in 2011.

There are a lot of factors that lead to a startling statistic like that, but those in the court system say a rampant drug problem that is sweeping through the state can account for many of the deaths.

The fix isn’t an easy one. According to he audit, CPS, which is under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Children and Families, is unable to adequately recruit or retain trained workers who can handle the volume of calls and complaints. For the past six years, the department has studied the issue, but no actions have been taken to correct it.

It’s time to act.

The turnover rate a CPS is 28 percent for employees and 54 percent for trainees. That means that one out of every four social workers and more than half of those training for the position walk away.

Why? The pay is too low and the caseload is too much. They go on to work in other areas of the field with better pay and less demanding expectations.

We know it takes a special kind of person to risk their own life and to walk into the hell some of these children live in and go home each night unscathed emotionally and physically.

When you find that kind of person, you’ve got to keep them. If that means a larger pool of workers and higher wages, so be it.

The death of one child because of delayed response is unforgivable. The fact that so many innocent souls have lose their lives at the hands of the ones they trusted to care for them is inexcusable.

This isn’t a problem that requires more study.

This is a dire situation that needs an immediate fix.