On-line dashboard offers extra details about help for six,654 foster kids

West Virginia debuted an online dashboard meant to better understand the status of the state’s 6,654 children in foster care.

The new site also uses charts and graphs to provide information like where, generally, foster children are placed, their age range conveys, the number of out-of-state placements and where they are, and the status of child welfare positions.

Initially, the dashboard was part of a broad foster care bill that was considered by the state Legislature earlier this year. That bill wound up not passing, but Gov. Jim Justice’s administration went ahead with this version.

“We’re trying to provide this information so people have a better idea of ​​what we’re doing with regard to our child welfare system,” said Bill Crouch, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“It really is a snapshot in time, and we will update that snapshot monthly in terms of not only the children that are under the care of DHHR, broken down by county and district, but also out-of-state placements and workforce information. ”

There is a new foster care information page on the @WV_DHHR website. What figures will be shown on this page? Bill Crouch, DHHR Secretary, details the page to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 1, 2022

Secretary Bill Crouch

During a statewide briefing earlier this week, Crouch acknowledged that the dashboard might not exactly align with what legislators had first described. But he hoped it will be helpful.

“Certainly, we were working with the Legislature during the session on the legislation to create a dashboard. The appearance of any pushback probably had to do with what was on the dashboard, what was being proposed. Child welfare is a tough, tough issue for a variety of reasons, one of which is the confidentiality of those children,” Crouch said.

“We have created a dashboard that is probably not going to satisfy everyone. What ended up in the legislation was very comprehensive, and we may get to that point with a lot of information. We will get to that point with a lot of information.”

Lisa Zukoff

Delegate Lisa Zukoff, D-Marshall, said the dashboard is off to a good start.

“I’m really excited that they got this up and running so quickly after session,” said Zukoff, who was one of the most vocal advocates for its creation. “It’s obviously not everything we want it to be, but the fact is that both the governor and secretary say it’s a work in progress so I want to take them at their word for that.”

Zukoff said she likes that much of the dashboard information can be organized by county.

But there is more she would like to see be included: more definitions for users who aren’t immediately familiar with terms, data by race along with age groups and gender, general reasons for entering the foster care system, trends in retention for child welfare workers and a more interactive element to help connect foster children with the most appropriate resources.

“One of the items that we thought of in the Legislature, with this being interactive, it would help us find foster families for children coming into the system that might have more specific needs.

“You know, maybe a child of a specific race would feel comfortable going with someone of that specific race. Are there certified foster households available for specific age groups within a county? Are there certified foster families who can take in children with special needs? Maybe they have specific medical issues; they have a feeding tube, for example, or they have specific medical issues — and maybe there are foster families trained out there to do that.”

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