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State government is always growing

Only in West Virginia do we add layers of bureaucracy and call it streamlining. That’s just what is happening at the Department of Health and Human Resources, where its Bureau for Children and Families this month split into a Bureau for Social Services and a Bureau for Family Assistance and Supports.

Cammie Chapman, counsel for DHHR, told the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability earlier this month the creation of two bureaus out of one was necessary to keep social workers on cases from getting distracted by other issues, such as providing support for foster families, according to a report in The Herald-Dispatch.

Seems like the sort of thing that could have been resolved with a department-wide memo, rather than an upheaval of agency structure. But if the powers that be believe it will truly improve child welfare in the state, perhaps there are deeper, underlying reasons for the change.

According to Chapman, DHHR has also added 95 new positions since 2019 … and there is a 29% vacancy rate within Child Protective Services. Turnover rates are increasing, too. Maybe employees really were feeling as though they had to wear more than one hat to get the job done. Meanwhile, foster care ombudsman Pamela Woodman-Kaehler also spoke to the committee, and presented a report in which she had found fear is pervasive in the foster care system, and that communication is lacking at all levels.

There is a lot more work to do than just rearranging the furniture, then.

But, if officials truly believe that is the first step to resolving the many woes the bureau(s) face as they try to help children, so be it. Lawmakers will have to keep an eye on whether the change makes the only difference that really matters — doing better for Mountain State kids.

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