BUCKHANNON — The Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur held a virtual meeting Thursday and welcomed guest speaker Sarah Crum from the WV DHHR.
The club has been busy with their blood screenings and blood drives, which will continue into October. “The community seems to love it, the lab staff really like it, and it is working out beautifully,” according to Lisa Wharton, club member and St. Joseph’s Hospital VP of Marketing and Public Relations.
Interested in hearing more about the new regulations in place to improve foster care, Sarah Crum was invited as the guest speaker. She explained a new WV DHHR policy in place, called “Family First Prevention Services Act.” This Act places an emphasis on family foster homes. With limited exceptions, the federal government will not reimburse states for children placed in group settings for more than two weeks. This reform aims to alter child welfare systems across the country by providing services to families who are considered at risk of entering foster care.
There has been a big push from the federal government to keep kids safe in their own home, rather than removing them, Crum explained. Statewide, she reported that 400 children have been placed out of state, but said the goal is to get them back in West Virginia. There are a couple of reasons for this, Crum explained. The eastern panhandle of West Virginia boarders Virginia, Maryland and D.C., so it is closer to place removed children in these neighboring states rather than taking them hours away to a different part of the state—like Charleston, for example. West Virginia also lacks facilities for certain types of issues, such as fire setters. Therefore, if a child suffers from and issue like this, they will likely be placed out of state.
According to Crum, Upshur County currently has 78 children in placement and has the highest rate of removal out of its district, which includes Upshur, Lewis and Braxton counties. Within these three counties alone, approximately 200 children are presently placed out of their homes by the state.
Sometimes families are not necessarily dealing with CPS issues, but rather money issues, where they cannot afford food and clothing, according to Crum. “We are being trained as we speak on our new federal mandate, which for the first time ever, will allow federal money to be allocated on preventative measures, instead of reactionary measures,” she explained. Essentially, these measures will be in place to help prevent children from being removed. This is going to require a lot of changes and adjustments for the WV DHHR staff and providers in the area. Crum expressed, “We are hopeful this is going to be beneficial in keeping more children in their home, because DHHR’s philosophy is, children are better off in their biological home and we strive to achieve that.” The WV DHHR is currently in need of food, diapers, pajamas, socks, underwear, toiletries, etc.
The Rotary Club is in the process of making a charitable donation to the WV DHHR to help provide clothes and toiletries for children removed from their homes. Crum explained if Rotary would gather items and place them in a Ziploc bag with a label, they will be placed in a bookbag and given to children when they’re removed from their homes.
Crum said they are currently filing approximately three petitions a month in Upshur County. These numbers have been down slightly since school has been out of session, given that many referrals typically come from schools. However, Crum is assuming they will see an increase in referrals with school back in session.
The club also discussed needs at the Parish House’s Clothes Closet, especially with the changing of seasons. Students from West Virginia Wesleyan College previously volunteered, but with the college going virtual for the remainder of the semester, they are in need of volunteers.
They also welcomed new member, Dr. Susan Aloi. Dr. Aloi recently resigned from WVWC and took on a new role as the Health Program Officer at the Pallottine Foundation of Buckhannon.