W.Va. lawmakers eye legislation to make the state a safer place for children


Lawmakers in Raleigh County toured the child advocacy center ‘Just for Kids’ on Thursday morning.
Lawmakers in Raleigh County toured the child advocacy center ‘Just for Kids’ on Thursday morning.(wvva)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 1:30 PM EST
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Lawmakers in Raleigh County toured the child advocacy center ‘Just for Kids’ on Thursday morning. The non-profit helps victims of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and child neglect in several of the surrounding counties.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers provided nine million dollars to crime victims across the state after an unexpected shortfall in federal funding. At the time, child advocacy centers such as ‘Just for Kids’ were at risk of taking a major hit.

West Virginia Child Advocacy Network advocates said Del. Brandon Steele, Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in coming through with a fix.

“Like most attorneys, I’ve come into contact with children who have experienced childhood trauma like child sex abuse and neglect. Seeing the work that these folks do is a big difference maker in making sure law enforcement and the justice system can come out with an appropriate outcome and try to restore children who have gone through a trauma like this.”

In the Spring, lawmakers also passed legislation to protect potential victims from school service personnel under investigation. Del. Jordan Maynor spearheaded the legislation to place these employees on administrative leave.

“What that does is make sure children who have been abused by folks they’ve been interfacing with on a daily basis don’t have to face their abuser while the investigation is ongoing,” said Kate Flack, CEO of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.

Next year, Del. Steele hopes to strengthen the code against online predators.

“I plan on having a bill coming up that will address enticing a minor for sexual purposes to more closely mirror the federal statute as well as strengthen the sentencing structure to make it more reflective of how the community feels about it at large.”

While a lot has been accomplished over the last year, Del. Mayor said there is still more work to do. “They’re doing great work for our kids and our community. With a billion dollar surplus, I think we can invest in our kids.”