W.Va. Gov. boosting pay, support for child/adult welfare workers

W.Va. Gov. boosting pay, support for child/adult welfare workers
W.Va. Gov. boosting pay, support for child/adult welfare workers
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 12:05 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is moving forward with a series of continued improvements to Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services and Youth Services.

That’s good news, according to Kate Flack. She leads the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network, which partners with state and local agencies to help victims of child abuse.

Flack says she sees the pressure on Child Protective Services.

She spoke of one CPS partner forced to work 90 hours in that worker’s third month in the job.

“We do see them being stretched,” she said. “We see caseloads being very large, and we see it being hard for some of the CPS workers to be available to come to all of the meetings.”

But changes announced Tuesday could relieve that pressure.

Justice announcing $10 million to bolster recruitment, retention and support. It affects those working in Youth Services, as well as Child and Adult Protective Services.

“We’re trying to move, and move as prudently as we possibly can to make things better at DHHR,” he said.

The improvements include a 20% raise in starting pay, a special hiring rate of $50,000 CPS workers in three Eastern Panhandle counties and a boost in retention bonuses for those who stick around for two, four, six and eight years of service.

Anyone already working in these agencies who falls below the new salary classification will be immediately brought up to the new salary classifications, Justice said.

West Virginia Senate leadership called for some aspects of those changes three weeks ago in a letter to interim DHHR Secretary Jeff Coben.

“We all know that child welfare has been at the forefront of the issues facing DHHR and we have doubled down on our efforts on recruitment and retention,” Justice said in a prepared release. “These workers face extremely difficult challenges in their daily work and we need to ensure that they know that we support them in the important work they do to serve the families of West Virginia.”

Justice says DHHR has money in its budget to pay for the improvements, both for this year and years into the future.

If that’s the case, and Justice has been governor since 2017, WSAZ NewsChannel Three Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson had a simple question.

“Why has it taken so long to make these announcements?” Johnson asked.

“Curtis, listen, I’ll promise you to God above, if I had known of a situation, no matter what it was, of any situation, if it was brought to my attention, that you can do this and help these kids here, or you can do this and help the seniors here, or you can do something, you know, whatever it may be, I would have done it,” Justice replied. “And I did do it.”

Additional improvements include:

  • Increasing Youth Services classification to the same pay grade as CPS workers.
  • Creating 27 new full-time positions as paraprofessional staff to support field staff with administrative functions (coordinating travel and paperwork) that can take away time for actual casework.
  • Creating 10 new full-time positions for policy and licensing to support the increase in licensing/policy reviews and investigations at residential treatment providers, both in-state and out-of-state.
  • Purchasing tablets for field staff to access West Virginia People’s Access to Help (WV PATH), DHHR’s online eligibility system, in the field to help families enroll in and apply for services.
  • Installing Wi-Fi in all county offices.

“Any step that is going to remove some pressure from our partners and from the system is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Anyone interested in applying for a DHHR job should check the agency’s website or attend one of its job fairs.

That same website has a number if you know of someone being abused.

For previous coverage >>> CLICK HERE.