Foster care reform bill amended by Senate committee

March 1, 2019

CHARLESTON — After a lengthy committee meeting that heard from several stakeholders, the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee on Thursday passed an amended version of the foster care reform bill.

The amendments aimed to make the bill a little more appeasing for those who oppose the bill.

Carrying concerns from Cammack Children’s Center in Huntington and other historic children’s institutions, Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Cabell, worked to amend the no eject/no reject provision in the bill.

The original language stated residential child care centers must accept any foster child who meets the center’s program criteria as long as the center has not met its maximum capacity and the centers may not discharge a child without the consent of the department and approval of the court.

“This is going to be going through a managed care organization instead of with the department,” Plymale said. “This is making sure if they accept a child, that they have the ability if there are some extenuating circumstances — the child has been diagnosed or something has happened — that there is a way to move a child to another facility that is a little more uniform in terms of the code we are writing.”

The amendment added language that is currently in residential care centers’ contracts with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, which more clearly spells out how centers can petition to have a child moved or to stop placements to the facility.

The second amendment made during the meeting will require 80 percent of the managed care organizations employees to work in state. This criteria is in DHHR’s MCO contract, but Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, wanted to codify it.

“We want to make sure (MCOs) aren’t just pulling from West Virginia, but investing in it,” Tarr said.

The committee also adopted a strike-and-insert amendment that made other clarifications committee chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said were approved by stakeholders.

The bill as a whole is a comprehensive piece of legislation. The managed care transition is the most controversial, with Marissa Sanders, representing the West Virginia Foster, Adoptive & Kinship Parents Network, saying parents fear their child won’t receive services or current providers will be out of network.

Sanders said instead of giving money to an outside organization, the state should be using that money to provide additional services to wraparound families.

Jeremiah Samples, deputy secretary for DHHR, said

the department can no longer properly manage the foster system. Recently, a child was hospitalized because his medical records did not follow him to his placement and no one knew his colostomy bag needed to be changed.

Samples said the goal of managed care is to assist Child Protective Services workers, the court system and foster parents find the best care for the child. If it doesn’t do that, he said, they have failed.

The bill also addresses other aspects of foster care, including some changes to the foster parent certification process, easing some burdensome requirements and requiring a study of kinship care. The bill, House Bill 2010, now goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck@TaylorStuckHD on Twitter and Facebook.