“The federal government has always paid us only if we pull children from their homes”
Crouch is West Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, head of the department of the same name.
Last week Crouch spoke to state lawmakers about upcoming changes resulting from the Family First Prevention Services Act, recently passed as part of a federal spending bill. The act will take effect in October of 2019.
“The federal government has always paid us only if we pull children from their homes,” Crouch said according to a report in the (Beckley, WV) Register-Herald, “so this is a huge change in how we’re able to deal with our child welfare problem.”
The recent opioid crisis has struck poverty-wracked West Virginia even worse than most states, causing another crisis in terms of child placement. According to the article, Crouch reported that 85 percent of the children in West Virginia foster care are there because a parent has a substance abuse problem.
“If we can keep children in the home, that child has a much better chance of being successful and proceeding through life in a healthy way,” the Secretary added.
It would be easy to question the veracity of that statement. Can children really be healthier left in the care of an addict than taken into foster care?
Yet studies have repeatedly borne it out, including a recent study from Finland, posted in The Lancet (medical journal) just this summer.
The study tracked outcomes for children first placed in foster care at ages 2-6 years, and found that in their twenties they showed markedly higher rates of substance related disorders, psychotic or bipolar disorders, and other psychological disorders, as well as higher incidents of psychotic drug prescriptions and criminal convictions than a control group of demographically similar children (in like situations) not taken from their natural homes.
To be clear, the Parental Rights Foundation by no means condones addictive behaviors in parents. Parents bear a responsibility to their children and to society to be the best parents they can be, and that is not possible while fettered by drug or alcohol addiction.
But the evidence is solid:
It is better for children to be kept with their families than separated from them, even while their parent’s addiction is dealt with.
So if it’s good for parents and it’s in the child’s best interests, why hasn’t this been the norm?
Let me quote it again: “The federal government has always paid us only if we pull children from their homes.”
Under current federal law, including the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), federal funds are made available to the states based on the number of children taken into state care and the length of time they remain in state custody.
But the new Family First Prevention Services Act is a game changer. It will allow states to receive federal dollars for efforts to keep children and families together, to work on beating a parent’s addiction before child removal becomes necessary.
And that is especially good news in West Virginia, where it will serve as an incentive to see as many as 85 percent of foster care children put back at home where they belong.
Director of Communications & Research
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