West Virginia places four times as many children per capita into the foster care system as the United States as a whole. Most foster care entries in West Virginia are related to substance use or neglect—not abuse. Poverty and lack of access to substance use treatment are major drivers of foster care entry.[i] To solve our state’s foster care crisis, we must greatly reduce the flow of children into the foster care system by prioritizing primary prevention: keeping families intact when it can be done safely.
This requires providing evidence-based concrete economic and social supports to families before they are in crisis. States’ total spending on primary supports like cash assistance, housing infrastructure, child care assistance, refundable tax credits, and Medicaid is inversely associated with all child maltreatment outcomes.[ii]
As a follow up to our report, Moving Upstream: Improving Child Welfare in West Virginia Requires Addressing Root Causes of Hardship, the WVCBP put together a series of fact sheets highlighting the importance of safety net programs in reducing economic hardship and, by extension, the stressors that come with it which are a predictor for child welfare involvement.
Our four fact sheets spotlight the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, respectively, and how improving these programs can reduce the risk of child welfare involvement.
You can view the fact sheets below or download them all here.
[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. The AFCARS Report: West Virginia FY 2021. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/afcars-tar-wv-2021.pdf. Retrieved on August 22, 2023.
[ii] Puls et al. “State Spending on Public Benefits Programs and Child Maltreatment.” American Academy of Pediatrics Journal. Volume 148, Issue 5.
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