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Attorneys for foster children raise issues with West Virginia Department of Human Services

By Steven Allen Adams, The Intelligencer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Attorneys representing children in West Virginia’s foster care system said the state is actively hiding behind privileges meant to shield leaders of executive branch departments and their internal decision-making processes.

Attorneys for A Better Childhood, Disability Rights West Virginia, and the Shaffer and Shaffer law firm filed a memorandum of law last week replying to opposition attorneys for Gov. Jim Justice and the Department of Human Services filed earlier this month after the attorneys representing foster care children filed a motion to compel certain documents and testimony from state officials in May.

The coalition of attorneys represent 12 children in the state’s overloaded foster care system in a case filed in 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The lawsuit alleges that foster children in the state are often housed either in hotels, shelters, institutions or out of state and are subject to abuse and neglect.

The lawsuit seeks several reforms to the foster care system, including requiring children be placed in foster homes within 30 days, the filing of individualized plans for care with 60 days, ensuring the placement of children in safe homes and facilities with adequate monitoring, the hiring of more case workers and limiting of caseloads, and more.

Attorneys for the foster children are seeking hundreds of thousands of documents from the former Department of Health and Human Resources, now split in three with foster care under the Department of Human Services. But the state human services officials and the Governor’s Office have tried to use deliberative process privilege to avoid turning over certain documents and object to certain questions of individuals being deposed.

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