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Editorial: Foster Care

Elizabeth Hardy Has Tough Task Ahead

The Inter-Mountain

Gov. Jim Justice didn’t do Pamela Woodman-Kaehler any favors when he brushed off a reporter’s questions about the reason for her resignation as the first ombudsman of the state’s foster care system.

When asked whether Woodman-Kaehler was leaving because of a problem with the office, Justice deflected: ” … This business of attacking people and everything and, you know, just, you know, digging into everything, coming and going. I mean, if she’s telling us she got a better job, why don’t we celebrate that?”

It is always a wonder to behold a public official who pretends it isn’t a reporter’s job to dig into things on behalf of taxpayers and citizens. But that is another matter.

Whatever the reason for Woodman-Kaehler’s decision to leave the post, she is being replaced by Elizabeth Hardy, deputy director of the foster care ombudsman’s office. Hardy has a tall task ahead of her.

Lawmakers have repeatedly tried to increase the role of the foster care ombudsman and strengthen the office’s independence in the face of mounting criticism of the state’s foster care system. A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of foster care children in 2019 is ongoing.

In 2023, lawmakers tried to address concerns the ombudsman was unable to independently investigate deaths, abuse and neglect involving children and the juvenile justice system. In 2024, they made the Office of Inspector General (which houses the foster care ombudsman) an independent agency. The goal was to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in the agencies that used to make up the Department of Health and Human Resources.

But there have been obstacles at every turn, as the bureaucrats within those agencies appear more interested in withholding information than in fulfilling their responsibility to West Virginia’s most vulnerable children.

Read more: https://www.theintermountain.com/opinion/editorials/2024/06/foster-care-2/

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