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Fear pervasive in West Virginia foster care system, ombudsman finds

By Taylor Stuck, The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Based on her first report to the state, the new foster care ombudsman has found success for people throughout the child welfare system, but fear and lack of information is pervasive.

The report by the director of the West Virginia Foster Care Ombudsman Office, Pamela Woodman-Kaehler, spans from November 2019 through the beginning of 2021. Woodman-Kaehler found fear of retaliation was a key factor for those who made complaints to the office. More than 90% of complaints to the office cited “fear of retaliation.”

“As a large, complex and often involuntary service, the foster care system can be forbidding and intimidating; it is not surprising that fear is a recurring complaint theme,” the report reads. “What is surprising is the pervasiveness of fear and the degree to which fear inhibits, or even obliterates, constructive communication.”

The ombudsman office was created during the 2019 legislative session, amended into the first foster care reform bill in response to the controversial switch to a managed care organization to coordinate foster care children’s health care needs. The role of the ombudsman is to advocate for the rights of foster children and parents by participating in investigations of complaints by foster children or foster parents regarding inaction or questionable actions by providers of managed care services or of social service agencies…

To read more: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/fear-pervasive-in-w-va-foster-care-system-ombudsman-finds/article_e59eed89-acd6-57e2-b684-54b8728c41a9.html

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