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WV DoHS files motion for summary judgment in child welfare class action lawsuit

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Human Services (DoHS) has filed an extensive pleading asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia hearing the challenge to its operation of the child welfare system in Jonathan R., et al. v. Jim Justice, et al. to decide the case on summary judgment, without proceeding to a costly and unnecessary trial. 

As required by federal litigation rules, over the last five years, DoHS has turned over 3.2 million pages of documents, including reams of data, and made dozens of its employees available for examination by plaintiffs’ counsel. The motion filed on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, asks the court to find, based on undisputed facts reflected in these documents and testimony, that there is no scenario under which plaintiffs could win if this case were allowed to proceed to trial at the taxpayers’ expense.

The motion also outlines just some of the hundreds of actions that DoHS has taken in the last five years to recruit and retain more Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers, improve case planning, expand community-based mental health services, recruit foster families, improve training of CPS caseworkers and supervisors, assess the health needs of foster children, monitor service provision, and reduce reliance on residential treatment. The child welfare program of 2024 looks vastly different from the program as it existed when plaintiffs brought suit. As set forth in the motion:

“While there is still room for improvement, DoHS has devoted substantial resources to making those improvements, with the support of the West Virginia Legislature and the courts, and will continue to do so,” said Cynthia Persily, Ph.D., Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Human Services. “In West Virginia, as in every State child welfare program, there are always individual cases in which DoHS could improve. However, the statistics are clear that, on a system-wide basis, West Virginia has much to be proud of.”

DoHS recognizes that the many successes it has achieved over the last several years ultimately depend on foster families, dedicated CPS caseworkers, and mental health professionals. Earlier this year, DoHS along with Aetna Better Health of West Virginia, Mission West Virginia, and 10 foster care agencies joined in collaboration to launch a statewide campaign focused on recruiting foster parents and addressing the shortage of foster care placements in West Virginia. Since its successful launch in March, close to 400 families have reached out with interest in the state’s first collaborative foster care campaign. 

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