Protect Our Children
What WV Can’t Wait For
We will have a state that invests in home-visiting, childcare benefits for working families, good jobs for childcare providers–and in protecting families’ rights to love and take care of each other. There is no more valuable work than raising a child.
Whose Side We’re On
- Foster kids fighting to be treated like they matter
- Kinship and Grandfamilies
- Grandparents rationing medicine to care for grandkids
- Educators working with traumatized children
- Foster children who need more care, not less
- Young people who want to stay in WV when they’re adults
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
19,000 babies are born in West Virginia each year. These children could have bright futures, but too many open their eyes to a world where the odds are stacked against them.
This, even though it’s the richest time in our state’s history.
We know that quality, affordable child care makes kids healthier and smarter. Quality, affordable child care puts money back in the pockets of working families.
But right now across West Virginia, working families have few–if any– options for affordable quality child care.
While the median annual cost for a child under four in a full-time childcare center is $8,320 dollars, a single parent making minimum wage in West Virginia only makes $18,200. Working class parents essentially have two options, both awful: “I can stay home, and lose wages. Or I can go to work, lose time with my child, and still be unable to make ends meet.”
Currently, the cost of childcare is not only unaffordable: for too many families it’s completely unavailable, especially in rural areas, where 3 in 5 communities lack childcare options, and home visiting reaches just a fraction of the families who could benefit from programs like Parents as Teachers, Mountain State Healthy Families and Maternal Infant Health Outreach Workers (MIHOW).
West Virginia already has one of the strongest Pre-K programs in the nation for 4-year-old children. However, for parents with children ages 0-3, there are few options.
The other side of the coin is that caregiving work is grossly undervalued, especially for women. At the same time working families can’t afford childcare, professionals who work in the childcare field are underpaid, with few benefits. Meanwhile, our state is also suffering through a foster care crisis that is terrorizing a generation of kids, with more than 7,000 children in state custody.
Is it any wonder we face historic levels of child poverty, overdose deaths, and children in state custody?
It doesn’t have to be this way.
In fact, we can not only have a better future for our kids, but for our towns too. Cases show that childcare yields an $8 rate of return for each $1 invested. And those returns go directly back to us, the public, not to out-of-state shareholders, millionaires, and billionaires.
At the end of the day, we must value the work of caregiving, and win childcare options that work for our families.
- Immediately raise the income limit for child care subsidies to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, increasing access to childcare for more than ten thousand more working families, each year.
- Immediately pass the Workers Bill of Rights, which includes earned sick days, paid family leave, and a $15 minimum wage for all workers, as well as our Mountaineer Service Corps plan, which will create more than 200 child protective services jobs (and other, related positions) to finally treat our foster and kinship problem like the crisis it is.
- Reinstate the Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Families to ensure the coordination, alignment, financing, efficiency and accountability of the state’s services to children and families, and to begin a five-year plan for expanding childcare to every child:
- Phase in evidence-based voluntary home visiting programs (aka In-Home Family Education) in every county for families who are expecting or raising young children ages 0-3, and who want to participate.
- Expand the Birth to Three program to serve 2,000 more children.
- Aim to establish Family Resource Centers to be available in all 55 counties helping families connect to one another through groups like Circle of Parents and to be a hub for families.
- Implement a quality improvement system for child care, which will increase the pay and training available to child care workers.
- Add $3 million in NIP credits, including set-aside dollars available to organizations led by people whose race and class are underrepresented
- Empower a Taxpayer Council on Children & Families, in conjunction with the Governor’s Cabinet, above. The Taxpayer Council would include representation from biological parents, medical professionals, youth advocates, service providers, and foster/adoptive/kinship parents to craft a wide range of initiatives to protect children, including for example:
- Recommendations for how to shift the child protective services system toward restorative action, and away from punishment/removal. We will not confuse poverty with neglect or abuse.
- Protection of the rights of children to be cared for and loved by both parents when they are fit. The state must have no authority to terminate contact or remove children unless there is some clear, specific, articulable, and convincing evidence that the contact would put the child in danger of irreparable harm. Under no circumstances may a fit parent lose the right to contact with his or her child. Being unable to make rent or pay bills–or living in a rural area with sparse services–does not equate to child neglect.
- Measures to increase parent participation in schools, school boards, and government
- Measures to address the crisis of foster children who have been neglected in state custody, as well as the alarming numbers of children who have run away from state custody, including increased support for foster homes open to teenagers. We will maintain and increase the number of homes available
- Nondiscrimination in foster care placement for both children and parents.
- Support for permanency pacts for foster children who are aging out of care to ensure that they have a caring adult in their life as they transition to adulthood.
- More support to attend and participate in relevant court hearings; assurances that more time and care will be spent by the court system
- Creation of a centralized statewide database of all foster families.
- Provisions for better oversight and training for Guardian Ad Litems, child protective services workers, and others.
- Make sure that frontline workers are heard throughout DHHR and the Office of Early Childhood Development
(Note: See Education Plan, Family/Small Farms Plan, and other plans for how we will address the needs of children in schools, child hunger, and other issues.)
- Tackle the foster care crisis from all angles.
- Reverse the privatization of foster kid’s health care benefits.
- Kinship families should receive the same benefits that foster parents do (funded largely through Federal Family First Prevention Services Act).
- Pay increases, training, and more hiring of well-qualified child protective services workers and public defenders, whose caseloads are over-taxed.
- Support the development of a statewide foster, adoptive, and kinship parents network. This network, among other things, would help recruit and support families.
- End the Cliff Effect–where families who work harder get poorer. Working class families face a bureaucratic nightmare–a complicated web of benefits that effectively penalizes hard work and family. We will work with state and federal regulators to streamline the benefit system (so families can spend more time looking for work and taking care of kids, and less time doing paperwork), and we will end the perverse incentives that too often cause people to forgo a raise at work for fear of being unable to feed their families.
How We Pay For It
Net Cost: $120 million
These costs will be covered by our Penny Plan.
- Childcare expansion – $68 million
- Increased quality and reimbursement – $35 million
- Voluntary home-visiting programs – $19 million
- Birth to 3 programs – $4 million
- Family Resource Centers – $5 million
- Better training for CPS and other workers – $10 million
- NIP credits – $3 million
- Foster and adoptive family network – $1 million
Eliminating the $25 million giveaway to out-of-state insurance providers to manage our foster care health system.
There will also be significant return on investment in the long term, not counted here, that comes from investing in West Virginia children to help them do better and achieve more throughout their lives.
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at email@example.com.