Every day, children enter West Virginia’s foster care system. Sometimes, they are in the temporary custody of a family, but often, they are sent to facilities for an undetermined period of time. What types of facilities are these, and how often does the foster care system rely on them? That’s what Owomide set out to find out.
Owomide Adeyemi is a WVU School of Public Health graduate student in pursuit of a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology. She also works at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital as an Addiction Specialist, which has given her the opportunity to work closely with individuals whose lives have been affected by drug use. She joined Think Kids in June to begin the process of compiling and centralizing state-specific, kids’ health data. For this project, Owomide studied WV Foster Care Legislative Reports and created GIF/MOV4 images to be shared on social media and our newsletters.
The first of the “Where Do the Kids Go” series focused on creating awareness for the opioid epidemic and the negative effect that it has on West Virginia youth who have been affected. We showed a 66.21% increase in the number of children placed in the foster care system from January 2015 to May 2021. This increase occurred when the state’s population began decreasing with the WV youths being placed in out-of-state facilities.
Segment two of the “Where Do the Kids Go” series starts fixing the narrative that when children enter the foster care system, they are quickly placed with a foster care family. This is a common misconception as many youth are not placed with foster families, but instead in a facility.
This video involved the agency foster family care and therapeutic foster which both saw a 90% decrease and 109% increase respectively in the number of children placed
Segment three highlights the important role that mental health plays in an individual’s overall wellbeing, as well as two main psychiatric facilities in WV where foster care youths are placed. This is based on their level of needs which are either long-term or short-term. The negative aspects of children being unnecessarily segregated into residential treatment facilities are also discussed to create awareness to the trauma that the children might experience.
In segment four, we look at the number of WV children in the foster care system who are sent to out-of-state facilities. With the continuous rise of the drug crisis, we observed an increase in the number of children that were being removed from their homes and placed in facilities further away from their community and family.
I also reference the letter written by the U.S. Department of justice to then-governor Tomblin regarding the large percentage of WV youths being placed in out-of-state residential facilities and the lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Segment five focuses on detention centers and group residential facilities. In West Virginia, there are 10 youth detention centers under the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation that are being held for allegations of or have been convicted of offenses that are categorized as crimes for adults.