CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The agency charged with protecting West Virginia's children from abuse and neglect suffers from high staff turnover, consistently fails to do timely investigations and appears unwilling to fix its many shortcomings, according to a legislative audit.
Child Protective Services is part of the Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Children and Families. The audit presented to lawmakers in Charleston says the bureau lacks a sense of urgency in recruiting, building and retaining a workforce capable of timely investigations.
While it has been aware of and studied the turnover problem for six years, the audit concludes, the bureau has done nothing to change the situation.
The Dominion Post says interim bureau commissioner Susan Hage told lawmakers that she is taking the report seriously and committed to change. She also acknowledged the bureau should be farther along in addressing 14 recommendations.
But state Sen. Donald Cookman, a Hampshire County Democrat and retired circuit court judge, called the situations laid out in the audit "appalling."
While state law requires CPS workers to respond to abuse and neglect reports within 14 days -- and within 72 hours in cases of imminent danger -- the audit found workers met that standard less than half the time.
In 2011, it said, only 48 percent of the cases were handled promptly.
A national report released last fall found that children are dying from abuse and neglect at a higher rate in West Virginia than in any other state, a problem that judges, social workers and others say is fueled by rampant substance abuse.