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Lawmakers set stage for showdown over foster care reform

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVVA) West Virginia lawmakers are divided over how to fix a foster care system in crisis. The House and Senate set the stage Thursday for a last minute showdown over two different bills aimed at overhauling the system.

While both bills address similar issues -- the biggest difference comes to funding. The House of Delegates bill provides for 18 million while the Senate includes 4 million.

Another difference is the house legislation would give a flat $300 dollar rate increase to both foster and kinship families. The Senate focuses much of its funding on the more vulnerable children.

"It provides a lot of flexibility to the DHHR to make sure that children with the highest needs can be compensated to a higher degree," explained Senate Pres. Mitch Carmichael.

While the tier system has the support of some Senate Democrats, the dividing line comes down to funding.

"The families aren't broken... the system is broken," said Sen. Ron Stollings, (D) Boone County. " The way to fix that is to invest in the system. The House version came over much better."

Both sides include a Bill of Rights for foster children and money for the hiring of dozens of new CPS workers -- something Sen. Pres. Carmichael said is desperately needed.

"We want to make sure that CPS workers have the funding and enough workers to ensure these children are being checked on and the system is functioning as it should."

The lawmakers have until the stroke of midnight on Saturday to reconcile the two different versions of the bill.

Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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