Cumberland Times-News

April 20, 2013

W.Va. putting new focus on foster kids who age out

VICKI SMITH
Associated Press

— MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Megan Moore was 19 the day she walked away from nine years of foster care and group homes. She had earned her high school diploma, and she was excited, anxious and free — her head “a big ball of buzzing bees,” as she puts it.

Legally, she was an adult, but like hundreds of older teens who languish in foster care year after year, she was unprepared for independence. College and a career as an emergency medical technician are now dreams deferred.

“I’ve seen so many girls go out and fail utterly,” said Moore, now 22. “I failed, too.”

Indirectly, so did the state agency that tried to help. Child-welfare officials acknowledge they could have been doing more to prepare teens like Moore long before they’re on the brink of adulthood.

In the past two budget years, the Department of Health and Human Resources returned nearly $1 million in unused federal funds aimed at helping young people who age out of the foster system with few skills to succeed in life.

That won’t happen again, DHHR Commissioner Doug Robinson said. West Virginia returned $600,000 in unspent funds two years ago, but only $357,000 last year. When the next September deadline rolls around, the agency expects to return little or no money.