A generation of West Virginia's kids is drowning in the devastating effects of the opioid crisis. Many have no permanent place to call home, no permanent person to call a parent, and no plan to get back on their feet. They float between government systems that they rely on for care -- like schools, or foster care, or child welfare. These systems haven't adapted to the overwhelming needs caused by the epidemic. A growing number of kids are homeless, living in extended families, in foster care, and in residential facilities. Some even live in WVDHHR offices and hotels. And our state and communities-- ill-prepared for this tsunami of need-- are scrambling to care for them.
What kind of childhood is this? Who do we expect these children to become?
The "Year of the Child" campaign is a year-long event, created to form a critical mass of West Virginians who will help steer these children towards safer shores and healthy, outcomes. Let's start a statewide dialogue around their needs and how we-- not just government agencies, but all of us-- can coordinate our efforts, protect these children from further trauma, and produce sound policy changes that put them on the road to resilience. It will be a year-long process of listening, responding, drafting, and advocating for meaningful change.