The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register published this editorial regarding a lawsuit against the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources over resources to help the state’s foster children:

Nearly 2% of the children in West Virginia — more than 6,800 of them — are in some form of foster care administered by the state. Are we doing enough for them?

A lawsuit filed against the state Department of Health and Human Resources last week argues we are not, to the point that court intervention is necessary for the youngsters’ welfare.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit is on behalf of 12 children in the foster care system. It was initiated by a Charleston law firm, Disability Rights West Virginia and a national advocacy organization, A Better Childhood. It raises questions about institutionalized children, mental health services and whether the state has enough caseworkers to deal with the youngsters.

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch points out that it may cost the state millions of dollars to deal with the lawsuit. That is money that could have been used to improve the lives of children in foster care, he notes.

At the same time, Crouch makes at least part of the plaintiffs’ case. In discussing the matter with a reporter at The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, Crouch pointed out that during the past year, the DHHR has added more than 50 Child Protective Services personnel. Even more are funded for the coming year. And, Crouch notes, salaries for CPS workers have been increased to attract and retain people in what is an incredibly frustrating, demanding job.

Crouch’s comments could be taken as an admission that in the past, state government has not done enough for at-risk children. At the same time, however, increased funding is a reflection of much higher need because of the drug abuse crisis that has fractured so many Mountain State families.

“We welcome the opportunity to make our case in court,” Crouch told the The Herald-Dispatch. It appears it will come to that — a debate over whether the state is meeting what a federal court determines are the constitutional rights of foster children.

As always when our children are the issue, we West Virginians wish fervently that we could afford to do more for all of them. But we are a poor state, unable to have many things we would like from our government.

We are trying to do better for foster children. There is no doubt about that. Perhaps the key question regarding the lawsuit is whether we are doing the best we can with what we have. We may be about to find out.

Rare-earth mineral project could benefit West Virginia

The Inter-Mountain of Elkins, West Virginia, published this editorial on Oct. 4 regarding a federal grant for West Virginia University to study rare earth minerals:

Mention gadolinium, ytterbium and praseodymium to a friend and the reaction is likely to be, “Huh?” Yet those substances and 14 others also classed as rare-earth minerals are important. They are used in a variety of manufacturing, including cellphones and television sets.

Until the 1980s, a mine in California was among the world’s primary sources of rare-earth minerals. It closed years ago. Now, 81% of rare-earth production is in China.

Yes, that is a problem, for various reasons including our economy and national security.

U.S. researchers are attempting to find other ways to produce rare-earth minerals. One possibility — and it is only that, at this point — is coal mine tailings.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has announced that West Virginia University has received a $5 million federal grant to pursue research in rare-earth mineral recovery. That is excellent news, in part because if there is a way for such work to benefit West Virginia, WVU is likely to find it.

A team of WVU researchers led by Paul Ziemkiewicz is studying concentrations of rare-earth minerals at 120 acid mine drainage treatment sites in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Good luck to them in a very important project.

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