Voices empowers children, youth, and families disproportionately impacted by inequitable outcomes as agents in the creation of policy solutions to ignite change in their communities. Through our direct engagement with youth advocates and hearing from the professionals serving families, Voices embraces a variety of perspectives to create trauma-informed and healing centered spaces for advocates to share their stories and reconcile trauma through systems change.
For far too long, policies in our country and Commonwealth have perpetuated racism interpersonally, institutionally, and systemically, known as structural racism. The impact of historical racism and trauma show up in disparities in access and outcomes, including income and wealth, educational opportunities, and health. Our young people today still face the impact of historical racism within the systems they encounter and the communities they live. To ensure all children in Virginia have the opportunity to thrive despite race, geography or income, we must focus on the root causes that have produced inequitable distribution of resources, eliminate barriers to fair and equal participation and dismantle social and institutional biases.
The child welfare system was created to address family disruptions and to protect children and youth; the future of the system focuses on preventing disruptions and giving youth the tools to succeed.
Through meaningful policy change, we strive to build a child welfare system that strengthens and supports families, and prevents separation of families.
The child welfare system has not provided enough support to kinship caregivers and to young people aging out of foster care. One barrier to recruiting more kinship caregivers into the formal system is that they may not qualify for financial support and services if they have been convicted of a barrier crime. In addition, youth exiting foster care have great difficulty attending post-secondary education and gaining employment due to a variety of issues.
Child Welfare Priorities:
- Attract and retain the child welfare workforce by continuing to provide salary increases, develop a more robust training institute, and expand capacity for the Child Welfare Stipend Program.
- Continue to build on kinship care and supports by expanding the Kinship Navigator grants program and formalizing financial and social supports for kinship caregivers.
- Address disruptions in placement and care for hard-to-place children and youth by creating regional teams focused on hard-to-place children and youth with access to resources, such as expedited Medicaid enrollment and resources for transitional environments and housing.
- Support legislation to expand parent legal representation options for families involved in the child welfare system.
- Reinstate funding to support youth in foster care and aging out of foster care to access drivers licenses and car insurance.
Governor’s Proposed Budget:
- Includes $30 million to fund a portion of the salary increase for child welfare workers.
- Includes $8.2 million to implement improvements to the Child Protective Services Hotline through technology improvements and staffing.
- Includes $935,196 to expand the Kinship Navigator Program from 6 to 12 programs.
- Includes budget language to convene a workgroup to examine inclusion of residential treatment services in managed care.
House and Senate Budget Negotiations:
- Support House and Senate proposals for $250,000 to develop a Driver’s License Program for foster youth.
- Support House and Senate proposals for $1.2 million to expand Child Advocacy Centers.
- Support budget language from the House to extend the timeframe for use of funds for the Safe and Sound Task Force.
- Support $240,000 from the Senate for the expansion of the Child Welfare Stipend Program to support workforce development.
- Support $200,000 from the Senate to expand eligibility for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program.
- Support $250,000 from the Senate to create a fund for after-school care for foster youth.
- Support $35,000 from the Senate to study the feasibility of a Parent’s Advocacy Commission for legal representation for child dependency cases.
- Support budget language from the Senate to study increasing compensation for court appointed counsel fees for child dependency cases.