Voices’ Blog

2015 Legislative Session: Foster Care, Adoption, Child Welfare

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

During this year’s legislative session, Voices is continuing our advocacy campaign to ensure that youth who “age out” of Virginia’s foster care system have adequate transition supports and services as they move into adulthood and self-sufficiency. We’ll be advocating for several bills and budget amendments that will help Virginia broaden its support for this group of young people, who so often struggle without permanent family connections, and become susceptible to unemployment, school dropout, homelessness and getting swept up in the criminal justice system.

Extension of Foster Care Services & Adoption Assistance to Age 21

Advocating for this program has been at the top of our foster care agenda for several years now. Last year we were successful in keeping money in the biennial budget to fund the program, and this year we need to accomplish two final steps: 1) Preserving that funding in the introduced budget; and 2) passing the related bill that brings Virginia’s code into compliance with the federal Fostering Connections Act.

The bill is an administration bill, which is being carried by Sen. Favola: SB 967.

It will be heard first in Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee, possibly on Friday, January 23. The budget item will be discussed in conference towards the end of session, so our advocacy on the funding piece will be ongoing throughout session. We will share opportunities for advocacy as they arise, but please contact Senior Policy Attorney Amy Woolard (amy@vakids.org) if you haven’t already and would like to show your support.

Auto-enrollment of “Aging Out” Youth in Foster Care “Medicaid to 26”

A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that came into effect on January 1, 2014, provides that youth who age out of foster care may retain Medicaid eligibility until age 26, which mirrors an ACA provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 (youth who age out of care are not connected to their parents to take advantage of the parent provision). While this “Medicaid to 26” eligibility is a great step forward in assuring health coverage for these youth (who often have increased and chronic health needs), there are implementation challenges that Voices has been working to remove.

This session, we will be advocating for a budget amendment that will streamline health coverage for youth who age out of care by automatically enrolling them in the new “Former Foster Youth” category. This will ensure they do not experience a break in coverage, nor will they become hamstrung in the enrollment process, which can be complicated to complete, especially during a challenging transition out of care.

Adoption and Child Welfare

Several bills have been filed related to post-adoption services, kinship diversion, adoption, representation of parents in termination of parental rights cases, and other issues we care about. We’ll be tracking those bills — monitoring some, weighing in on others. We’ll keep you posted through more blog posts, Friday email updates, Action Alerts and other opportunities to learn more and share your thoughts with us. You can find a comprehensive list of legislation filed this session here. Please feel free to email amy@vakids.org with questions about particular child welfare, foster care, juvenile justice and adoption bills you might have.

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