Twitter: vakids

Voices’ Blog

2018 Legislative Session: Advocating for Kids in Foster Care (Updated 02/23/2018)

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

In 2017, Voices successfully advocated for continued funding of Fostering Futures, despite a $16 million budget shortfall. In addition, we helped pass legislation that improved mutual family home assessments, provided families with adoption assistance for children with special needs, and ensured that youth aging out of foster care are automatically enrolled in health insurance, among other things. In 2018, we hope to build on these gains and push for greater improvements to the foster care system that will result in a greater number of children finding permanent family connections.

Kinship Care Advocacy Day

Left to right: Del. Riley Ingram, Allison Gilbreath of Voices, and Christy Horsley of CASA Central Virginia listen to foster care graduate Carl Price.

On Jan. 22, child advocates descended upon the General Assembly to advocate for Virginia to adopt the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP). KinGAP is a part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provides Virginia opportunities to promote permanency and better outcomes for children in foster care. KinGAP facilitates child placements with relatives and ensures permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The KinGAP bill contains eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.

Advocates included our partners from Virginia Poverty Law Center, Connecting Hearts, Children’s Home Society, CASA of Central Virginia, and directly impacted families and former foster youth.

 

Bills We Support

  • Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program: SB 44 – Favola and companions SB 636 – Dunnavant, HB 1333 – Brewer- create the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements. The bill also requires the Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations for the program.
    •  Update: SB 44 and SB 636 have passed out of House Appropriations (money committee) and are awaiting full approval on the House Floor. 
    • Update: HB 1333 passed out of the House (this is the first time KinGAP has made it out of the House), passed out of Senate Rehab and Social Services, and was sent to Senate Finance. 
    • The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) completed a revised fiscal impact for HB 1333, which is now in alignment with the impact report provided  by the Department of Planning and Budget. With the new impact report, the Department of Social Services has stated it is able to absorb the costs in its division budget. However, members on appropriations must still approve the program either by passing the bill or including it in the budget.
    • Voices and Virginia Poverty Law Center have developed a Kinship Guardianship Fact Sheet.
    • Budget Amendments
      • Sen. Favola has introduced a budget amendment for SB 44, Item 344#1s. This amendment provides funding for the fiscal impact of SB 44, which creates the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program. Amendments to the budget bill can add, modify, endorse, or delete items in the governor’s proposed budget. Before the General Assembly adjourns each year, a conference committee resolves any differences between the versions passed by the two houses.
      • Sen. Dunnavant has introduced an identical budget amendment, Item 344#5s.
      • Del. Brewer has introduced an identical budget amendment, Item 344#3h 
  • Close Relative Adoption – HB 241 – Brewer – lowers from three years to two years the amount of time a child must have continuously resided with or been under the physical custody of the prospective close relative adoptive parent in order for the adoption proceeding to commence in circuit court and be exempt from the parental placement provisions.
    • Updated: This bill has passed out of the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature to become law!
  • Adoption by foster parent – HB 418 – Foy – directs a circuit court to accept a petition for adoption filed by the child’s foster parent and to order a thorough investigation if (i) the child-placing agency holding custody of the child consents to the adoption after the child has resided in the home of such foster parent continuously for at least six months and (ii) the birth parents’ rights to the child have been terminated. Current law requires a circuit court to accept such petition in such circumstances only after the child has resided in the home of such foster parent continuously for at least 18 months. The bill provides that after the child has resided in the home of the foster parent continuously for at least 18 months, the consent of the child-placing agency holding custody of the child is no longer needed in order to require the court to accept the petition and order an investigation.
    • Updated: This bill has passed out of the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature to become law!

Check back to this page for weekly updates.

In the news: 

In the General Assembly, real life experience makes a difference – Daily Press, Feb. 15, 2018

Kinship bills attract attention of new delegates – WCVE: Jan. 30, 2018

 

Read More Blog Posts