Voices’ Blog

Advancements in Virginia’s Kinship as Foster Care Prevention Program: SB 39 and HB 27

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

child hugging adult

In recent years, Virginia has made significant strides in enhancing kinship placements within its child welfare system, moving from 5% in 2016 to an impressive 20% in 2022, though still below the national average of 30%. This positive shift can be attributed to various initiatives, such as the establishment of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program, a kinship-only TANF financial assistance fund, and comprehensive kin-first guidance from the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS). 

New Legislation: SB 39 and HB 27 

This year, two legislators introduced SB 39 by Senator Favola and its companion bill, HB 27 by Delegate Callsen, both aimed at furthering the state’s commitment to foster care prevention, particularly through kinship placements. Notably, these bills represent a substantial improvement over their predecessors, incorporating critical protections for both the child and their family of origin, ultimately prioritizing the goal of reunification. 

Eligibility Criteria: 

The proposed legislation outlines specific criteria for a child to be considered eligible for the foster care prevention program: 

  1. The child is in the custody of a relative by a court order. 
  1. The child’s parent or guardian voluntarily placed the child with a relative and has a written agreement with the local board of social services. 
  1. The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child. 
  1. The local department of social services has documented the need for the child’s placement with the relative, citing imminent risk of removal. 

Key Provisions: 

Once a child is deemed eligible, the local Department of Social Services and the relative with custody will enter into a written agreement. This agreement includes provisions for financial assistance under the Foster Care Prevention Program and may also include ongoing case management services, ensuring comprehensive support for kinship caregivers. 


The local board is mandated to identify and provide necessary services and support for the child, the relative, and the child’s parent or guardian. Importantly, the legislation emphasizes due process, informing parents or guardians of their right to seek legal counsel before entering into the agreement. 

Additional provisions in the agreement cover visitation arrangements, requirements for the child’s parent or guardian to meet for reunification, and safety plans in case of the child’s return home. The agreement is time-limited, with an expiration date not exceeding 90 days, and provisions for extension, emphasizing the need for accountability and periodic review. 

SB 39 and HB 27 represent a positive and much-needed evolution in Virginia’s foster care prevention efforts. By prioritizing kinship placements and ensuring comprehensive support for both the child and their family of origin, these bills contribute to a more robust and compassionate child welfare system. As the legislation progresses, it is expected to further solidify Virginia’s commitment to keeping families together and promoting the well-being of children in need. 

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