Advocating for Improvements to Child Welfare in Special Session
Posted: - By:Allison Gilbreath
The corona virus pandemic makes it even more challenging than the usual for day-to-day care given by foster and kinship caregivers, and child welfare professionals. Many of these children have experienced adversity and trauma, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing. Virginia LDSS’s have seen a decrease in reports to child abuse and neglect but expects a sharp increase when schools reopen. Without the General Assembly’s leadership, child welfare could experience a crisis of its own. The Virginia General Assembly placed all new foster care spending allocated in the budget on hold while the state works to address challenges presented by COVID 19. Special session will be the first opportunity to address funding that was placed on hold. Below, we lay out of 2020 special session budget priorities.
The Foster Care Unified Agenda is created by partners from across the Commonwealth who represent policy advocates, service providers, parents and caregivers, and—most especially—youth to identify key legislative opportunities to improve Virginia’s child welfare system.
Special Session Priorities
Scale-up Evidence-Based & Community based services to Achieve Better Outcomes for Children and Families
Enable providers to implement more trauma-informed, evidence-based, and community based services by funding efforts to train providers in new models. To support implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act we must continue to invest in the infrastructure to scale up evidence-based services. In addition, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the foster care system. Support the funding of community based services will support families by preventing maltreatment of children and responding to needs of families involved in child welfare.
REALLOCATE: $15M in Governor’s budget to provide a range of evidence based and trauma-informed mental health, substance use disorder, and in-home parent skill based training to children at risk of entering foster care.
REINVEST: $12M to fund community based prevention and intervention programs – with dollars specifically allocated to funds programs targeted at communities of color.
Stabilize the Foster Care Workforce
The 2018 JLARC report highlighted that stability of the foster care workforce as one of the primary challenges. Turnover rates for an entry-level Family Services Worker Specialist is 42%, with retention efforts being an even greater issue is small, rural agencies. The minimum starting salary for an entry level position is $30,828, which is only slightly above the 2019 Federal Poverty Level for a family of four. The impact of the high-turnover of caseworkers on children is found in our low rate of permanency of children and the number of placements children experience. COVID-19 has further burdened the workforce with a combination of hiring freezes and more children with complex needs entering the system.
REALLOCATE: $18 Million over two years in Governor’s budget to increase family service specialists position salaries by 20%.
Special session begins on August 18th, follow this page throughout the legislative session for updates.