Voices’ Blog

2017 Legislative Session Wrap Up: Advocating for Kids in Foster Care

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

Updated: February 27, 2017

In 2016, Voices successfully advocated for the inclusion of Fostering Futures in the budget. Fostering Futures supports youth who age out of Foster Care to age 21 by providing casework, housing, tuition assistance, among other things. We are happy to share that there were no cuts in the 2017 Senate or House proposed budgets! 

Foster Care Advocacy Day was Wednesday, January 18th

We partnered with Children’s Home Society of Virginia and Better Housing Coalition to host a legislative information session. We thank Senator Favola, Delegate Lingamfelter, and Delegate McQuinn for offering remarks and speaking in support of Fostering Futures. Later in the day, we were recognized by Delegate McQuinn in the gallery of the capitol.

After securing more supports for youth aging out of foster care through the Fostering Futures program, we will work to support improvements and enhancements to the program including better data collection and automated health care insurance enrollment.

Bill’s We Supported

  • Kinship Guardianship Assistance program: SB 876 – Favola – We supported the Kinship Guardianship Assistance programs that would have facilitated child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill contained eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements. KinGAP promotes a sense of belonging and helps children stay connected to their families and culture as well as prevents them from remaining in foster care.

Result: This bill went into conference ((when the Speaker and Lt. Governor appoints a small committee made up of House and Senate legislators to resolve disagreements on a particular bill) but no action was taken, so it essentially died. See you next year! 

  • Survey for children aging out of foster care: HB 1451 Farrell –  We strongly support incorporating youth voice into all aspects of the work done in the foster care. We supported a bill that directs the Department of Social Services to, in coordination with the Commission on Youth, develop a process and standardized survey to gather feedback from children aging out of foster care.

Result: The bill passed unanimously and has been signed by the Governor!

  • Mutual Family Assessment home study: HB 1795 Bell – Voices want to make sure that families who want to foster or adopt children are able to do so in the safest and most efficient manner. Home studies are conducted on families who are prospective foster or adoptive placements and over the summer I served on an advisory committee with the Commission on Youth to study this process and address barriers for families. This bill is a result of that work group and would require that home studies conducted by local boards of social services to determine the appropriateness of an adoptive or foster placement comply with the Mutual Family Assessment home study template and any addenda  developed by the Department of Social Services (the Department).  

Result: The bill passed unanimously and has been signed by the Governor! 

  • Foster Youth; enrollment in the Commonwealth’s program of medical assistance: SB1461 McPike – The bill effectively auto-enrolls youth aging out of foster care into Medicaid to 26.  We are excited to know that youth will be made aware of their right to health insurance coverage and enrolled in the program.

Result: The bill passed unanimously and has been signed by the Governor! 

  • Comprehensive community colleges; tuition grants: SB1032 – Favola  – Provides that certain Virginia students who were in foster care or in the custody of the Department of Social Services or considered a special needs adoption and are enrolled in a noncredit workforce credential training program in a comprehensive community college may qualify for a grant for the payment of tuition and fees. This bill is a part of the Governor’s package to expand the pool of recipients eligible for the Virginia Community College System’s Foster Care tuition grant program (See more).

Result: The bill passed unanimously and has been signed by the Governor! 

  • Adoption assistance; children with special needs: HB2215 – Toscano – This bill will make it easier for prospective parents to adopt children with special needs. It modifies the exception to the eligibility requirement that efforts be made to place the child in an adoptive home without the provision of adoption assistance to include consideration of the child’s best interest due to factors such as the child’s development of significant emotional ties with his foster parents while in their care, provided that the foster parents wish to adopt the child. This bill was a recommendation out of the Commission on Youth, which was tasked with addressing barriers to adoption for children.

Result: The bill passed unanimously and has been signed by the Governor! 

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