Author Archives: Allison Gilbreath

  1. A Comparative Analysis of House and Senate Proposed Budgets for Child Welfare: A Closer Look at Key Allocations

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    Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

    As Virginia grapples with the multifaceted challenges of child welfare, members of the money committees play a crucial role in shaping policies and providing funding to support vulnerable children and families. In this blog post, we will dissect the proposed budgets from both the House and Senate, focusing on key allocations aimed at improving foster care, adoption, and child welfare services. 

    Included in House and Senate Proposed Budget: 

    1. Foster Care & Adoption COLA – $7 million (7%): The House’s commitment to a 7% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for foster care and adoption services underscores a dedication to enhancing the well-being of children in the system.
    2. Nongeneral Funds for Local Staff and Operations – $85.2 million NGF: Allocating substantial non-general funds to local staff and operations ensures that resources are available at the grassroots level, where they are needed the most.
    3.  Child Welfare Forecast – $3.2 million: By dedicating funds to forecasting child welfare needs, the House aims to create a more proactive and responsive system, better equipped to address emerging challenges.
    4.  Kinship as Prevention Program Bill – $16 million: Recognizing the importance of kinship care in preventing children from entering the foster care system, the House allocates a significant budget to support this preventive measure.
    5.  Training Academy – $8.2 million (House) $3 Million (Senate): Investing in the training and development of social services employees demonstrates a commitment to enhancing the skills and knowledge of those on the front lines of child welfare.
    6. Transfer Funding for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care – $1.3 million: Shifting funds from the Department of Housing & Community Development to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) reflects a strategic move to streamline support for youth transitioning out of foster care.
    7. Drivers License for Foster Youth – $620,000 (House) $500,000 (Senate): The allocation for a driver’s license program for foster youth acknowledges the importance of empowering them with essential life skills and independence.
    8. Support Foster Youth in Great Expectations Program – $1.3 million (House) $1 million (Senate): This funding emphasizes the commitment to providing support for foster youth pursuing higher education through the Great Expectations Program. 

     

    House Proposal Only 

    1. Kin First Consultants – $504,154: Supporting kinship caregivers through consultants emphasizes a holistic approach to child welfare, recognizing the pivotal role played by extended family members. 
    2. OES Staff Support for Child Dependency Cases (HB 893) – $989,000: Supporting staff involved in Child Dependency Cases ensures a robust and efficient system for addressing complex legal and social challenges. 3.
    3. Child Dependency Cases: Court-Appointed Attorneys – $7,310,000: Adequate funding for court-appointed attorneys demonstrates a commitment to fair representation and due process in child dependency cases. 

     TAKE ACTION

    Over the next two weeks, negotiators will work out key differences in the two budgets. Send an email to legislators today telling them to fully support investments in child welfare.  As the legislative process unfolds, Voices will closely monitor how these budgetary decisions translate into impactful changes on the ground. 

  2. Motherhood: A Journey in Advocacy

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    Becoming a mother almost six years ago was a transformative experience that reshaped my worldview in profound ways. As I navigate the complexities of raising my children, I’ve discovered invaluable lessons about advocacy that have enriched my work in ways I never anticipated. 

    This Monday, as I accompanied my son to the Fund Our Schools Advocacy Day, I was struck by the parallels between motherhood and advocacy. President’s Day meant a school holiday, leaving me without child care. So, with my son by my side, I ventured into the halls of the General Assembly building, watching him confidently interact with legislators.  

    His ease in those corridors reflected my own journey, from a nervous intern to an advocate unafraid to speak truth to power. During this legislative session, I provided testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, highlighting that I’ve incurred child care expenses exceeding $87,000 over the past six years. Delegate Sewell acknowledged this during a chance encounter this morning when she paused, shook my son’s hand, and mentioned, “Your mommy talks about you all the time here.” 

     

    Over the years, I’ve woven advocacy into the fabric of motherhood, creating spaces where my children can witness democracy in action. From the Virginia General Assembly to the White House, they’ve accompanied me, absorbing the importance of civic engagement. These experiences have underscored a fundamental truth: motherhood and advocacy are deeply intertwined, each enriching the other in unexpected ways. 

    In my advocacy journey, I’ve spearheaded initiatives like Voices’ foster care policy network and the bipartisan foster care caucus with the Virginia General Assembly. These efforts have led to tangible change, including the creation of  Fostering Futures, Virginia’s extended foster care program. However, progress often unfolds slowly, mirroring the gradual development we witness in our children. It takes time, patience, and unwavering dedication to see meaningful results.  

    In my eighth legislative session with Voices, there is a glimmer of hope as we approach the potential passage of the Kinship Prevention Program. This initiative aims to allocate funding specifically for kinship caregivers, offering them essential wrap-around supports to better navigate their crucial role. This advocacy journey began with kinship listening sessions, followed by the successful passage of the kinship guardianship assistance fund, and later, the introduction of kinship maintenance payments. While the potential passage of this bill may not yield a perfect solution, it signifies a step forward—tangible progress in our ongoing efforts. 

    My children, like many others, have faced developmental delays, particularly in speech development. We’ve spent years in speech therapy, investing time and energy without experiencing immediate results. Yet, through perseverance and the support of programs like the Virginia Preschool Initiative, we’ve witnessed remarkable growth. It’s a reminder that change often comes gradually, but with steadfast determination, we can achieve remarkable outcomes. 

    As I reflect on my journey as both a mother and an advocate, I’m reminded of the profound impact of early intervention and investment. The disparities I see in my son’s kindergarten class underscore the urgent need for equitable access to resources and support. Motherhood has amplified to me that every child deserves a fair chance to thrive, and advocacy is the vehicle through which we can make that a reality. 

    Advocacy, much like motherhood, requires adaptability and a deep understanding of individual needs. Just as my children are unique, so too are legislators, each with their own backgrounds and motivations. To effect change, we must meet them where they are, speaking to what resonates on a personal level. Sometimes, the most impactful messages come from unexpected sources, highlighting the importance of collaboration and coalition-building in advocacy efforts. 

    In the intersection of motherhood and advocacy, I find a sense of purpose and resilience. It’s a reminder that our voices have power, and our actions can shape the future for generations to come. As I continue to advocate for the rights and well-being of all children, I do so with the knowledge that every small step forward brings us closer to a brighter, more equitable future. 

    My hope is that my advocacy today will spare my children the need to advocate for the same issues in their adulthood. In the end, I am both an advocate and a mother, and it’s in embracing these dual roles that I find my truest strength. Together, they form the foundation of my identity—a testament to the transformative power of love, determination, and unwavering commitment to a better world for our children.  

    Start your advocacy journey, take action on one or all of our active action alerts: https://vakids.org/take-action

  3. Empowering Virginia’s Future: Unveiling the Blueprint for Affordable and Accessible Early Childhood Education

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    mother hugging child

    In Virginia, child care is not just a service but a vital component of our social structure that enables parents to actively participate in the workforce. Shockingly, 74% of the state’s child care centers currently grapple with staffing shortages, creating a significant hurdle for families seeking reliable care options. The repercussions of this issue are substantial, with 68% of parents finding themselves unable to work due to the unavailability of affordable child care. 

    Investments in early care and education yield significant returns for children, families, workers, and the economy at large. However, despite the collective efforts of parents, caregivers, professionals, and schools to contribute to children’s school readiness, existing systems are fragmented, failing to provide sufficient opportunities for all children to thrive. Despite years of policy conversations about the importance of early care and education, 42% of Virginia’s kindergarteners started the 2021 school year lacking foundational skills. 

    The backbone of early childhood education faces its own set of challenges. This undervalued and underpaid field, disproportionately composed of women of color, struggles to provide educators with living wages. As a result, the field grapples with retention issues, hindering its ability to offer consistent, high-quality care and education to young learners. 

    The recently unveiled Early Childhood Education proposal, outlined in the Governor’s Proposed Biennial Budget, signifies a landmark investment in the future of Virginia’s children. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the spending actions and budget language behind the key components of the proposal to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Governor’s vision for early childhood education. 

    Spending Actions: 

    • Child Care Subsidy (Item #117 N): 
      • Proposed Funding: $212,255,104 (FY 25), $237,815,584 (FY 26) 
      • The Child Care Subsidy Program aims to support families in need by providing subsidies for child care services. Notably, unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose in the following fiscal year. 
    • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
      • Proposed Funding: $1,000,000 (FY 25) 
      • The Digital Wallet initiative allocates funds to establish and administer early learning and child care accounts on a digital platform, targeting families with children aged birth-to-five. 
    • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
      • Proposed Funding: $9,736,015 (FY 24), $36,500,000 (FY 25, FY 26) 
      • This program focuses on utilizing federal funds to support mixed delivery services, ensuring the efficient use of allocated slots and reporting mechanisms for unmet parental demand. 
    • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
      • Proposed Funding: Per Pupil Amount, $116,283,670 (FY 24), $116,592,886 (FY 25), $115,356,585 (FY 26) 
      • The Virginia Preschool Initiative sees funding for per-pupil amounts and expands early childhood education, including provisions for 3-year-old expansion, community add-ons, slot redistribution, ratio flexibility, and provisional licensure incentives. 
    • ECCE Capital Fund (Item #103 U): 
      • Proposed Funding: $25,000,000 (FY 25) 
      • This fund, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, aims to increase the supply of quality early learning spaces through competitive grants, with a focus on sustainability and engagement with local employers. 

    Budget Language Highlights: 

    • Child Care Subsidy Program (Item #117): 
      • Establishes annual targets for the number of children served, with mechanisms for maintaining waitlists. Unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose. 
    • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
      • Limits state contributions to the highest need households, with guidelines for use and oversight. Unexpended amounts are reappropriated annually. 
    • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
      • Requires reporting on the efficacy of the Mixed-Delivery Initiative, proposing a conclusion and transition mechanism by July 1, 2025. 
    • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
      • Sets non-participation rates and reallocates resulting savings to the Child Care Subsidy Program.  
    • Capital Incentive Fund (Item #103 U): 
      • Establishes a competitive grant fund for early learning spaces, with specific criteria for prioritizing higher education institutions. 

    Next Steps and Legislative Proposal: 

    The proposed budget outlines a clear plan for the next steps in early childhood education funding. As shown in the table, additional funding is needed to sustain parental demand. We also support budget amendment language removing the proposed work requirements for childcare subsidy.  

    As members of the Virginia Promise Partnership, we are seeking an additional $26 million in FY 25 and $51 million in FY 26.  We are supporting Senator Locke and Delegate Bulova’s budget amendments for FY25: $20.2 million FY26: $39.7 million.

    Additionally, legislation filed by Senator Locke (SB 54) and Delegate Bulova (HB 475) would establish three key components needed to address the increasing demand for affordable, quality, early childhood services for Virginia’s working families.  

    • Formula for funding early childhood slots based on parent demand and choice
    • Non-reverting fund to enable rollover and reuse of unspent funds intended for ECCE services to serve more children based on family demand in future years 
    • Formal recognition for Recognize, Virginia’s child care teacher incentive program

     

    TAKE ACTION

     

    Tell legislators to support investments in early childhood education by completing this action alert! 

  4. Voices for Virginia’s Children 2024 Legislative Agenda

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    Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

    At Voices, we believe in positioning young individuals and their families as active agents in shaping policy solutions that catalyze transformative change within their communities. To achieve this, we engage directly with youth advocates and gather insights from professionals dedicated to serving families. Our approach embraces and cultivates diverse perspectives on the well-being of young people. We are dedicated to creating trauma-informed and healing-centered spaces that enable advocates to share their stories and contribute to systemic change.

    As we embark on the initiatives outlined in our 2024 legislative agenda, we invite collaboration and support from stakeholders who share our vision for a more equitable and just society. Together, we can work towards dismantling the barriers that hinder the prosperity of our youth and pave the way for a brighter future.

    View our 2024 Bill Tracker

    Click here for Voices’ bill tracker

    Bill Tracker Key  

    What “Position” Means:  

    • Support: Voices is in strong support of this legislation and will testify to support this proposal.  
    • Oppose: Voices is in strong opposition of this legislation and will testify to oppose this proposal.  
    • Monitor: Voices is listening to testimony and speaking with stakeholders related to this legislation so that we may be aware of its future impact on young people.  

    What “Status” Means:  

    • Bills making progress: If a bill is amended, given a substitute, or reported from a subcommittee or committee, it is still being considered and in progress.  
    • Bills that are stalled: If a bill fails to report, is laid on the table, or is passed by indefinitely (PBI), it has stalled for the session and will not move forward.  
    • Final action: A bill that has been approved by both the House and the Senate. It will be sent to the Governor to sign or amend. 

    Click here to review the 2024 General Assembly Committees.

    View our 2024 Legislative Agenda

    DIGITAL – VOICES 2024 POLICY AGENDA by Voices for Virginia’s Children.

    Subscribe to our Voices from the Capitol Email Lists

    Voices from the Capitol is a curated newsletter that delivers insightful perspectives and updates on political developments directly to your inbox. Join our mailing list by clicking here.

  5. Urgent Action Needed to Prevent Virginia’s Child Care Cliff: Your Voice Matters

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    Life has thrown Virginia families more than their fair share of challenges in recent years. From the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic to the strain of school closures and economic uncertainty, families have shown incredible strength. However, a new crisis is on the horizon, one that could devastate the foundation of Virginia’s communities: the impending child care cliff.

    The Looming Crisis

    A recent analysis highlighted a grim scenario: without swift intervention from Congress, an estimated 88,265 children in Virginia are on the brink of losing their child care beginning September 30. This alarming projection stems from the anticipated closure of nearly 1,400 child care programs across the state. As families are already grappling with rising costs and a lack of affordable child care, this crisis could have far-reaching consequences.

    The Human Face of the Crisis

    As a mother who works outside of the home, this issue hits close to home for me. My own family went through the challenges of child care upheaval during the pandemic. The closure of my son’s child care provider due to health concerns left us scrambling to find alternative solutions for him. Later, it became evident that he needed additional support. Our journey through assessments and evaluations eventually led us to the Chesterfield County pre-kindergarten program, where he finally received the specialized care he required.

    Sr. Policy and Programs Director with her son, Perry at the Virginia General Assembly

    Through this personal experience, I gained a profound understanding of the critical significance of accessible and high-quality child care for every child. As federal funding for child care approaches its expiration, families like mine are bracing for even greater obstacles in securing the necessary care and support our children need to truly flourish.

    Other families shared their stories in The Campaign for a Family Friendly Virginia’s storybook.

    A Beacon of Hope: The Childcare for Working Families Act

    Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, along with Senators Patty Murray, Bob Casey, and Mazie Hirono, recognize the urgency of this situation. They are advocating for the passage of the Child Care for Working Families Act—a bill that could provide the lifeline Virginia families need. This bill aims to offer critical federal funding to stabilize the child care sector and alleviate the financial burden on families.

    Under the proposed legislation, most families would pay $10 a day or less for child care, ensuring that the cost won’t become an insurmountable obstacle. Additionally, the bill seeks to prevent the projected closure of child care programs by providing subsidies to child care providers. These subsidies would guarantee a living wage for child care workers and elevate their roles to be more on par with elementary school teachers. The bill also envisions expanding access to Pre-K and full-day, full-year Head Start programs, enhancing early childhood education across the state.

    Your Voice Matters: Act Now

    As the countdown to September 30th looms, your voice is needed more than ever. Use our link to email your local congressperson today and urge them to support the Child Care for Working Families Act. By doing so, you can help prevent a catastrophic loss of child care for tens of thousands of Virginia’s families. Let your congressperson know that this issue directly impacts their constituents, and that the future of our communities depends on their support.

    The time for action is now. By raising your voice and advocating for the Child Care for Working Families Act, you are standing up for Virginia’s families, children, and the prosperity of our commonwealth. Together, we can ensure that the child care cliff becomes averted, allowing families to continue thriving and children to have the opportunities they deserve.

  6. Now Hiring: Senior Policy Analyst: Mental Health

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    We are excited to share that we are hiring, please see the position and description below.

    Now Hiring

    Senior Policy Analyst: Mental Health

    Reports to: Director of Policy and Programs

    Position Status: Exempt, Salaried; 40 hours/week

    Salary: $60,000-65,000 with robust employee benefits package detailed below

    Position is based in Richmond, VA.  Voices has a hybrid work schedule with an in-office day on Wednesdays required. Additional in-person days are required during the General Assembly session.

    To apply: This position will remain posted until the job is filled. The application deadline is July 19, 2023. Target start date is mid-August.

    Submit the following in an email to megan@vakids.org.  “Sr. Policy Analyst Application” in the subject line.

    • Cover letter
    • Résumé
    • Three references (We will not contact references until later in the hiring process.)

    About Voices for Virginia’s Children

    Voices for Virginia’s Children champions public policies and legislation that achieve positive and equitable outcomes for young people. We envision a Virginia in which our systems center young people, ensuring their ability to realize their brightest potential is no longer predictable by race, socioeconomic status, or geography.

    We are a talented team motivated by the significance and impact of our work. Voices values its employees, encouraging them to be their authentic selves, and works to maintain a flexible and supportive workplace. We create an environment where our team can thrive as it works to support a thriving Virginia.

    DEIB Statement

    We work to create a brave place that empowers others to be their authentic selves. We acknowledge and celebrate the differences within each other.

    We recognize that the children and families of VA are unique in their backgrounds, beliefs, opportunities, and challenges. We strive to embody and embrace that in our work, believing that our unique identities allow us to create a brighter future for Virginia’s children. Through our efforts, we will engage diverse perspectives and inform equitable and just policy solutions that will transform children’s lives and may dismantle systems of oppression.

    We are a group that learns and grows collectively. We value accountability and hold ourselves and others to high standards of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We also create opportunities for others to join us on this journey.

     Values & Cultural Promises

    • Accountability: We act ethically and are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. We hold ourselves and others to a high standard of performance and ethics. We clearly outline expectations of outcomes. We commit to being true to our word and following through on commitments. We accept responsibility for our actions and the effects they have on others and commit to always doing better next time
    • Collaboration: We actively seek opportunities to partner together to reach our goals. We work together through a sustainable pattern of sharing, creating, innovating, and learning. We recognize and utilize each person’s unique skills and viewpoints with the goal of complementing strengths and competencies to maximize our impact. We strive to create a balance of responsibilities, keeping equity at the center of our work.
    • Excellence: We strive to be leaders in our areas by holding ourselves to the highest levels of learning and performance. We refuse to take shortcuts at the cost of quality or relationships. We devote ourselves to being trailblazers and disrupting the status quo.
    • Honesty: We commit to being upright, candid, and sincere. We will be transparent and admit our mistakes. We will lean into hard conversations for the sake of growth. We choose to be authentic and to show up as our true selves in our conversations and interactions.
    • Kindness: We are generous and considerate in our interactions with one another, showing genuine concern for one another. Our eyes are open to the needs of those around us and we are willing to lend a helping hand when needed. We speak and act in empathy, understanding that every person has their own challenges.

    POSITION SUMMARY

    The Senior Policy Analyst leads Voices’ policy and advocacy work in the mental health domain for young people aged 0-24. Mental health policy and advocacy work will be focused across systems that support young people in their homes, schools, and communities. The Senior Policy Analyst is committed to the mission, work, and values of Voices for Virginia’s Children, as well as to the principles of equity and inclusion.

    Duties and Responsibilities:

    • Serves as the policy lead in domains related to mental health, working collaboratively with engagement staff to create a multi-disciplinary policy agenda
    • Creates and convenes an issue-specific policy network, provides support and technical assistance to partner coalitions and state workgroups to contribute to collective community impact and mobilize change
    • Uses data to identify trends in children and youth mental health that inform policy, outreach, and advocacy response
    • Participates in coalitions related to mental health and makes recommendations for Voices’ involvement in related issues
    • Serves on relevant workgroups convened by state agencies and legislative commissions and provides policy analysis expertise
    • Facilitates and mobilizes opportunities to support partner policy agendas and Voices unified policy agenda
    • Produces policy briefs and other documents summarizing policy research findings and recommendations
    • Fosters effective working relationships with officials in key departments of state government, legislators and legislative staff, and other state government policymakers
    • Conducts training and presentations on mental health advocacy
    • Conducts policy and research development in coordination with partner organizations to create policy proposals, briefs, products, and recommendations that impact the mental health outcomes of Virginia’s children and youth
    • Works collaboratively with the communications team to capture and share stories through various internal and external outlets
    • Fosters effective relationships with community members, key legislators, legislative staff, elected officials, appointed officials, local and state government policy makers, reporters, private and public organizations
    • Represents Voices as an organization that prioritizes policy change through the identification of legislative champions and strengthened relationships
    • Works collaboratively with the grants team to provide information and input on relevant grant proposals and reports
    • Contributes to the development and implementation of the organization’s strategic plan in collaboration with the CEO
    • Applies a trauma-informed & equity-informed lens to all responsibilities
    • Actively participates in staff meetings and organizational-wide events
    • Actively supports the goals of Voices overall by executing additional duties and responsibilities, as assigned

    Preferred Qualifications: 

    • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent education and knowledge preferred
    • 5+ years of experience in policy and legislative advocacy or relevant fields
    • Advanced knowledge and experience in the child and youth mental health domain
    • Ability to effectively analyze and interpret data
    • Excellent writing and speaking skills
    • Demonstrated ability to clearly communicate complex policy information to a variety of audiences
    • Experience in understanding and addressing racial/ethnic disparities
    • Experience with media/communications
    • Ability to work independently, but also to collaborate effectively with colleagues in a team environment
    • Strong conflict resolution skills

    Compensation and benefits: 

    The salary for this position is $60,000-65,000. Benefits include health, dental, and vision insurance (with fully covered employee premiums); 30 days of PTO and 11 paid holidays; paid parental leave; a retirement plan with 3% contributions from employer; professional development stipend; a hybrid work environment.

    Voices provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

     

  7. Now Hiring: Communications Manager

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    We are excited to share that we are hiring, please see the position and description below.

    Position: Communications Manager
    Reports to: Operations Manager
    Position Status: Exempt, Salaried; 40 hours/week
    Salary: $55,000-62,000 with robust employee benefits package detailed below
    Location: The position is based in Richmond, VA and Voices for Virginia’s Children is seeking a candidate residing in Virginia.  Hybrid work schedule with Wednesday in the office is required.
    To apply: The application deadline is June 21, 2023. Target start date is August 1, 2023. See the instructions below.

    About Voices for Virginia’s Children

    Voices for Virginia’s Children champions public policies and legislation that achieve positive and equitable outcomes for young people. We envision a Virginia in which our systems center young people, ensuring their ability to realize their brightest potential is no longer predictable by race, socioeconomic status, or geography.

    We are a talented team motivated by the significance and impact of our work. Voices values its employees, encouraging them to be their authentic selves, and works to maintain a flexible and supportive workplace. We create an environment where our team can thrive as it works to support a thriving Virginia.

    DEIB Statement

    We work to create a brave place that empowers others to be their authentic selves. We acknowledge and celebrate the differences within each other.

    We recognize that the children and families of VA are unique in their backgrounds, beliefs, opportunities, and challenges. We strive to embody and embrace that in our work, believing that our unique identities allow us to create a brighter future for Virginia’s children. Through our efforts, we will engage diverse perspectives and inform equitable and just policy solutions that will transform children’s lives and may dismantle systems of oppression.

    We are a group that learns and grows collectively. We value accountability and hold ourselves and others to high standards of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We also create opportunities for others to join us on this journey.

     Values & Cultural Promises

    • Accountability: We act ethically and are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us. We hold ourselves and others to a high standard of performance and ethics. We clearly outline expectations of outcomes. We commit to being true to our word and following through on commitments. We accept responsibility for our actions and the effects they have on others and commit to always doing better next time
    • Collaboration: We actively seek opportunities to partner together to reach our goals. We work together through a sustainable pattern of sharing, creating, innovating, and learning. We recognize and utilize each person’s unique skills and viewpoints with the goal of complementing strengths and competencies to maximize our impact. We strive to create a balance of responsibilities, keeping equity at the center of our work.
    • Excellence: We strive to be leaders in our areas through holding ourselves to the highest levels of learning and performance. We refuse to take shortcuts at the cost of quality or relationships. We devote ourselves to being trailblazers and disrupting the status quo.
    • Honesty: We commit to being upright, candid, and sincere. We will be transparent and admit our mistakes. We will lean into hard conversations for the sake of growth. We choose to be authentic and to show up as our true selves in our conversations and interactions.
    • Kindness: We are generous and considerate in our interactions with one another, showing genuine concern for one another. Our eyes are open to the needs of those around us and we are willing to lend a helping hand when needed. We speak and act in empathy, understanding that every person has their own challenges.

    Position Summary

    The Communications Manager reports to the Operations Manager and has primary responsibility in communications development and implementation for Voices for Virginia’s Children. This position will work across the organization to provide communication support in the areas of fund development, data and research, policy and advocacy. The Communications Manager is committed to the mission, work, and values of Voices for Virginia’s Children, as well as to the principles of equity and inclusion.

    Communications Development and Implementation

    • Create and execute a communications plan/calendar that incorporates a wide variety of communications platforms, strategies, and methods to reach Voices for Virginia’s Children’s diverse audiences
    • Work collaboratively with the Voices for Virginia’s Children team to fully convey the work of the organization in all its communications
    • Develop a strong and contemporary social media presence
    • Manage the Voices for Virginia’s Children’s website, social media strategy and presence, and digital communications
    • Design graphics and digital and visual content for communications
    • Translate data related to policy issues into meaningful visualizations, such as infographics and maps
    • Write, edit, and design internal and external communications
    • Maintain a thorough understanding of organizational goals, priorities, and programs to support all communications, including fundraising and policy strategies and goals

    Evaluation and Reporting

    • Develop an evaluation structure to assess the effectiveness of communications efforts
    • Create and assess reports for leadership related to evaluation, including recommendations for strategic adjustments

    Collaboration

    • Engage in cross-team collaboration with colleagues
    • Manage relationships with vendors and contractors that support communications plan execution
    • Work with partner organizations to share the work and impact of Voices for Virginia’s Children

    Preferred Qualifications

    • Three years’ communications experience gained through any combination of lived and work experience
    • Superior communication, writing, and interpersonal skills
    • A passion for improving the lives of Virginia’s young people
    • A demonstrated understanding of storytelling, effective communications strategy, and visual design that supports organizational goals and inspires action and change
    • Experience working with Constant Contact, WordPress, Adobe, and Canva. Voices also intends to expand its use of data visualization platforms, such as Datawrapper

    Compensation and Benefits

    The salary for this position is $55,000-62,000. Benefits include health, dental, and vision insurance (with fully covered employee premiums); 30 days of PTO and 11 paid holidays; paid parental leave; a retirement plan with 3% contributions from employer; professional development stipend; a hybrid work environment.

    Voices provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

    How To Apply

    Submit the following in an email to jobs@thesparkmill.com. Include “Communications Manager – Voices for Virginia’s Children” in the subject line.

    • Résumé
    • Three references (We will not contact references until later in the hiring process.)
    • In lieu of a cover letter, please provide responses to the following questions:
      • What is the role of strategy in communications?
      • Describe your personal commitment and actions toward diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

    The Spark Mill is conducting Voices for Virginia’s Children’s current search for this position. The Spark Mill is a Consulting Firm that supports organizations through change and champions diversity, equity, and inclusion while supporting agencies with strategic planning initiatives, change management, and people operations.

  8. Recap: Foster Care Caucus Meeting & Advocacy Day

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    The Foster Care Caucus, co-chaired by Senator Monty Mason and Delegate Emily Brewer, held its first meeting of the legislative session on January 31. The caucus meeting is an opportunity for members to share their legislative priorities and to receive updates from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Plus, advocates are able to participate by sharing their own experiences and priorities with policymakers.

    Highlights from the Caucus meeting:

    The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Commissioner Dr. Danny Avula shared that local departments are dealing with 30% or more vacancy rates, creating numerous challenges for the agency to do their work.

    The agency urged the caucus to take two immediate actions:

    1. Support pay increases for child welfare workers through the budget process.
    2. Increase funding for the child welfare stipend program.

    Caucus co-chair Senator Mason filed a budget amendment for $240,000 to expand the child welfare stipend program that, if included in the final budget, would widen the pipeline for new child welfare workers.

    One of the most poignant moments of the caucus meeting was hearing from youth advocates Abigail Ritchie and Jah’Miya Vaughn who spoke on the importance of youth in care to be supported with obtaining drivers licenses and financial assistance to pay for car insurance. Delegate Tata has filed a budget amendment that would direct VDSS to create a driver’s license program for youth in care.

    Watch Abigail Ritchie’s testimony here and Jah’Miya Vaughn’s here.

    The meeting wrapped with an opportunity to look at issues that members can work on in the off- season. Anna Daniszewski, Legal Fellow at Virginia Poverty Law Center, provided an overview on the issue of inadequate legal representation for parents with children entering foster care. Anna shared that a 2022 parent representation workgroup in Virginia reported that families do not get justice, and judges are running out of attorneys to appoint due to the pay rate of $120 per case ($158 for termination of parental rights hearings). Other states have found that wraparound models for legal services for parents shortens children’s time in foster care by an average of four months per child—saving millions of dollars annually. The caucus agreed to work on this issue and come up with recommendations for the 2024 legislative session.

    Foster Care Advocacy Day

    In addition to the Foster Care Caucus Meeting this week, our partners at Children’s Home Society hosted their annual foster care advocacy day on February 1. This was held virtually with professionals working in foster care, foster parents and private providers, among other advocates. Legislators heard stories from people with lived experience in the foster care system and what actions we need them to take to improve outcomes and experience for families.

  9. Bill Explainer: Foster Care Prevention Program, SB 923 (Sen. Favola)

    1 Comment

    Senator Favola, Chair of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, has reintroduced a bill to create a Foster Care Prevention Program after it fell short during the 2022 legislative session. SB 923 establishes a program to facilitate placements of children and youth with relatives and ensure that these relatives are provided with the resources necessary to care for the children.

    Virginia has significantly increased kinship placements in the past few years, going from 5% of overall placements in 2016 to nearly 20% in 2022, with the national average being around 30%. These increased placements have occurred because of several advancements such as the creation of the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program, creation of a kinship-only TANF financial assistance fund, and kin first guidance from the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS).

    The bill introduced this year is slightly different and much improved compared to the previous version. Notably, this bill includes critical protections for both the child and their family of origin to ensure that parents have due process and  kinship caregivers have added supports, with the remaining goal of reunification.

    The bill would do the following:

    A child is considered eligible for the foster care prevention program if:

    • The child is in the custody of a relative by a court order.
    • 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.
    • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child.
    • The local department of social services has documented the need for the child’s placement with the relative, including a description of the reasons the local board determined that the child was at imminent risk of removal.

    If a child is deemed eligible:

    • The local Department of Social Services and the relative who has custody of an eligible child will enter into a written agreement. The agreement will include provisions regarding the amount of each Foster Care Prevention Program payment. In addition, the local department will determine if the kin needs ongoing case management services, in addition to the financial assistance.
    • The local board will identify the services and support that will be provided to the child, the relative with whom the child will be placed, and the child’s parent or guardian.
    • The local board will describe the requirements that the child’s parent or guardian need to meet for the child to return home and include the visitation arrangements for the child’s parent or guardian.
    • The parent or guardian must be made aware that they may seek legal counsel prior to entering into the agreement.

    *For purposes of this section, “relative” means an adult who is either related to the child by blood, marriage, adoption, or fictive kin of the child.*

    Show Your Support

    Send an email to your legislators asking for their support of SB 923. Once you have completed your email, share it with others on social media.

  10. Governor Youngkin Amendments Add $5 Million for Foster Care

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    The Virginia General Assembly will have one more chance to improve foster care with Governor Youngkin’s proposed amendments to the budget. While the House and Senate accepted a budget compromise in June, Governor Youngkin has the opportunity to amend the budget and chose to make 35 amendments, including a proposal for an additional $5 million for the foster care system. House and Senate members will vote on each of the governor’s proposed amendments on June 17, 2022.

    The foster care amendments are the result of recent discussions among the members of the “Safe and Sound Task Force” formed in April. Voices serves on this task force along with government agencies, the Virginia League of Social Services executives, and other community partners to find shelter for children sleeping in local departments of social services, hotels, and emergency rooms. The task force is working to ensure placements for children entering foster care and is collaborating with other state agencies to help meet the needs of children and families.

    Safe and Sound Task Force meeting

    The proposed additions in the budget include:

    • $592,120 for five positions to support the development of collaborative partnerships between local departments of social services (DSS) to increase capacity to approve kinship caregivers and recruit, train, and develop locally approved foster parents. This effort will support HB653, patroned by Del. Wampler, to facilitate collaboration between local DSS.
    • $1.1 million to create an enhanced treatment foster care pilot program, commonly known as the Professional Foster Parent Model. This program will serve foster homes caring for high acuity children and provide participating foster families with an annual stipend of up to $45,000 per youth.
    • $200,000 to cover the costs of coordination, recruitment, and additional training to foster care agencies.
    • $3,000,000 to support the initiatives of the Safe and Sound Task Force including community-based treatments, support for kinship, foster and adoptive families, and trauma-informed care for children in foster care who are displaced or who are at risk of being displaced.

    These budget amendments were all recommended by the Safe and Sound Task Force which will continue to meet to address the current crisis in placement and the systems level changes needed to prevent children from entering foster care. As long-time advocates of improvements to Virginia’s foster care system, we are pleased to see these additional funds to address the on-going crisis within the system. We are especially pleased at the commitment to support Virginia’s kinship care families where the lack of investment in the past has especially burdened families of color. We urge the Virginia General Assembly to accept these amendments.