In a year with extraordinary budgetary challenges, the House and Senate “money committees” released their recommended changes to the Governor’s proposed budget on February 10. In good news, they retained the initial investments made for children and families impacted by the child welfare system from the Governor’s budget but did not act on all the budget amendment requests we and other partners had hoped for. Below is a breakdown on the proposed budget and a request to email your legislator to help us make the most gains for children and families involved in child welfare systems.
Foster Care Workforce
Turnover rates for entry-level family service worker specialists are 61 percent, with retention efforts being an even greater issue in small, rural agencies. The House and Senate both proposed a 20% increase in salaries, just over $4 million over two years.
The House and Senate retained budget language to direct the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to provide a statewide Kinship Navigator Program which will provide services to kinship caregivers who are having trouble finding assistance for their unique needs and to help these caregivers navigate their locality’s service system, as well as federal and state benefits. Unfortunately, they did not include funding to start the program.
The Senate included funding for Senator Mason’s SB1328 State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program. The bill expands eligibility criteria for the existing KinGAP program (allows for children under age 14 and have spent less time than currently required in their relative placement) that uses federal dollars, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.
The House and Senate kept the $75,000 investment to implement emergency approval process for kinship caregivers. Children in the foster care system often move from placement to placement and this process will help place children with eligible kin.
The Senate included budget language directing the Department of Social Services to study creating a formal diversion program supporting relative and fictive kin families who have received temporary physical and legal custody maximizing state and federal funding to provide a payment to relative and fictive kin families who have temporary custody through a court order.
Preventing Child Welfare Involvement
The House and Senate retained the Governor’s proposed budget allotment for funding for local Department of Social Service positions for implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act with $16 million over two years for local staff and operations. Additionally, they kept $14.2 million to scale up evidence-based services for children and families to prevent entry into foster care.
Extending Foster Care Payments for Aged Out Youth
The Senate included language and funding to draw down federal dollars to extend foster care payments for youth who turn 18 while in foster care beyond age 21 throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Changes to the Children’s Services Act
The House included funding for HB 2212 Plan for Effective Implementation of CSA. This requires the director of the Office of Children’s Services to provide for the effective implementation of the Children’s Services Act (§ 2.2-5200 et seq.) in all localities by (i) regularly monitoring local performance measures and child and family outcomes; (ii) using audit, performance, and outcomes data to identify local programs that need technical assistance; and (iii) working with local programs that are consistently underperforming to develop a corrective action plan for submission to the Office and the State Executive Council for Children’s Services.Read More Blog Posts