Voices’ Blog

Update: Child Welfare Policy Agenda–Current status of legislation

Posted:  -  By: Voices for VA's Kids

We’ve talked at length about our agenda with regard to expanding foster care services and adoption assistance for older youth in care up to age 21. That effort is, so far, moving smoothly through the legislative process, though we won’t truly know of its success or failure until the very end of the General Assembly session, when we have a final budget bill agreed upon by both the Senate and the House (and signed by the Governor). Update: The final budget is still in flux. The General Assembly adjourned its regular session on March 8th without having passed a final budget for Governor McAuliffe to consider. The Governor called a Special Session for the legislature to come to an agreement on the budget (largely to resolve the health care debate), which will begin on March 24th and could last several weeks. Once a final budget has been agreed upon, we will know where the Extension of Foster Care to Age 21 proposal stands.

Find our fact sheet/one-pager on this effort here (pdf).

Status of the billsSB 277 (Sen. Favola) reported out of Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee unanimously on Friday, Jan. 24. It will head to the Senate floor where the full Senate will consider it for passage during the week of Jan. 27. The House companion bill, HB 1236 (Del. Peace), will be considered in House Health, Welfare & Institutions committee the week of Jan. 27. Update: Both of these bills were “tabled” (meaning they failed, effectively) in the House Appropriations committee; however, moving forward on the Extension of Care proposal was not dependent upon success of these bills, so long as funding is included in the final budget.

We also, however, have a strong agenda with regard to issues around kinship care and kinship diversion. As local departments of social services develop practices around kinship diversion (facilitating placement of children with relatives in order to prevent the need for formal foster care), we would like to see best practices shored up in the form of regulations that would ensure all localities are providing the same level of stability, information and support to kinship families.

SB 284 (Sen. Howell) directs the Department of Social Services to promulgate draft regulations around kinship diversion, especially to address:

  • The rights and responsibilities of all parties
  • How physical or legal custody is transferred
  • Provision of information regarding the differences between informal kinship care and formal foster care
  • Development of a plan to move the family forward
  • The collection and reporting of data on the well-being of children diverted from foster care through informal kinship care placements
  • Training for local workers

You can find our fact sheet/one-pager on SB 284 here.

Status of the bill: SB 284 reported out of Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee unanimously on Friday, Jan. 24. It will head to the Senate floor where the full Senate will consider it for passage during the week of Jan. 27. Update: SB 284 passed both the House and Senate unanimously and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. The bill was amended mid-way through the session, and now requires VDSS to produce draft regulations/recommendations and a fiscal analysis of what it would take to implement those regulations. Once that report is complete, we will reinvigorate our efforts to have them approved.

We’re also working to ensure passage of SB 400 (Sen. Reeves), which is aimed at assuring more stability to children living in formal kinship foster care placements, by ensuring that local departments hold family partnership meetings before removing children from such kinship foster care placements for non-safety-related reasons. A judge could also approve a placement change at any time. As child welfare best practice consistently counsels that relative caregivers are most often the best placement options for children, the bill encourages families and caseworkers to do everything possible to preserve the stability of these kinship placements.

Status of the bill: Will be heard in Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee on Friday, Jan. 31 at 8:30 a.m. Update: SB 400 passed both the House and the Senate unanimously and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.


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