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Voices’ Blog

Federal Action Needed for Virginia Foster Care Reforms

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

As a nation we have all felt slightly out of control of our lives for the past few months, a lot like children and families involved in the child welfare system. Families unsure of when their children will be returned to them and children adjusting to their new normal in foster care. For to long the foster care system has remained underfunded while also lacking the necessary investments in prevention services to help families before they reach a point where their children need to be removed. COVID-19 made these system failures even greater and with many of the advancements on hold from the 2020 legislative session, we need the Federal government to step in to provide relief to the Virginia Department of Social Services.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine hosted a round table discussion to hear directly from advocates.  Sen. Kaine proposed the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act  which would strengthen systems put in place by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The act would provide $500 million in emergency funds for local child protective services and $1 million for community-based child abuse prevention programs. We need more Federal action to respond to the growing needs in our foster care system.

Voices Policy Analyst and other advocates join Senator Tim Kaine for a virtual policy roundtable

The CARES Act provided around $2 million for Virginia’s child welfare system, not nearly enough needed to respond to growing needs. Voices supports the recommendations proposed by Child Welfare League of America listed below for the inclusion of the next stimulus package.

Federal Priorities for Child Welfare

1. Increase Chafee Funding by 500 Million.     

Funds from the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood can pay for the vital resources and services that young people need immediately and urgently, but have remained at $140 million since its enactment in 1999 and only increased to $143 million this year.  Providing a well overdue increase in funding for Chafee will allow states to meaningfully meet the immediate needs of youth and young adults during this crisis and help support them as they plan for their future past the COVID-19 crisis.

2. Extend the Age of Eligibility for Chafee Aftercare Services to Age 23 for All Youth. 

Flexible Chafee funds can be used to meet many of the immediate needs of young people who are still making the transition to adulthood.  These funds can help with immediate needs for housing, food, and other service supports that are so vital at this time.  Congress has acknowledged the wisdom of providing these services to youth until age 23.  Youth in all states should have the benefit of this opportunity for support.   

3. Suspend Participation Requirements for Young People in Extended Foster Care.

Suspending the work, school, and program participation requirements for youth in extended foster care will allow youth to remain safe, healthy, and housed.  This action will allow them to continue to receive placement and support services through the COVID-19 crisis so they can stay on track to meet their goals.  Without this action, many youth may be pushed out of the system to homelessness and unsafe situations where their health will be at great risk.  

4. Place a Moratorium on Discharges from the Foster Care System for Youth Ages 18-21.

By providing young people the safety and security of maintaining their current living arrangements and services, they will be in the best position to stay healthy and continue working towards their goals for their future.  This additional time and support will help young people and child welfare agencies be able to appropriately plan for a successful transition out of care and into adulthood. 

5. Allow States to Draw Down Title IV-E funds until a Young Person Reaches Age 22. 

By allowing states to draw down Title IV-E funds after a young person reaches age 21, states will be encouraged to provide continued services for youth in this time of great need.  This will help ensure that young people are not cut off from housing and services when they need it the most.  It will also ensure that states have the capacity and funds to meet their needs.

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