Voices’ Blog

Foster Care Highlights in 2020 Proposed Budgets

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

During the 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly took major steps forward to address the challenges within our foster care system that were identified in the JLARC report. In 2019, the first-ever bi-partisan foster care caucus was established which further highlighted the need to invest in Virginia’s foster care system. In addition, the Governor’s office hired a Virginia Fosters campaign manager to further this work. Over the course of the year foster care has been studied by the Commission on Youth and the subject of on-going reporting.

The challenges facing our foster care system will require continuing work and members of the General Assembly recognize this. The foster care policy network met several times this year to create a robust 2020 legislative agenda created from the voices of professionals, youth, directly impacted families, and service providers.

Foster Care Budget Proposal Highlights

Foster Care Workforce

Caseworker Salaries:

Turnover rates for entry level family services worker specialist is 61%, with retention efforts being an even greater issue is small, rural agencies. The minimum starting salary for an entry level position is $30,828, which is only slightly above the 2019 Federal Poverty Level for a family of four. The impact of the high-turnover of caseworkers on children is found in our low rate of permanency of children and the number of placements children experience.

Proposed Solution in Governor’s Budget:

  • $18 Million over two years to increase family service specialists position salaries 20%
  • Proposed budget would increase the base to $36,993 by 2022

Technology Updates:

Local Department of Social Services has outdated technology that limits their work. Workers have noted this system for its lag time and connectivity issues, delay in procuring new or refreshed computers, interfacing with OASIS, and the inability to process Title IV-E eligibility electronically.

Proposed Solution in Governor’s Budget:

  • $22 Million over two years spread across child welfare system improvements 

Kinship Care

Kinship care is increasing nationwide, but Virginia still lags behind. According to the “Keeping Kids in Families:Trends in Placement of Young People in Foster Care in the United States,” a New Data Snapshot released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of its KIDS COUNT® project, Virginia has seen improvements in family-based placements for foster children but lags behind the nation in placing children with relatives. Currently families that care for children outside of the foster care system, in arrangements known as kinship diversion, do not receive the same financial support or access to mental health and social supports as foster families.

Proposed Solution in Governor’s Budget:

  • $16 Million over two years to provide relatives support payments for relatives caring for children outside of foster care (first time ever!)

Family First Prevention Services Act

The Federal Family First Prevention Services Act reforms Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, the federal child welfare financing streams that provide services to families at risk of entering the child welfare system. The bill aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training before children are removed from their home. Only about half of Virginia local divisions of social services currently have prevention units and many communities lack evidence base services.

Proposed Solution in Governor’s Budget:

  • $66 Million over 2 years to provide funding to local departments of social services to begin hiring staff and creating their prevention services departments in response to FFPSA
  • $4 Million over 2 years to fund start up fees, program development, curriculum materials, and implementation and sustainability supports for evidence based programming through the FFPSA
  • $5 Million over 2 years to fund positions to create an evidence-based programs evaluation team
  • $33 Million over 2 years to provide evidence based and trauma-informed mental health, substance use disorder, and in-home parent skill based training to children at imminent risk of entering foster care.
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