Voices’ Blog

Lack of Investments for Child Welfare During Special Session

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

The coronavirus pandemic makes it even more challenging than the usual for day-to-day care given by  foster and kinship caregivers, and child welfare professionals. Many of these children have experienced adversity and trauma, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing. Virginia LDSS’s have seen a decrease in reports to child abuse and neglect but expects a sharp increase when schools reopen.

Proposed Budget Shortfalls

Despite these concerns, the Virginia General Assembly failed to fund two budgetary proposals to stabilize the child welfare workforce and invest in prevention based funding. In addition, it takes major steps backward towards addressing concerns from the 2018 JLARC report.

The Virginia Senate included in their proposed budget a contingency plan, essentially if revenue projections stabilize or improve, to fund $17 million towards creating prevention units in local department of social services. These contingency funds will be determined in December and likely decided during the regular 2021 legislative session.

Sustained Funding for Kinship Caregivers

During the 2020 legislative session, the budget addressed the lack of financial supports for families that care for children outside of the foster care system, in arrangements known as kinship diversion. $8.5 Million in TANF was sustained during special session, making it so that kinship families would receive an additional $200 per child through this program, in addition to the child-only TANF amounts they currently receive. Under this new program, a caregiver raising two relative children would receive approximately $726 per month. This will only impact kinship arrangements beginning July 2020 and beyond.

Funding that Supports System Involved Children

We know that families are overwhelmed and stressed and that many families may need services that only child welfare can provide. Despite these lack of investments, the General Assembly did invest in some efforts that will impact children in our child welfare system. The proposed budget addresses the child care crisis, supporting and expanding public mental health system to improve access, additional funding for food banks, and an increase in cash assistance payments for families.

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