The Virginia Commission on Youth studies and provides recommendations addressing the needs of and services for youth and their families. 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. However, the challenges facing our foster care system will require continuing work and members of the General Assembly recognize this. Over the summer, staff of the Commission on Youth further studied our foster care system and put together a collection of recommendations that members of the Commission will vote on in December.
The Commission is accepting comments from the public now through Friday, November 22, 2019. Public comments received by the deadline will be provided to the Commission for consideration at the December 4 Commission meeting at 10:00 a.m. in Shared Committee Room, Ground Floor, Pocahontas Building.
Here are the areas we are highlighting as priorities:
Workforce Recruitment and Retention
Recommendation 3 & 4 – Increase the minimum salary for Family Services Series positions and provide a salary adjustment for current Family Services employees. Request that the Virginia Department of Social Services present to the Commission on Youth an update on the status of VDSS technology, to include Compass, OASIS, and any efforts by the Department to allow Title IV-E to be processed electronically. Introduce a budget amendment to implement a new technology system to replace OASIS.
The JLARC report highlighted that Virginia’s foster care workforce is one of the leading issues for the challenges the system faces. More than one-fifth of foster care workers surveyed by JLARC were considering leaving their jobs in the next year. 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 $38,828, 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. We strongly support Recommendation 3 to increase casework salaries to help stabilize the workforce.
Local Department of Social Services has outdated technology that limits their work.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. It is paramount that as we transform the foster care system, workers have access to modern technology and an updated data tracking system so we can ensure we are making progress in our system over time.
Recommendation 6 – Amend the Code of Virginia to codify the Fostering Futures program, as currently authorized in the Virginia State Budget language, ensuring that federal law is properly addressed. Include a provision allowing video conferencing as an option for monthly visits between LDSS and participants. Include enactments to require the Virginia Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations for Fostering Futures programs which address the following issues.
In 2016, Virginia was able to extend foster care services to age 21 for youth who aged out of foster care because the program was included in the budget. However, to ensure this program is always available for young people, we must codify the program into Virginia law. Virginia has one of the highest utilization rates of extended foster care in the country.
Recommendation 11, 13, 14, 16. Request that VDSS add an input box to OASIS to mark when a youth is diverted to a “facilitated care arrangement.” Amend §63.2-1305 of the Code of Virginia to add the term “fictive kin” to the definition of relative for the purpose of the KinGAP program. Amend § 63.2-1305 of the Code of Virginia to create a state-funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program that waives the requirement for potential guardians to serve as a licensed foster parent for six consecutive months and limits eligibility for this program to children who are least likely to be placed in a permanent home or who have been in foster care for an extended period of time. Direct VDSS to create a state-funded program to provide facilitated care
reimbursement payments to kinship and fictive kin families who have custody over kin due to the child being identified as being at imminent risk of entering foster care. Local departments shall track these families and provide case management as necessary.
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. Being part of a family is a basic human need and is essential to well-being, especially for children, teenagers, and young adults who are rapidly developing and transitioning to independence. Virginia should ensure that relatives have similar opportunities to receive the same supports as foster families. 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.
*Areas we are not highlighting does not mean we are not in support of the proposed recommendation. Instead, we are choosing to narrow the areas to the highest priorities because the General Assembly will not be able to fund all of the recommendations within its budget.Read More Blog Posts