Tag Archive: adoption

  1. Studying Workforce Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care

    Leave a Comment

    When looking at the numerous challenges that face youth aging out of foster care, workforce outcomes are a key issue, but one in which we have a limited understanding. We know that 20% of youth in foster care are aging out and only 50% of those youth will have steady employment by 24. With estimates of 650 youth aging out of care in Virginia each year (this number only continues to rise), this would mean roughly 325 youth per year being unemployed or underemployed. Many barriers contribute to the employment struggles of these youth including homelessness and mental health concerns which can create exponential challenges to obtaining or maintaining employment.

    What is Being Requested?

    To best identify possible solutions that will help support our youth, a study has been requested from the Commission on Youth. The request is for the Commission to dive deep into what barriers exist in preventing youth aging out of care from obtaining and maintaining steady employment. After understanding these barriers, the study would hopefully provide recommendations for policy changes or programs that would offer prevention for youth still in foster care and intervention for those who have already aged out.

    Who is Involved?

    Currently, Children’s Home Society has taken the lead on working with the Commission on Youth to propose this study along with contacting legislators from both the House and the Senate for their support. After the study is approved, the Commission on Youth will identify a variety of stakeholders to be involved. This will likely include the Department of Social Services, Voices for Virginia’s Children, and other agencies who work in foster care, adoption, and independent living.

    What is the Timeline?

    The next Commission on Youth meeting has not yet been set, so the date for when they would vote on whether to take on this study is likely to occur after session is over. Based on prior study timelines, if approved, the study would likely be completed by November 2021. This would then allow advocates and legislators to take the recommendations under consideration for proposing policy changes in the 2022 General Assembly session.

    What are the Expectations?

    From this study, we expect the Commission would begin by looking at what other states are doing to get an initial idea of current methods of prevention and intervention. Afterwards, there would be a process for hearing from stakeholders and the youth themselves. Part of the process may also include some engagement with the workforce to gain the employers’ perspectives as well. There is a significant opportunity for this study to highlight the need for employers to better understand what youth aging out of foster care require in terms of support and the value that they bring to the workforce. Employers need significant education to understand the barriers and provide better support to their employees.

    Youth Involvement?

    Prior to proposing this study, Children’s Home Society had created a panel with several stakeholders, including youth, to identify policy recommendations. The recommendation for the study came out of this panel and all recommendations were approved and endorsed by the youth in their program. As an organization, they are currently talking to their youth about what was supportive and what helped provide successful employment, as well as, what supports would have been needed to better support employment. Additionally, we anticipate the youth voice being involved in the study and from an equity perspective, it is critical that their voices are incorporated. The experiences of youth aging out of foster care are unique and their perspective on solutions, that will or will not work, is priceless. We want to be sure that if we implement a recommendation the youth will buy into it. Otherwise, the impact we seek is unlikely to be realized.

    Sign up to receive emails regarding news and updates about foster care, kinship care, and child welfare.

  2. Guest Blog: Every Child Deserves a Thriving Family


    For the Month of May, Foster Care Month, Voices will feature guest blogs from organizations that are a part of our Foster Care Unified Policy Network.

    Guest Author: Cassie Cunningham, Children’s Home Society

    During Foster Care month, and every other month of the year, Children’s Home Society of Virginia focuses on the importance of permanency for children and youth with foster care experience. As an organization, we recognize the trauma that children face prior to and while in foster care and focus on healing that trauma. Trauma, if untreated, can lead to lifelong health consequences. The good news is trauma can be treated and children can heal from trauma through resiliency. In particular, our agency finds healing for children by building permanent families and lifelong relationships.

    For some children in foster care, they are able to be reunited with their families and build those relationships back up after their experience in foster care. For the children and youth we work with, they are unable to be reunited with their families. This leaves two options: the child stays in temporary foster care placements, or finds permanency through adoption. The nature of temporary placements can do two things: create additional trauma and prevent healing from previous and ongoing trauma. We work to find the right permanent family so the child can begin to form healthy lifelong relationships which is one of the first steps in allowing them to heal from trauma.

    Our teams work to recruit families and parents who understand trauma and are ready, willing, and able to provide a healing space for their new child. This could be a family simply interested in adopting, it could be a past teacher, a family friend, or a variety of other relationships. It could be a married couple, a married couple with other children, or a single parent. We find the right family for the child – not the other way around, focusing on the needs and desires of the child. Once we find the right family for the child, our work continues to ensure permanency for that child.

    We help the families adjust their parenting style to allow the child to heal. In fact, we begin this work from the start, requiring an extensive training in trauma and attachment for individuals interested in adopting through our agency. We continue this work after a child has been placed with their new family to help the parent(s) implement what they learned in their initial training. By requiring this training and providing support to implement that training, we work to ensure that children remain with their adoptive family permanently. Ensuring this permanency is what will slowly allow the child to heal from trauma and reduce potential lifelong health implications from that trauma.

    Unfortunately, in Virginia we have a large number of youth who age out of foster care, meaning they never find a permanent family. In addition to our adoption work, we also work with youth who have aged out of foster care to help them establish lifelong relationships that will allow them to heal from trauma. We work with youth to find stability through housing, employment, education and most importantly, permanent relationships in whatever form that may take – a mentor, a reconnected family member, or a number of other relationships. We firmly believe all children and youth deserve permanency and are dedicated to helping them find that.

    During foster care month, we encourage you to explore how you can help children in foster care heal from trauma. We know that not everyone can adopt but everyone can help in some way – whether it is advocating for issues at the General Assembly, volunteering with an adoption agency, or continuing to bring awareness to these issues. Every child deserves a thriving family and we hope you will join us in the work to make that a reality.


    Cassie Cunningham is the Policy and Research Analyst at Children’s Home Society.

    Children’s Home Society of Virginia is a full-service, private, nonprofit 501(c)(3), non-sectarian licensed child-placing agency, and one of Virginia’s oldest adoption agencies.

  3. Kathy Dial: Kinship Care Champion


    Written by Cassie Price

    People eagerly shared their kinship care stories at an Aug. 1 meeting at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Chesapeake, Va. Kinship care refers to the practice of relatives—often grandparents—stepping in to raise children when parents can’t. The meeting was the first of four sessions in a statewide kinship care listening tour sponsored by Voices for Virginia’s Children.

    Most of the 30 participants at the Aug. 1 meeting came at the invitation of Dr. Kathy Dial, a social worker who founded Kin and Kids Consulting and specializes in gerontology, kinship care, and child welfare services. Many of her clients are grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

    “That evening, people shared stories about their financial struggles—how to pay for their grandchildren’s school supplies, clothes, food, and extracurricular activities,” Dial said. “They also talked about their difficulties navigating social services and the school system. What types of social services are they eligible to receive? What should they do if their grandchild has an IEP (individual education plan)?”

    Their stories and questions echoed those of grandparents and other relative caregivers around the state. Virginia provides financial support and social services case management to court-appointed foster care parents, but usually not to non-parental relatives raising children.

    “Some legislators justify this by saying, ‘This is a family obligation,’” Dial said. “But it’s not. Nothing says you’re obligated to care for your grandchildren or a relative’s child. People just do it—often risking financial hardship—to keep a child they love out of foster care.”

    Dial shares Voices’ commitment to kinship care advocacy. “Voices educates legislators who then go back and educate their colleagues on kinship care,” she said.

    “Voices educates legislators who then go back and educate their colleagues on kinship care.”

    She first connected to Voices in 2005 while serving on a statewide kinship care task force. Since then, she has participated in several Voices’ meetings in Richmond and has brought grandparents to Richmond and Washington, D.C., to advocate with lawmakers on behalf of kinship caregivers.

    “We talked to legislators about research that points to the benefits of children being raised by grandparents rather than the foster care system,” Dial said. “Kids in kinship care can maintain contact with their siblings and extended family. Their grandparents understand their behavior and are focused on their health care and keeping them engaged in school.”

    “Research points to the benefits of children being raised by grandparents rather than the foster care system.”

    “Kathy is really connected,” said Allison Gilbreath, Voices’ adoption and foster care policy analyst. “She is on the ground with affected families and is able to connect to legislators on behalf of those families.”

    Dial invites community partners to speak at regularly scheduled meetings for grandparents raising grandchildren.

    “We’ve had school counselors talk to our group about study skills and IEPs, a judge discussed legal custody, a social worker covered substance abuse and addiction, and a detective from the local police department talked about how to protect children from risky cellphone and internet usage.”

    At the Aug. 1 listening session, members of Dial’s group told Gilbreath and Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, they want to advocate alongside Voices and Brewer with state legislators.

    In 2018, Voices celebrated a win when the General Assembly created the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program. Although it affects only a small number of children, it is a first step in kinship care reforms, Gilbreath said. She will use what she learned on her statewide listening tour to draft a kinship care policy brief later this fall.

    She’ll have a powerful ally in Dial when it comes time to advocate for kinship care reforms.

    Voices for Virginia’s Children’s Kinship Care report is on the way soon.

  4. 2018 Legislative Session: Advocating for Kids in Foster Care (Updated 3/2/2018)

    1 Comment

    In 2017, Voices successfully advocated for continued funding of Fostering Futures, despite a $16 million budget shortfall. In addition, we helped pass legislation that improved mutual family home assessments, provided families with adoption assistance for children with special needs, and ensured that youth aging out of foster care are automatically enrolled in health insurance, among other things. In 2018, we hope to build on these gains and push for greater improvements to the foster care system that will result in a greater number of children finding permanent family connections.

    Kinship Care Advocacy Day

    Left to right: Del. Riley Ingram, Allison Gilbreath of Voices, and Christy Horsley of CASA Central Virginia listen to foster care graduate Carl Price.

    On Jan. 22, child advocates descended upon the General Assembly to advocate for Virginia to adopt the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP). KinGAP is a part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provides Virginia opportunities to promote permanency and better outcomes for children in foster care. KinGAP facilitates child placements with relatives and ensures permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The KinGAP bill contains eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.

    Advocates included our partners from Virginia Poverty Law Center, Connecting Hearts, Children’s Home Society, CASA of Central Virginia, and directly impacted families and former foster youth.


    Bills We Support

    • Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program: SB 44 – Favola and companions SB 636 – Dunnavant, HB 1333 – Brewer- create the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements. The bill also requires the Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations for the program.
      •  Update: SB 44 and SB 636 have passed out of House Appropriations (money committee). SB44 (Dunnavant) has passed the full House of Delegates and House amendments were approved by the Senate. It will now go to the Governor’s desk for approval.  
      • Update: HB 1333 passed out of the House (this is the first time KinGAP has made it out of the House), passed out of Senate Rehab and Social Services and Finance. It is awaiting action in the full Senate. 
      • The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) completed a revised fiscal impact for HB 1333, which is now in alignment with the impact report provided  by the Department of Planning and Budget. With the new impact report, the Department of Social Services has stated it is able to absorb the costs in its division budget. However, members on appropriations must still approve the program either by passing the bill or including it in the budget.
      • Voices and Virginia Poverty Law Center have developed a Kinship Guardianship Fact Sheet.
      • Budget Amendments
        • The House and Senate budget both include state general fund allocation of $55,935 in the first year and $111,870 in the second year to pull down additional federal funds for the implementation of KinGAP.
    • Close Relative Adoption – HB 241 – Brewer – lowers from three years to two years the amount of time a child must have continuously resided with or been under the physical custody of the prospective close relative adoptive parent in order for the adoption proceeding to commence in circuit court and be exempt from the parental placement provisions.
      • Updated: This bill has passed out of the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature to become law!
    • Adoption by foster parent – HB 418 – Foy – directs a circuit court to accept a petition for adoption filed by the child’s foster parent and to order a thorough investigation if (i) the child-placing agency holding custody of the child consents to the adoption after the child has resided in the home of such foster parent continuously for at least six months and (ii) the birth parents’ rights to the child have been terminated. Current law requires a circuit court to accept such petition in such circumstances only after the child has resided in the home of such foster parent continuously for at least 18 months. The bill provides that after the child has resided in the home of the foster parent continuously for at least 18 months, the consent of the child-placing agency holding custody of the child is no longer needed in order to require the court to accept the petition and order an investigation.
      • Updated: This bill has passed out of the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature to become law!

    Check back to this page for weekly updates.

    In the news: 

    In the General Assembly, real life experience makes a difference – Daily Press, Feb. 15, 2018

    Kinship bills attract attention of new delegates – WCVE: Jan. 30, 2018