Tag Archive: Budget

  1. A Comparative Analysis of House and Senate Proposed Budgets for Child Welfare: A Closer Look at Key Allocations


    Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

    As Virginia grapples with the multifaceted challenges of child welfare, members of the money committees play a crucial role in shaping policies and providing funding to support vulnerable children and families. In this blog post, we will dissect the proposed budgets from both the House and Senate, focusing on key allocations aimed at improving foster care, adoption, and child welfare services. 

    Included in House and Senate Proposed Budget: 

    1. Foster Care & Adoption COLA – $7 million (7%): The House’s commitment to a 7% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for foster care and adoption services underscores a dedication to enhancing the well-being of children in the system.
    2. Nongeneral Funds for Local Staff and Operations – $85.2 million NGF: Allocating substantial non-general funds to local staff and operations ensures that resources are available at the grassroots level, where they are needed the most.
    3.  Child Welfare Forecast – $3.2 million: By dedicating funds to forecasting child welfare needs, the House aims to create a more proactive and responsive system, better equipped to address emerging challenges.
    4.  Kinship as Prevention Program Bill – $16 million: Recognizing the importance of kinship care in preventing children from entering the foster care system, the House allocates a significant budget to support this preventive measure.
    5.  Training Academy – $8.2 million (House) $3 Million (Senate): Investing in the training and development of social services employees demonstrates a commitment to enhancing the skills and knowledge of those on the front lines of child welfare.
    6. Transfer Funding for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care – $1.3 million: Shifting funds from the Department of Housing & Community Development to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) reflects a strategic move to streamline support for youth transitioning out of foster care.
    7. Drivers License for Foster Youth – $620,000 (House) $500,000 (Senate): The allocation for a driver’s license program for foster youth acknowledges the importance of empowering them with essential life skills and independence.
    8. Support Foster Youth in Great Expectations Program – $1.3 million (House) $1 million (Senate): This funding emphasizes the commitment to providing support for foster youth pursuing higher education through the Great Expectations Program. 


    House Proposal Only 

    1. Kin First Consultants – $504,154: Supporting kinship caregivers through consultants emphasizes a holistic approach to child welfare, recognizing the pivotal role played by extended family members. 
    2. OES Staff Support for Child Dependency Cases (HB 893) – $989,000: Supporting staff involved in Child Dependency Cases ensures a robust and efficient system for addressing complex legal and social challenges. 3.
    3. Child Dependency Cases: Court-Appointed Attorneys – $7,310,000: Adequate funding for court-appointed attorneys demonstrates a commitment to fair representation and due process in child dependency cases. 


    Over the next two weeks, negotiators will work out key differences in the two budgets. Send an email to legislators today telling them to fully support investments in child welfare.  As the legislative process unfolds, Voices will closely monitor how these budgetary decisions translate into impactful changes on the ground. 

  2. Empowering Virginia’s Future: Unveiling the Blueprint for Affordable and Accessible Early Childhood Education


    mother hugging child

    In Virginia, child care is not just a service but a vital component of our social structure that enables parents to actively participate in the workforce. Shockingly, 74% of the state’s child care centers currently grapple with staffing shortages, creating a significant hurdle for families seeking reliable care options. The repercussions of this issue are substantial, with 68% of parents finding themselves unable to work due to the unavailability of affordable child care. 

    Investments in early care and education yield significant returns for children, families, workers, and the economy at large. However, despite the collective efforts of parents, caregivers, professionals, and schools to contribute to children’s school readiness, existing systems are fragmented, failing to provide sufficient opportunities for all children to thrive. Despite years of policy conversations about the importance of early care and education, 42% of Virginia’s kindergarteners started the 2021 school year lacking foundational skills. 

    The backbone of early childhood education faces its own set of challenges. This undervalued and underpaid field, disproportionately composed of women of color, struggles to provide educators with living wages. As a result, the field grapples with retention issues, hindering its ability to offer consistent, high-quality care and education to young learners. 

    The recently unveiled Early Childhood Education proposal, outlined in the Governor’s Proposed Biennial Budget, signifies a landmark investment in the future of Virginia’s children. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the spending actions and budget language behind the key components of the proposal to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Governor’s vision for early childhood education. 

    Spending Actions: 

    • Child Care Subsidy (Item #117 N): 
      • Proposed Funding: $212,255,104 (FY 25), $237,815,584 (FY 26) 
      • The Child Care Subsidy Program aims to support families in need by providing subsidies for child care services. Notably, unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose in the following fiscal year. 
    • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
      • Proposed Funding: $1,000,000 (FY 25) 
      • The Digital Wallet initiative allocates funds to establish and administer early learning and child care accounts on a digital platform, targeting families with children aged birth-to-five. 
    • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
      • Proposed Funding: $9,736,015 (FY 24), $36,500,000 (FY 25, FY 26) 
      • This program focuses on utilizing federal funds to support mixed delivery services, ensuring the efficient use of allocated slots and reporting mechanisms for unmet parental demand. 
    • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
      • Proposed Funding: Per Pupil Amount, $116,283,670 (FY 24), $116,592,886 (FY 25), $115,356,585 (FY 26) 
      • The Virginia Preschool Initiative sees funding for per-pupil amounts and expands early childhood education, including provisions for 3-year-old expansion, community add-ons, slot redistribution, ratio flexibility, and provisional licensure incentives. 
    • ECCE Capital Fund (Item #103 U): 
      • Proposed Funding: $25,000,000 (FY 25) 
      • This fund, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, aims to increase the supply of quality early learning spaces through competitive grants, with a focus on sustainability and engagement with local employers. 

    Budget Language Highlights: 

    • Child Care Subsidy Program (Item #117): 
      • Establishes annual targets for the number of children served, with mechanisms for maintaining waitlists. Unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose. 
    • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
      • Limits state contributions to the highest need households, with guidelines for use and oversight. Unexpended amounts are reappropriated annually. 
    • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
      • Requires reporting on the efficacy of the Mixed-Delivery Initiative, proposing a conclusion and transition mechanism by July 1, 2025. 
    • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
      • Sets non-participation rates and reallocates resulting savings to the Child Care Subsidy Program.  
    • Capital Incentive Fund (Item #103 U): 
      • Establishes a competitive grant fund for early learning spaces, with specific criteria for prioritizing higher education institutions. 

    Next Steps and Legislative Proposal: 

    The proposed budget outlines a clear plan for the next steps in early childhood education funding. As shown in the table, additional funding is needed to sustain parental demand. We also support budget amendment language removing the proposed work requirements for childcare subsidy.  

    As members of the Virginia Promise Partnership, we are seeking an additional $26 million in FY 25 and $51 million in FY 26.  We are supporting Senator Locke and Delegate Bulova’s budget amendments for FY25: $20.2 million FY26: $39.7 million.

    Additionally, legislation filed by Senator Locke (SB 54) and Delegate Bulova (HB 475) would establish three key components needed to address the increasing demand for affordable, quality, early childhood services for Virginia’s working families.  

    • Formula for funding early childhood slots based on parent demand and choice
    • Non-reverting fund to enable rollover and reuse of unspent funds intended for ECCE services to serve more children based on family demand in future years 
    • Formal recognition for Recognize, Virginia’s child care teacher incentive program




    Tell legislators to support investments in early childhood education by completing this action alert! 

  3. General Assembly 2022: Mental Health Wrap-Up

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    The momentum was in place for children’s mental health in Virginia. The US Surgeon General and key advocates declared a national emergency to confront a decade-long decline in children’s mental health. Despite widespread concern, Governor Northam’s original budget proposal did not fund new programs in schools for children’s mental health. To meet the moment, a bipartisan group of legislators and advocates from various communities lobbied for investments in psychological services and counseling. Additional resources of $1.4 million per year will expand the Virginia Mental Health Access Program to integrate services in health care settings. Noted below are other new investments integrating mental health in school settings, increasing reimbursement rates, and supporting the workforce.

    A First Step for School-Based Mental Health Integration 

    Over the last three years, the General Assembly has focused on improving school-based mental health by funding specialized student support positions—counselors, social workers, and psychologists. While students have benefited from better relationships with faculty, COVID presented unanticipated disruptions, rapidly increasing needs, and barriers to vital care. School divisions have responded by allocating federal recovery funds into training, coaching, and even bringing community-based mental health professionals into schools.

    However, federal support during this emergency is impermanent and mental health threats are ongoing. School divisions need resources to continue to support these efforts. Voices led advocacy for additional state general fund resources supporting school-based mental health in flexible ways to assist school divisions in identifying key partnerships and resources. The General Assembly allocated $2.5 million in FY23 to begin supporting school-based mental health services and included language asking the newly established Behavioral Health Commission to study how schools can better integrate mental health services with sustainable funding streams such as Medicaid.

    The General Assembly also approved funding to establish a regional Recovery High School based in Chesterfield where substance abuse recovery is incorporated into the school day. The proposal by Delegate Carrie Coyner was finally approved after the 2020 COVID response cut funding. Other high schools will be able to look toward this model to support health needs in the classroom.

    Senator Jennifer McClellan has been a significant leader on school based mental health and increasing resources for school-based professionals. Read more in her Op/Ed in the Fredericksburg FreeLance Star.

    Addressing Workforce Shortages

    The lynchpin to support the social and emotional well-being of students is having an appropriate workforce. We are excited about two changes that will help address pressing workforce challenges.

    The House and Senate approved HB829, proposed by Del. Tony Wilt, that will provide flexibility on a provisional basis for licensed mental health professionals without certification to work in school-settings. This flexibility will ensure that school divisions can hire more mental health staff.

    The budget adopted by the General Assembly includes funding for a new initiative to help mental health professionals seeking licensure when they must pay for their supervision time out-of-pocket. The new initiative, Boost200, will provide resources to cover out-of-pocket expenses for licensure and match them with approved supervisors. This initiative is poised to make a significant impact on removing barriers towards licensure and diversifying the mental health field. Learn more about participating to address licensure costs or to work as a supervisor.

    Improving Medicaid Reimbursement Rates

    The third area that the legislature improved on mental health services was improving Medicaid reimbursement rates for several mental health services. Federal funds from the current “public health emergency” have increased payment rates for community-based services by 12.5%. The General Assembly approved resources to continue financing those services. The General Assembly also improved rates for psychiatric residential treatment facilities. Many facilities served children from other states and lacked placements for children in Virginia, leading to greater instability for the hardest to place children, who are the focus of the Safe and Sound Task Force. The increased rates should help caregivers meet immediate needs, but challenges remain to ensure that children are not placed in inappropriate and lengthy stays in congregate settings. While increasing Medicaid rates is a positive step, adequate reimbursement is essential to looking after the mental health of economically disadvantaged children and vulnerable children in the foster care system.

  4. General Assembly 2022: Child Welfare Wrap-Up

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    The Foster Care system has been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last two years foster families have experienced greater financial stress, fewer foster parents have become trained, and turn over in the workforce has increased from already high levels. In some localities children have been sleeping in local department of social services offices while awaiting placement, resulting in the Governor calling a for a special “Safe and Sound” taskforce to address the urgent needs.

    We are encouraged by the final budget including many of the initial priorities for foster care that Governor Northam introduced in December. Beyond those policies, several new programs were funded targeting older youth in care  about to transition to adulthood. Ultimately, we still have a long way to go to properly fund our child welfare system.

    Here are the highlights of the budget for child welfare advocates:

    Investing in the Infrastructure of Child Welfare

    The instability of the foster care workforce and outdated technology are major challenges in Virginia’s child welfare system. According to a 2018 JLARC report, the quit rate for an entry-level Family Services Worker Specialist is 42%, with retention being an even greater issue in small, rural agencies.

    • 10% increase in staff and operations and Local Departments of Social Services over two years
    • $22 million for the replacement of the outdated child welfare data tracking system. Updated technology, along with updated training and child welfare courses, will allow social services to serve children and families more efficiently. This can reduce the length of time between a child entering foster care and finding permanent care through reunification, kinship care, or adoption.
    • $5 Million in mandated reinvestments to provide additional resources for ongoing mandated activities such as post adoption case management services, mutual family assessments, foster care and adoption services, and substance abuse services.

    Scale Up Evidence & Community-Based Practices to Achieve Better Outcomes for Children and Families

    • Funding to provide fidelity monitoring and evaluation of evidence‐based prevention services, appropriates federal Transition Act funding and fully funds salaries for allocated program position.

    Provide Social Supports & Easier Path for Kinship Caregivers

    • Funding for SB 396 provides that the court has the authority to review a foster care plan placement determination by a local board of social services
    • Funding for HB 653 Delegate Wampler which directs the Department of Social Services to establish and implement a collaborative local board placement program to increase kinship placements and the number of locally approved foster homes.
    • Increase to TANF Cash Assistance Allocation (impacts Kinship Families receiving child-only TANF) – 5% increase.

    Help Foster Care Youth Have Normal Adolescent Experiences

    Virginia continues to rank 49th in the country for youth in foster care aging out without a permanent connection. Investments in this area are desperately needed to support transition age youth.

    • Funding for the development of the iFoster Care Portal, a free internet resource that includes education assistance and workforce development options, as well as independent living resources geared for young adults who have experienced foster care.
    • $1 Million to develop a state-funded grant program providing a range of funding for the Great Expectations Program in the following areas: the hiring of college coaches or mentors, housing stipends, child care, and transportation needs.
    • Budget language directing the State Higher Education Council to examine the feasibility of having a point of contact at each public institution of higher education for students who have been involved in the foster care system.

    Supporting the Efforts of the Safe and Sound Taskforce

    After the budget was reconciled, Governor Youngkin introduced these budget amendments  recommended by the Safe and Sound Task Force which will continue to meet to address the current crisis in placement and the systems level changes needed to prevent children from entering foster care.

    • $592,120 for five positions to support the development of collaborative partnerships between local departments of social services (DSS) to increase capacity to approve kinship caregivers and recruit, train, and develop locally approved foster parents. This effort will support HB653, patroned by Del. Wampler, to facilitate collaboration between local DSS.
    • $1.1 million to create an enhanced treatment foster care pilot program, commonly known as the Professional Foster Parent Model. This program will serve foster homes caring for high acuity children and provide participating foster families with an annual stipend of up to $45,000 per youth.
    • $200,000 to cover the costs of coordination, recruitment, and additional training to foster care agencies.
    • $3,000,000 to support the initiatives of the Safe and Sound Task Force including community-based treatments, support for kinship, foster and adoptive families, and trauma-informed care for children in foster care who are displaced or who are at risk of being displaced.
  5. General Assembly 2022: Health and Wellness Wrap-Up


    Understanding the social determinants of health (SDOH) that impact children’s lives informs how we advocate for policies that improve the health and well-being of all children, especially children of color and economically disadvantaged children. During the 2022 General Assembly Session, Voices joined partners, advocates, and youth in asking lawmakers to invest in equity and provide access to language services across state agencies, healthy and nutritious foods, and comprehensive health care.

    After months of negotiation, the legislature has reached an agreement on the state budget, including many of these initiatives. Policy changes in legislation and budget language have made progress towards holistically addressing the inequities and disparities faced by Virginia’s children and families.

    Creating an Equitable Health Care System

    • HB 987, sponsored by Delegate Tran, was signed into law and requires the Board of Medical Assistance Services to ensure that all medical assistance program information provided to applicants is made available in a manner that is timely and accessible to individuals with limited English proficiency through language access services. This includes oral interpretation, written translations, and auxiliary aids and services for individuals with disabilities as a reasonable step to provide meaningful access to health care coverage.
    • HB 229, sponsored by Delegate Coyner, was signed into law and requires the Department of Health to collect and analyze information, including demographic data, regarding social determinants of health and their impact on health risks and health outcomes of Virginians.
    • To address Medicaid enrollment, language is included in the budget directing the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to establish a Task Force on Eligibility Redetermination. This task force will help plan and advise the Department of Medical Assistance Services on the unwinding process to ensure Virginians do not lose healthcare coverage. The language also adds American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to be used for operational challenges linked to eligibility redetermination, such as technology needs and paying staff overtime at local DSS agencies.
    • The legislature has directed $2.5 million in FY23 to continue the contract for an integrated e-referral system for one year. It is expected that the e-referral system will continue beyond FY23 with user fees supporting its operations. The purpose of the system is to connect government agencies, health care providers, and community-based partners to enable participants in the system to refer patients to public health and social services.

    Increasing Language Access and Equity

    • While the funding amount was reduced from the original budget, $2.5 million per fiscal year remains in the current budget to be provided to state agencies for facilitating and improving language access. This funding will allow each state agency to designate a language access coordinator who will be responsible for making sure that agency materials and communications are accessible to all Virginians, especially those who have limited English proficiency.

    Increasing Food Access and Nutrition Security

    • To ensure access to healthy and nutritious foods and boost the buying power of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit for fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and food stores, $1 million per fiscal year will be directed to Virginia Fresh Match.
    • HB 582, sponsored by Delegate Roem, was signed into law and requires public institutions of higher education to ensure that young people in college have access to information on SNAP benefits, including eligibility and how to apply. The bill also requires each institution to advertise information on the SNAP benefit process on their website and in orientation materials distributed to students.
    • HB 587, sponsored by Delegate Roem, was signed into law and requires every public elementary or secondary school to process web-based or paper-based applications for participation in the School Breakfast Program or the National School Lunch Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, within five working days after the date of receipt of the application.

    Creating a future where Virginia’s children can thrive will require intersectional approaches, including equitable, healing-centered policies that dismantle systemic barriers so that all young people can lead long, healthy, and successful lives. While the budget takes important steps forward, we must continue uplifting youth voices to improve policies impacting their health and well-being.

  6. General Assembly 2022: Early Education Wrap-Up


    Virginia lawmakers continued to create a path for growth and expansion in early education with the outcomes of the budget negotiations in the 2022 General Assembly Session. Building off years of historic state and national investments, the legislature approved significant resources for early childhood for FY23-24. The legislature approved several new initiatives and the bulk of the early childhood expansion proposals in Governor Northam’s outgoing budget.

    After years of significant strain on the child care industry and after a House of Delegates proposed budget made significant cuts to Northam’s proposals, early childhood advocates have something positive to celebrate in this state budget. The final compromise left most of his proposal in place. In recent comments, Governor Youngkin recognized a significant bi-partisan shift to support early education that he hoped the legislature would restore funding to early education.

    Below are the initiatives that will strengthen early education and the child care sector in the budget. In total, the budget includes an additional $76 million in state funds and an additional $7.5 million in ARPA funding for early education and child care.

    Six bipartisan legislators received Child Care Champions Awards from the Virginia Promise Partnership at an awards reception on June 1, 2022.

    Six bipartisan legislators received Child Care Champions Awards from the Virginia Promise Partnership at an awards reception on June 1, 2022.

    Creating a Stronger, More Equitably Resourced Early Education System

    A combination of policy changes in legislation and language in the budget will strengthen the alignment and oversight of early education programs.

    • The Regional Early Education System and Overpayment Fund HB 389, sponsored by Del. Bulova, was signed into law to create the structure for Ready Regions throughout Virginia and capture any overpayment to localities of subsidy funds so it does not revert to other areas.
    • Increasing the VPI per-pupil allocation to $8,359 will reflect the true cost of quality early education programs. In addition, language asks the Department of Education to conduct an annual benchmarking of VPI funding, as is done with other K-12 funding streams.
    • Language for more flexibility in the use of VPI funds will allow school divisions to serve more students with disabilities and expand to serve 3-year-olds in VPI funded programs.
    • An additional $6.7 million will expand public/private options for state-aligned preschools through the VECF mixed-delivery program. These funds will support the early childhood education of an estimated additional 500-600 students, including 200 infants and toddlers.
    • The legislature has directed $3.5 million in ARPA funds to the United Way of Southwest Virginia for a new initiative expanding child care capacity, “Ready Southwest”.

    Compensation and Retention for Early Childhood Educators

    • The approved budget will expand the early educator incentive grant program by an additional $5 million per year to recruit and retain early childhood professionals.
    • While reforms to the hiring process and background checks for provisional employment did not move forward, the Commissioner of Social Services has begun a process review and promise to address the timeliness of background checks.

    Accessibility and Affordable Care for All Children

    • Building off the legislation that passed last year, the new budget continues to expand child care assistance eligibility and reduces parent co-pays. Families with children under five, up to 85% of the state median income, and families looking for a job are eligible now for this assistance. The budget also eliminates the 72 month time limit to receive assistance, removing an arbitrary time limit for families who may have multiple children who could otherwise qualify for assistance.
    • The legislature also provided $4 million in ARPA federal funds to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These federal funds will strengthen school-based, out of school-time, programs that are affordable.
    • Governor Youngkin signed SB69 sponsored by Sen. Favola allowing home-based child care programs to be approved on the site of rental properties.

    Healthy Development

    • The legislature provided a $2.9 million increase each year to the base allocation for Part C Services early intervention services funded through DBHDS. This will contribute to services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays.
  7. 2022 General Assembly Budget Passes with Bipartisan Progress for Kids

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    Click here to register for our upcoming Zoom webinar on June 14 as we discuss General Assembly results and what they mean for children and families in Virginia.

    After several months of negotiations and discussions among key decision makers, the General Assembly has reached an agreement on the budget. This year’s budget had notable investments in early education, foster care, and children’s mental health through bipartisan support. Since budgets are a reflection of priorities, we believe there are improvements Virginia can make to demonstrate its commitment to young people in the commonwealth.

    Notable investments in the final budget compromise include:

    • Expanding affordable, accessible early childhood education for young children around the state. The budget builds on Governor Northam’s vision to expand early childhood programming and provides funding for regional initiatives in Southwest Virginia and early intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays.
    • State funding for school-based mental health integration projects linking mental health services into schools. The legislature approved $2.5 million for school-based mental health projects as well as the first regional recovery high school in Virginia.
    • New initiatives to address long-standing challenges in the child welfare system include replacing the outdated child welfare data tracking system and the iFoster web-based portal for youth, expanded regional collaboration for foster placements, and additional support for foster youth seeking associate’s degrees to participate in Great Expectations.
    • $1 million each year to boost the buying power of SNAP benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and community retailers.

    We are proud to stand by the youth and young adults who advocated with us for these investments. And we will continue to speak up for policy changes designed to meet their needs.

    As one of our youth advocates said,

    “Mental health is the same thing as your physical health. It’s just as important, if not more important, so we really need to prioritize that and make it so that everybody has equal opportunities.”

    – (Aaliyana, 16 years old).

    While these initiatives will continue to create new opportunities for young children to grow and thrive, the foundation of their success is economic stability. The rate of children experiencing poverty has remained consistent for decades in Virginia with persistent racial disparities in the percentage of Black and Latino children living in poverty than their White peers. A solid foundation for child well-being rests on a solid financial foundation for their families.

    As a significant commitment to families, the General Assembly approved a partially refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):

    • Low-income working families who have a higher-than-average tax burden will see 15% of the value of their federal refund returned as a state tax credit.
    • In addition, this summer, taxpayers will receive one-time rebates of $250 for single families and $500 for married couples.

    The refundable EITC for families demonstrates that lawmakers can take necessary action to address long-standing challenges for families that were exacerbated by the pandemic. There will be more work to do to ensure that families receive economic support and stability that will address decades-long trends in child poverty and ever-increasing material hardship experienced by families across the state.

  8. 2021 GA Session: Conference Budget Report


    The 2021 General Assembly is coming to a close with good news for children and families. While the last year has produced tremendous disruptions and up and downs for families, the revenue picture in Virginia is in better shape than expected and lawmakers were able to restore many initiatives that were unallocated last year and identify new ways to repair systems to provide a more equitable foundation.

    Our issue specific blog posts will include more details on the full budget package next week. Below are some of the highlights state legislators are proposing to go above and beyond the Governor’s introduced budget. Most changes included below would go into effect July 1, 2021.

    Health Care Access and Prenatal Care:

    • Providing health care coverage prenatally for pregnant women who are immigrants. Funding is included in the budget to direct Virginia to provide Medicaid/FAMIS coverage for low-income pregnant women who are immigrants. Currently, this population only receives coverage for the birth and delivery, not comprehensive prenatal coverage.
    • Funding and training for doula care for eligible pregnant women.
    • Language directing the state to begin exploring the costs and benefits of providing health care coverage for all immigrant children.
    • Directing the state to develop a plan for a Medicaid benefit for home visiting.

    Children’s Mental Health:

    • Restoring $1.6 million to expand the Behavioral Health Loan Repayment Program. This initiative is critical to incentivize more clinicians to enter the field and to diversify the workforce.
    • Language directing DOE to begin implementing the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program and report on additional legislative or regulatory changes needed.

    Pre-K–12 Education and Education Equity:

    • Increasing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) per pupil amount to $7,655 as introduced in the Governor’s budget to reflect per pupil costs for high quality instruction. VPI has historically underfunded the cost to provide high quality early education for disadvantaged students.
    • Including $49 million to hire additional student support staff such as social workers, nurses and psychologists and funding in the introduced budget for additional school counselors.

    Family Economic Security:

    • Increasing the TANF Standards of Assistance by 10%, including both eligibility and cash assistance payments.
    • Including $2.1 million TANF funded Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) so that TANF-eligible individuals may save funds in an individual development account established for the purposes of home purchase, education, starting a business, transportation, or other needs.
    • Including an additional $2 million for the Virginia Food Access Investment Program. This program will decrease food deserts in rural and urban communities through retail investments.
    • $6.9 million in funding for paid sick leave for personal care attendants. We are disappointed that a larger population was not considered but recognize this as a first step in ensuring frontline workers have access to paid time off.

    Trauma-Informed Care:

    • Restoring $143,000 to implement the ACEs Interface training initiative. This also supports a full-time Central Office position to provide oversight over 100 ACE Interface Master Trainers and facilitate additional training.

    Child Welfare:

    • Extended payments for those aging out of Fostering Futures. Adds language to extend payments to children aging out of the Fostering Futures program through September 2021.
    • Casework Salary Increases Restores $2.2 million for local social services departments’ (LDSS) to increase minimum salary levels for LDSS family services by 20 percent.
    • Created State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program to facilitate child placements with relatives, including fictive kin, and ensure permanency for children. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements.

    For more updates on budget and the 2021 General Assembly session results, subscribe to our policy emails.

  9. Continued Momentum: Foster Care in the 2020 Legislative Session

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    In 2019, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on foster care study revealed Virginia’s longstanding failings in Virginia’s foster care system. It showed a lack of adherence to requirements in some cases, a need to place more children in family-based foster care settings (including kinship care), high caseloads, and a 40% turnover rate in the workforce.

    This year, the Virginia General Assembly invested historic amounts into the foster care system.

    We are grateful to all of the partners who signed onto the Foster Care Unified Agenda and the youth in our 2020 Foster Care & Kinship Care Youth Advocacy cohort. Together, we garnered the attention of legislators and made lasting impacts for the future of children.


    2020 Foster Care Bills that Passed

    • School enrollment former foster care | SB275 /HB368| Barker & Caroll Foy| Allows students who turn 18 while in foster care to continue to enroll in the school division where they reside. 
    • Codify Fostering FuturesSB156/HB400 | Favola & Keam | Establishes the Fostering Futures program to provide services and support to individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 who were in foster care as a minor and are transitioning to full adulthood and self-sufficiency.
    • Post-adoption contact and communication agreements; involuntary termination of parental rights |HB721 | Reid | Provides that a child’s birth parent or parents for whom parental rights were involuntarily terminated may enter into a post-adoption contact and communication agreement with the child’s pre-adoptive parent or parents.
    • Kinship Guardianship Assistance program; eligibility; fictive kin | HB933 & SB178 | Brewer/Carroll Foy, & Mason | Expands eligibility for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance program to fictive kin (a person who the child has a history of a strong relationship with who is not related by blood). 
    • Office of the Children’s Ombudsman established | HB1301 | Hurst | Establishes the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman as a means of effecting changes in policy, procedure, and legislation.
    • Guardian ad litem for children; certification of compliance with certain standards | HB137 | Collins |  The bill requires a guardian ad litem to file with the court a certification specifically addressing meeting face-to-face contact with the child.
    • Kinship foster care; training and approval processes | SB1025 | Dunnavant |Requires local boards of social services to request a waiver of training requirements necessary for the approval of a kinship foster parent upon determining that training requirements are a barrier to placement with the kinship foster parent and that such placement is in the child’s best interest.

    Budget Investments: Foster Care

    Foster Care Workforce

    • $5.6 million each year for local Department of Social Services caseworkers to increase base salaries and reduce salary compression.
    • $500,000 each year for the foster care omnibus bill to continue efforts started in 2019.
    • $250,000 provides the agency with funding for a consultant to assist in evaluating the agency’s system needs (OASIS) and developing a detailed plan to be considered before committing funding in order to ensure the Commonwealth procures the appropriate data tracking system.

    Kinship Care

    • $8.5 million in TANF each year for kinship relative payments
      • 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.
    • Increase TANF cash assistance and eligibility by 15 percent
      • Families who were previously kinship care givers will receive this increase starting July 2020. Any new kinship families approved as child-only cases will receive payment increases of approximately $55 per month.
    • Directs the Department of Social Services to develop a plan to provide access statewide to a Kinship Navigator Program.
    • The Department of Social Services will create an emergency approval process for kinship caregivers and develop foster home certification standards for kinship caregivers
    • KinGap is expanded to Fictive Kin (a person who the child has a history of a strong relationship with who is not related by blood) 

    Family First Prevention Services Act

    • $8 million per year for evidence-based services approved by the federal clearinghouse and $1.5 million each year for an evaluation team.
    • $30.4 million total over two years for local prevention service units.

    Drivers License for Youth in Foster Care

    Establishing an Office of Children’s Ombudsman

  10. Early Childhood Education in the House and Senate Budgets

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    We are closer to seeing the largest state investment in early childhood education in Virginia! The budgets approved by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee on Sunday, Feb. 16th keep most of the Governor’s proposals for early childhood in place.

    The next step is for the House and Senate to appoint conferees to negotiate differences in the budget. Look for an action alert in the coming days targeted to these negotiators.

    The only disappointment is a reduction in the proposed $10 million per year for mixed-delivery grants administered by VECF. The House proposed reducing funding for these grants by $7 million per year and the Senate proposed reducing funding by $2 million per year. Currently VECF administers $1.25 million in state-funded mixed-delivery grants. The House budget would provide 500 fewer mixed-delivery slots than the Senate budget.

    As we have noted, the outcomes for children in mixed-delivery preschool settings are on par with the outcomes of children in public preschool.  And, we have learned from other states, models that move all 3 & 4 year-olds to public schools make it too costly to offer affordable child care for infants and toddlers. We also believe that parents should choose the best settings to meet their preferences and needs, and that might be a full-day, year-round child care program.

    Mixed-delivery settings are critical to any expansion of public preschool. Providers, educators, and parents must speak up for need for additional access to mixed-delivery preschool settings to be included in the final budget. The mixed-delivery grant program administered through VECF provides more flexibility in how state dollars can be used to support classrooms including the hours/timeframe of programs, the credentials of the classroom teachers, and the required local match. There is not a one-size fits all approach for each community to expand access to preschool, and these mixed-delivery grants help communities adjust to the challenges preventing them from serving more families.

    While the total amount of available funding will depend on the final agreed upon budget due to be approved by March 7th, communities interested in expanding mixed-delivery slots can learn more about how to apply here. Letters of intent to apply are due March 20th.

    Even with this small setback, we will celebrate expanded access and stronger preschool programs. If you did not get to take part in the celebration of early learning, the “Playdate at the Capitol” on Feb. 17th look at our photo album to check out all the fun!