Tag Archive: early care and education

  1. Voices Supports Proposed Changes to Child Care Payment Rates and Parent Co-Pays

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    Voices supports the proposed improvements to child care payment rates and the parent copayment requirements. These proposed changes will greatly impact the under resourced child care sector as well as help parents who are looking for care, so that they can continue to work. While it has been long recognized that child care programs need more resources to provide quality care, educators need higher wages and parents need lower costs to afford the care. Solutions have often been piecemeal and insignificant with regards to impact in all three areas of need. This proposal has the potential to transform how staff are paid, how parents choose quality, affordable care, and how quality improvement resources are provided.

    Virginia is ranked 10th highest in the nation for child care costs. The average annual rate for an infant is $14,063 and $10,867 for a preschooler.

    In 2021, Voices supported Senator Jennifer McClellan’s proposal to improve child care by funding the true cost of quality care (SB1316 Bill Explainer). The adoption of this legislation prompted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to examine its payment practices and to seek approval from the federal government to use an alternative payment methodology to set rates based on program inputs. During the pandemic, VDOE has had the ability to waive parent co-payments which has provided relief when many families experienced economic hardship. New copayment rates will help to reduce the burden on parents participating in the subsidy program. Recent policy changes have also improved the ability for parents to participate by raising maximum income requirements, removing child support requirements, and ending a lifetime limit of 72 months for receiving assistance.

    Impact of Proposed Changes on Program Funding

    The new payment rates have been set to reflect the costs of program inputs by including wages, program standards, curriculum, and quality improvement activities. Payment rates have been posted online and can be compared to previous rates. Under the previous reimbursement rate process, the market, or what parents could pay in a specific community, drove the costs. The new model considers rates at a regional level and takes into account different types of licensures. In doing this, it recognizes the educators in the classroom as the critical inputs, not the physical location.

    As payment rates are currently set by the age of the child, type of setting, and locality, the impact of the new payment rates in comparison to the old rates varies significantly across these three areas. Voices took a look at the new rates across jurisdictions to better understand impact. While there are a few localities who will not see rates increase for the preschool or school-aged age groups, every locality will see rate increases for providers. Each locality is now grouped into a region where the regional rate is equal across jurisdictions (unless the original market was higher).

    Some providers and jurisdictions will see minimal increases of $5 per day, or slightly less. However, a $5/day increase for child served for 260 days throughout the year would equal a $1,300 increase for the program. Some localities and providers will see much larger increases in the magnitude of $20-35 per day. A $20/day increase (for example, in a center serving infants in James City County) would equal $5,200 additional resources per year and a $35/day increase (for example, in a center serving infants in Wythe County) would equal $9,100 per year.

    As with any cost calculation, there will be some “winners” and “losers”. Providers in Northern Virginia will not see the same scale of increase as providers in more rural areas of the state. However, families looking for infant and toddler care will see significant rate increases as will home care providers serving school-age children. As we look to additional changes for payment practices and participation in the coming years, the state should consider the localities that do not receive significant increases in this proposal as a priority population. In particular, providers in Northern Virginia are not provided significant rate increases despite recent policy changes for Washington DC that increased rates and educator compensation. Failing to compete at the regional level could incentivize Virginia-based early educators to transition to nearby jurisdictions paying more.

    The proposed changes will roll out in three phases:

    • Phase I: Regional payment rates determined by cost to be implemented Oct 1, 2022.
    • Phase II: Create a voluntary wage scale to encourage programs to increase wages over time.
    • Phase III: Provide additional supports for continuous quality improvement based on VQB5 assessments.

    Impact on Early Educator Wages

    While the rate increases could impact programs to a varying degree depending on subsidy enrollment, ages of children, and jurisdiction, those who are receiving the increase will be asked to participate in a voluntary wage scale allowing VDOE to collect information on the current wages and to offer a benchmark to ensure educators are paid higher wages as a result of the rate increase. This wage scale is a very exciting component to help increase the compensation for early childhood professionals and family home care providers. Compensation was modeled to factor in the wages that teachers in public preschool programs were paid to put their private counterparts on equal footing. The voluntary scale will allow Virginia an opportunity to measure progress towards increasing compensation, particularly when other neighboring localities to Virginia have made this a focus.

    Impact on Parent Copayments

    The child care subsidy program can be an extremely valuable benefit to working families, but only if it provides the continuous affordable coverage they need to work. Proposals to reduce the parent co-pays and collapse income levels will help reduce benefit cliffs where families receive diminishing returns for higher wages by reducing their access to public benefits. The impact of the proposed changes would save some families $600 per year while others could save thousands of dollars. Families earning less than the poverty level (who currently make up 43% of children enrolled) would pay no copays under the proposed changes. These families would go from paying about $50 per month to no monthly contribution. Families just over poverty (100-200% FPL) would pay $60 per month in comparison to $135-185/month under the current structure, and parents above that rate would pay $120-180/month. Providers are allowed to charge parents for any difference between tuition rates and what is covered by subsidy reimbursement and parent co-pays.

    Public Comment Opportunity

    The reimbursement rate changes are program manual changes that do not require legislative approval, but will go through the public comment process and will be presented to the Board of Education.

    Public comments on the proposed changes can be emailed to  rr-earlychildhoodaccess@doe.virginia.gov by July 25, 2022. The current timeline has reimbursement rates taking effect October 2022 and copayment changes would take effect January 1, 2023.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. Bill Explainer: Child Care Stabilization and “True Costs” of Quality SB1316 (McClellan)

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    There are two truths in early childhood education: parents can’t afford to pay any more for child care and teachers can’t afford to earn any less. The imbalance in this equation is due to the fact that child care is an expensive endeavor—low teacher to student ratios, safety precautions, play materials, etc. add up. For too long these costs have been passed along to parents for what they can “afford”. Now the average cost of infant care in Virginia is more than college tuition. 

    At the same time as costs were getting too high for parents, teachers also were not able to earn living wages. A recent UVA study of the racial composition and compensation of the early childhood workforce found that two out of five early educators in child care centers reported household incomes under $25,000. Prior to the pandemic, the national median wage in child care was $10-14 per hour.

    Long-term, we need more public investments to decrease costs for parents while providing better compensation to teachers. Short-term, we need creative solutions.

    Bill Explainer:

    Senator Jennifer McClellan’s SB1316 seeks to make a number of changes to stabilize the child care sector and improve our options to pay for the “true cost” of quality. These changes would utilize existing state and federal funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and/or federal COVID relief funds to pay for these initiatives.

    • To promote flexibility for child care providers to hire new staff and use substitutes, the legislation establishes a plan for portable background checks. Currently an employee’s background check stays with their employer instead of the individual. Del. John McGuire has a companion bill (HB2086) to implement portable background checks.
    • To establish a two-year pilot program to allow the state to contract with child care providers based on enrollment instead of attendance. The contract would also determine payment amounts based on the inputs for high-quality, full-time services and equitable compensation for early educators. 
    • To collect data on the inputs and costs related to providing high-quality services and the outcomes for quality improvement, workforce retention, and financial stability. 
    • To work in conjunction with the School Readiness Committee to evaluate the pilot and make recommendations for future payment practices and cost-of-quality reimbursement methods. 

    These innovations on how Virginia would pay for child care services are allowed by federal authorization, but few states take these options. Virginia would be a leader in moving down the path of providing flexibility and stability to the child care sector by using our funds for child care in these ways.

    We are also learning more about other bills that would improve access and affordability in child care and will add more to this space! Sign up to receive policy emails and the latest updates straight to your inbox.

  5. Sounding the Alarm: New Data Reveals Impact of COVID-19 Hardships

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    Guest Blog Post Contributed by John R. Morgan, Ph.D., former Voices Executive Director and current Chewning Research Fellow at the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

    Widening racial-ethnic disparities likely to harm children of color

    Data is accumulating showing that economic and familial hardships associated with the pandemic are experienced more acutely by Black and Hispanic families. These hardships are of the same nature as those associated more generally with child poverty; and it is clear that racial-ethnic child poverty disparities in Virginia are already substantial and persistent. The latest data available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center indicate poverty rates of 28.0 for Black children, 19.8 for Hispanic children and 8.9 percent respectively for white children.

    Children of color, already more likely to experience child poverty and its associated hardship burdens, are now faced with an extra and similarly disproportionate burden delivered by the pandemic. The most likely outcome of this doubled-up hardship burden is a worsening of pre-pandemic racial-ethnic inequities. It is also likely that these inequities will be most prominent in education and health. Looming on the horizon then is the highly likely and entirely unwelcome prospect of the worsening of already intolerable inequities which greatly disadvantage children of color, including:

    • education achievement gaps (PALS-K scores, SOL scores, SAT scores; and rates of retention, suspension/expulsion, drop-out, graduation, college acceptance)
    • inequities in health status (prevalence of asthma, obesity, low birthweight; inadequate prenatal care; food insecurity)

    Data on COVID health outcomes are of primary immediate concern. Infection rates, hospitalization rates and mortality are all substantially higher for Black and Hispanic-Latino than White populations nationally and in Virginia.

    Disparities in COVID-caused household hardships

    More recently, data from the Census Bureau’s COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey reveal that the burden of COVID-related family hardships falls most heavily on Black and Hispanic households. This disproportionate impact threatens to put at risk the long-term well-being of their children. Much of the available data is national yet it is plausible that national findings will be mirrored in Virginia to a great extent. Some prominent national indicators include:

    • 51 percent of households with children reported an adult in the household had lost employment income. (Pulse Survey August 2020)
    • 58 percent of Hispanic and 53 percent of Black households saw a loss of employment income since March, versus 39 percent of white households. (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)
    • 59 percent of Black households, 55 percent of Latino households, and 33 percent of white households reported it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to pay for usual household expenses. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
    • 18 percent of Black households, 17 percent of Latino households, and 7 percent of white households reported that their household did not get enough to eat. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

    The minimal state-level data available so far align with these national findings. In a recent report, the Commonwealth Institute estimated that 24 percent of children in Virginia live in a household that is not getting enough to eat or is behind on housing payments. Their analysis underscored data indicating that people of color were feeling economic hardships more acutely. For example, one of every eight Virginia workers who identify as Black, Latinx, or Asian/Pacific Islander were unemployed this summer or temporarily laid off without pay, compared to one of every 19 non-Hispanic white workers.

    It is evident, therefore, that compared to their white counterparts, Black, and Hispanic children in Virginia are more likely to be exposed to potentially harmful pandemic-related hardships. This threatens to substantially widen existing troublesome disparities and present ever-greater risk to the well-being of Virginia’s children of color.

    What makes these findings so alarming?

    There is strong scientific consensus, cited in sources above, that the economic hardships and familial stressors associated with child poverty can compromise child development and lead to troublesome outcomes. Research also identifies the parameters that influence the likelihood of such harmful effects. Risk of harm is both additive and cumulative – as the number and/or duration of hardship exposures increase, so does the likelihood of harm.

    Applying those parameters to the circumstances faced by Virginia’s children of color, alarms are sounding on both counts. As data reviewed above indicates, Black and Hispanic children are more likely than white children to be exposed to a greater number of hardships during the pandemic (as they were before the pandemic); and pandemic-induced hardships are more acute and severe for Black and Hispanic families, meaning a longer duration before they can fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. The net effect: the pandemic will widen critical Black-white and Hispanic-white disparities, especially in the health and education domains, and likely for an extended period. This will be a step backward, resulting in diminished opportunity and greater disadvantage for children of color.

    Policy implications: Will history be repeated?

    There are challenging and urgent policy implications of this potential worsening of racial-ethnic child disparities. It is imperative that policymakers address this impending harm by pursuing fiscal and policy initiatives which recognize this disproportionate risk and target responses accordingly.

    The guiding principle should be to first restore and then enhance all the pre-pandemic initiatives that were in place to reduce key racial-ethnic disparities in health and education. Every policy and budget decision in our recovery effort will therefore need to be viewed through an equity lens: does this decision recognize the unacceptably disproportionate hardship burden borne by Virginia’s Black and Hispanic children and respond in a manner that does not perpetuate or worsen their previous disadvantage?

    Voices is a member of the Fund our Schools Coalition calling to restore education funding. Fund Our Schools partner, The Commonwealth Institute, has wisely urged state decisionmakers while crafting pandemic relief plans not to repeat the upside-down school funding decisions made in response to the Great Recession. In that instance, though recession-era budget cuts had disproportionately impacted the poorest school divisions and students, lawmakers restored proportionately less – not more – funding to these divisions as state finances recovered. Lawmakers should heed the advice and avoid uniform across-the-board recovery initiatives that fail to respond to the reality of COVID-19’s disproportionate harm. Failure to do so will needlessly and callously worsen existing racial-ethnic inequities and push Black and Hispanic children even farther behind their white counterparts. On economic, social and moral grounds this would be an intolerable outcome.

    Want to read more insightful news on this topic? Sign up to receive the latest news on data trends in Virginia.

  6. Speak up at state budget hearings on Jan. 7!

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    This is the time to let the state legislators who are responsible for developing the state budget know that children are our priority! They need to hear from us about why it’s important to support services for children in Virginia, especially in our priority areas of foster care and juvenile justice reform, early childhood care & education, and children’s mental health.

    The budget hearings will be held in 4 locations around the state on January 7th, with a panel of legislators attending each one. It is a great opportunity to speak out about the devastating consequences to children and families when we do not invest in children’s well-being.

    More specifically, we are looking for volunteers to talk about the following:

    Foster Care & Juvenile Justice

    If you are interested in attending one of the budget hearings to advocate on behalf of older youth in foster care in support of the Fostering Futures program, or if you are interested in speaking about juvenile justice reform (strong investments in family- and community-based as alternatives to incarceration), please contact Senior Policy Attorney Amy Woolard at amy@vakids.org for talking points and more information on how to navigate the budget hearings.

    Early Childhood Care & Education

    If you wish to speak about early childhood education please contact Emily Griffey at Emily@vakids.org. She can help provide you with talking points to support home visiting, child care safety, the Virginia Preschool Initiative and the early childhood workforce.

    Children’s Mental Health

    Has your Community Service Board (CSB) and/or community benefited from the new children’s mental health funding for crisis response services and child psychiatry? Does your community still need better access to child psychiatry or crisis response services? If you are interested in talking about any of these topics, please contact Campaign for Children’s Mental Health Coordinator, Ashley Everette: Ashley@vakids.org.


    Why testify at a budget hearing?

    • Your comments can help shape the state budget for the next year as it pertains to children’s services.
    • Speaking out educates our legislators about issues that are important to you and helps make Virginia a better place to live for kids and their families!


    So where are the hearings?

    Thursday, January 7, 2016 (Hearings begin at 10:00 a.m.)

    • Fredericksburg – University of Mary Washington, University Center, Chandler Ballroom
    • Wytheville – Wytheville Community College, Grayson Hall, Snyder Auditorium

    Thursday, January 7, 2016 (Hearings begin at 12:00 noon)

    • Chesapeake – Tidewater Community College, Chesapeake Campus, Student Center Multipurpose Room
    • Richmond – General Assembly Building, House Room D

    If you plan to testify at the budget hearings, we are happy to help you prepare your testimony. Remember, you will have 3 minutes or less! So please write your testimony and practice with a timer to make sure you are within the required time. We’ve also put together advocacy tips for budget hearings  that can help you prepare your testimony.

  7. Gov. McAuliffe’s Budget Includes Investments for Children


    Virginia’s revenue picture is certainly brighter than it was this time last year, though Governor McAuliffe informed the joint money committee members yesterday that his biennial budget proposal was based on “a conservative revenue forecast in the face of continued economic uncertainty.” He also noted that Virginia ended 2015 at a $549.6 million revenue surplus, “the largest in the Commonwealth’s history.” With that in mind, we are more determined than ever to make sure lawmakers use as much of that surplus as possible to make smart investments in strategies, supports, and programs aimed at improving the well-being of Virginia’s children.

    Here’s our breakdown of how the budget proposal looks for kids in each of our core policy areas; we’ve included some links to more detailed information in each section, and check out our State Legislative Advocacy page for more:


    Early Childhood Care & Education

    Voices and our partners in the Early Childhood Policy Network believe that Virginia’s approach to early childhood education should be comprehensive, starting at birth and continuing through school. We are pleased to see that the Governor’s budget proposal follows this same approach by investing in the expansion of home visiting and early intervention, improving the safety of child care and providing opportunities for public-private preschool partnerships (details here). We were also pleased to see Congress take action to support early childhood education (details here).


    Children’s Mental Health

    The Governor’s proposed budget includes an additional $138,192 over the biennium to increase needed pediatrician services at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA), the only public inpatient psychiatric hospital for children in Virginia.  Other funding for children’s community-based mental health services remains level.

    While were are pleased that children’s mental health crisis services and child psychiatry services were preserved at current levels, we know that additional funding is necessary to reach more children in need of these services. With bi-partisan support for these highly effective services, Voices along with its partners in the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health will continue to advocate for additional funding to support the expansion of community-based crisis response services and child psychiatry.


    Health Care

    Thankfully, Governor McAuliffe is continuing to advocate for expanding health coverage to the 400,000 currently uninsured Virginians who need this access to care. Included in his budget proposal is a plan to draw down federal funding to expand health coverage to low-income Virginians using funds collected from Virginia’s hospitals to cover the Commonwealth’s state share of this option. While this topic has generated considerable controversy over the last couple of years, we hope the General Assembly can continue discussions with the administration to make sure we close the coverage gap and open access to health care for all Virginians.


    Foster Care

    We are thrilled to see that Governor McAuliffe included money once again in his budget to fund “Fostering Futures”—an option under the federal Fostering Connections Act to broaden foster care transition services and adoption assistance for older youth up to age 21. Fostering Futures will provide critical foundational supports to make sure that age 18 is a bridge to adulthood for these youth and not a cliff. Most importantly, this effort will include housing and lessen the chance that youth will have to forgo pursuing their education because of financial struggles.

    Also included in the proposed budget is an expected 2% increase in foster care and adoption assistance payments, which is triggered automatically during the year following a state employee pay increase.


    School Discipline

    The Governor’s proposed budget includes an additional $1 million over the biennium for implementing Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) in schools, with an emphasis on schools with high rates of disciplinary offenses. PBIS, along with other strengths-based school reforms, has shown to improve school climate and reduce suspensions and expulsions.


    Juvenile Justice

    We are also pleased to see a biennial budget bill from the Governor that recognizes that the status quo within Virginia’s justice system is unacceptable. We support new language in the budget that provides for a reinvestment in a strong continuum of family- and community-based services as alternatives to incarceration. These types of evidence-based therapeutic responses are supported by the most current research, and are shown to reduce recidivism. Virginia’s current three-year reconviction rate for youth leaving our juvenile prisons stands at nearly 75%—we can and must do better; the reinvestment portion of the plan outlined in the Governor’s budget sets us on that path.


    Next Steps & Budget Hearings (Jan. 7th)

    When the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, January 13th, they will begin to consider thousands of bills, including Gov. McAuliffe’s budget proposal, and work on reconciling their priorities. We need your help to make sure children’s issues are a part of that conversation! Join us at one of the four regional budget hearings scheduled around the state (Richmond, Fredericksburg, Chesapeake, and Wytheville) on Jan. 7th, and offer your support for Voices’ policy agenda.

    To speak to foster care issues, contact Senior Policy Attorney Amy Woolard (Amy@vakids.org); early childhood issues, contact Senior Policy Analyst Emily Griffey (Emily@vakids.org), and health care and children’s mental health, contact Policy Analyst Ashley Everette (Ashley@vakids.org).

    For a refresher on the legislative & budget process, review our Advocacy Guide. We look forward to working with you as a voice for children during the 2016 General Assembly session!

  8. Budget Approved by General Assembly

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    What’s In It For Kids?

    This past Saturday was a busy day in Richmond with both the House and Senate tying up all of the loose ends of the 2013 Session and wanting to adjourn on time. Not to get lost in all of the last minute shuffling, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the many good things included in the budget conference report reflecting Voices’ priority issues. As advocates, you all played a tremendous role in these successes. The conference budget, now approved by the General Assembly, goes to the Governor.

    Early Care & Education

    • The conference budget restores over $1 million in cuts to home visiting programs, CHIP (Item 297 #2c) and Healthy Families (Item 343 #1c). CHIP of Virginia/Parents as Teachers ended up with $600,000 restored and Healthy Families with $550,000. These funds are critical to ensure statewide access to these evidence-based family strengthening and health care improvement programs.
    • Your tremendous outpouring of support for early intervention (Part C) services for babies and toddlers helped to secure $2.3 million in funding in the current fiscal year and $6 million to meet the shortfall next fiscal year. We are very thankful that the conferees agreed to support the Senate’s request of an additional $3 million on top of the Governor’s proposal of $3 million. Although there will still be a small shortfall, the additional funding will put programs in a much better position for next year. Item 315 #1c

    Children’s Mental Health

    • The conference budget included an additional $1.9 million in FY14 for children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry (Item 315 #4c). This total includes the $1 million added by the Governor and the $900,000 approved by the General Assembly. This amount is in addition to the $1.75 million included in the FY14 budget during the 2012 session that will continue to be awarded to the three regions currently funded, bringing the statewide total to $3.65 million.
    • The conference budget also includes funding for two training and awareness programs recommended by the Governor’s School Safety Task Force:
      •  Mental Health First Aid received $600,000 in FY14 (Item 315 #2c). Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a 12-hour interactive course that teaches the risk factors and warning signs and symptoms of mental health disorders to clergy, teachers, health professionals, and others.
      • Suicide prevention efforts received $500,000 in FY14 (Item 314 #3c). Funds will go to DBHDS to collaborate with several other state agencies for a comprehensive suicide prevention plan.

    Foster Care/Child Welfare

    • The conference budget provided funding to implement Voices’ bills on independent living, House Bill 1743/Senate Bill 863. These bills allow youth coming out of the Department of Juvenile Justice between ages 18-21 who were former foster youth to get assistance in independent living skills.  The funding is combined from CSA funds of $97,614 (Item 283 #1c) and DSS funds of $19,945 (Item 338 #1c) in FY14.

    Medicaid Extension

    • After lots of last minute twists and turns, Virginia now has a path forward to extend Medicaid to the 400,000 low-income Virginians who would be eligible for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The conference budget includes language allowing Virginia to move forward if DMAS adopts certain reforms, and gains federal approval of other reforms (Item 307 #20c). The budget creates a new commission, the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, with the authority to determine whether enough reform has been done to start the eligibility expansion. The House has named its members to the Commission: Dels. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, John M. O’Bannon III, R-Henrico, Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, and Beverly J. Sherwood, R-Frederick. The Senate has not yet named its members.
  9. Update on House and Senate Budgets

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    Here you’ll find some highlights of how our budget-related legislative agenda issues fared in both the House and Senate budgets so far this session…

    Children’s Mental Health

    Expanding Crisis Services and Child Psychiatry

    Voices’ Campaign for Children’s Mental Health requested $450,000 in additional funding for FY14 for children’s crisis services and child psychiatry, in addition to the Governor’s $1 million amendment for this purpose.

    –  The House approved this amendment in full. Item 315 #2h

    –  The Senate approved this amendment in full and added more funding for a total of $1 million. Adding funding for children’s mental health services is a recommendation of the Governor’s School Safety Task Force. Item 315 #2s

    Improving the Quality of Medicaid-funded Children’s Mental Health Services

    The Senate included a language amendment to require the state Medicaid agency (DMAS) and the state mental health agency (DBHDS) to review intensive in-home services, therapeutic day treatment and mental health support services, including considering practice models, reimbursement rates, and the need for a less intensive level of services. Voices requested this amendment. Item 307 #17s

    For a full list of mental health budget amendments, click here.

    Early Childhood

    Home Visiting

    The House and Senate budgets both included funding for home visiting programs, CHIP and Healthy Families. We prefer the Senate proposals that recognized the need to bring funding for home visiting back to the pre-recession levels of investment.

    –   The House provides $190,000 for Healthy Families and $410,000 for CHIP of Virginia from the TANF block grant (federal funds). CHIP-Item 297 #2h HF- Item 343 #2h

    –   The Senate provides $1 M for Healthy Families ($700,000 in GF and $300,000 in TANF) and $727,628 for CHIP of Virginia ($427,628 in GF and $300,000 in TANF). CHIP- Item 297 #2s HF- Item 343 #2s

    Part C/Early Intervention

    In addition to the funding proposed in the Governor’s budget, the House and Senate both add funding for Part C/Early Intervention. We prefer the Senate proposal that would restore $6 M of the $8.5 M shortfall for services.

    –   The House proposal for Part C/Early Intervention includes $2.3 M in FY13 and $3.75 M in FY14. Item 315 #1h

    –   The Senate proposal for Part C/Early Intervention gets closer to closing the shortfall at $3M in FY13 and $6M in FY14. Item 315 #3s

    Child Welfare/Foster Care

    Provide re-entry supports to foster youth involved in the juvenile justice system

    Both the Senate and the House included nearly $120,000 in their respective budgets to fund the Voices-led effort to provide eligibility for Independent Living services to former foster youth being released from the Department of Juvenile Justice between the ages of 18-21, which include educational, employment and housing supports. Voices brought the bills and budget amendments to the patrons.

    Budget Amendments: Senate (Favola, Item 338 #2s), House (Brink, Item 341 #2h)

    Corresponding bills: Senate (Favola, SB863), House (Brink, HB1743)

    Medicaid Extension

    Extend Medicaid coverage for individuals up to 133% of the federal poverty level under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

    The House and Senate differed on their approaches to extending Medicaid. The House budget (Item 307 #11h) requires a long list of reforms be completed before extending Medicaid and does not allow extension until July 1, 2014 at the earliest. It would likely take much longer to complete the extensive list of reforms, so in essence, this version delays extension indefinitely. The Senate budget (Item 307 #18s) was amended during debate on the Senate floor yesterday to allow Medicaid extension to take place once Virginia has gotten approval for reforms from the federal government, meaning extension can happen much sooner. The Senate budget also establishes a special trust fund to capture savings from the various reforms and from the extension itself to cover future costs.

    You can read more about what happened this week with Medicaid extension here.

  10. Unified ECE Legislative Agenda- Meet Virginia’s Workforce of 2025

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    Our future rests on these shoulders. While you may see a five year old above, in just 15 years, he will be entering Virginia’s workforce. The opportunity to put him on a path towards success right now and will pay off when he enters the workforce later.

    Voices joins with 12 other organizations representing young children and their families in defining an Early Care and Education Legislative Agenda. This agenda demonstrates how investing in young children will lead to more prepared workforce. The organizations supporting this agenda represent a unified voice among children’s advocates to support opportunities that have demonstrated success.

    Two priorities top of the 2013 Agenda:

    1. Restoring funding to evidenced based home visiting services, CHIP/Parents as Teachers and Healthy Families to pre-recession levels.

    2. Funding the budget shortfall in early intervention services to ensure that young children  with developmental delays reach their full potential.

    In addition to these priorities, we hope the legislature will support access to child care for working families, continuing to expand the Virginia Preschool Initiative and support regional coalitions through the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.

    Members of the Early Childhood Policy Action Network include:

    Child Care Aware Virginia

    Child Development Resources

    CHIP of Virginia/Parents As Teachers

    Just Children/Legal Aid Justice Center

    Prevent Child Abuse Virginia/Healthy Families Virginia

    Smart Beginnings Historic Triangle

    Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Providers

    Virginia Association of Community Services Boards

    Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education (VAECE)

    Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health (VAIMH)

    Virginia Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics

    Virginia Head Start Association