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  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. Guest Blog: Keys to Destination for Youth in Foster Care

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    This is a guest blog post written for Voices for Virginia’s Children by Susan Hoover (pictured below).

    Recall the day you obtained your driver’s license. Perhaps one of your parents took you to the DMV, helped you fill out the necessary forms, provided the requisite identification, and off you went to pass or fail the final test. Assuming you passed, all you wanted to do then was hop in the family car and drive somewhere. It didn’t matter where, right?

    Now imagine having your new-found freedom abruptly curtailed as the cost of insurance to cover your driving is too high for the family budget. Although many parents bite the bullet and add their new driver to the family auto insurance plan, it is at a hefty cost, especially when the driver is less than 25 years old.

    Nationwide, Americans spend about 2.44% of their household income on car insurance every year. In Virginia, the average cost of car insurance is $1,304 per year for full coverage.  Of course, the actual rate depends on many factors, such as the area where one lives, the age of the driver, driving history (if any), the specific insurance company, and even the type of vehicle to be driven.

    As expected, having a young driver means paying a premium for auto insurance, particularly for those drivers between 16-18 years old. In addition to the factors listed above, insurance companies also take into account the high average number of accidents and traffic-related fatalities for that age range when determining rates. It costs a lot to insure these new drivers – often more than those living in the low to middle income range can afford.

    Now consider whether the new driver is currently a part of the state foster care system. In this case, more often than not, financial means are already stretched. So how can the youth or the foster family possibly add the additional cost of more car insurance to their budget?

    Enter proposed Budget Amendment SB30.

    This amendment, coming before the 2022 Session, enables the Department of Social Services to develop and implement a statewide driver’s licensing program to support foster care youth. In effect, funding – in the proposed amount of $200,000 each year – will be made available to local departments of social services to reimburse:

    • Foster care providers for the increase to their existing motor vehicle insurance premium that occurs when adding foster care youth to their insurance policy;
    • Foster care providers when they apply for and obtain additional coverage, such as an umbrella policy, to provide liability protection should the foster care youth get into, or cause, a catastrophic accident; and
    • Foster care youth who are part of Virginia’s Fostering Futures Program to assist them in covering the cost of obtaining their own motor vehicle insurance.

    The Amendment further allows for:

    Each department of social services to develop educational or training materials that “educate foster parents, private providers, and foster youth about: (i) liability issues, insurance laws, and common insurance practices (to include laws about renewal and cancellation, how long an accident can affect premiums, how to establish that a foster youth is no longer living in the residence, and other applicable topics); (ii) DMV requirements to obtain a learner’s permit and driver’s license; (iii) what funding and resources are available to assist in this process, to include paying school lab fees for “Behind the Wheel” or paying a private driving education company; and (iv) why getting a driver’s license on time is important for normalcy and a successful transition to adulthood.”

    The benefits of this Amendment would be immediate for foster families and for the youth they care for. The financial burden of increased car insurance would be lifted, and the new driver would have the ability to drive to a job, school, or to assist with errands. It would help encourage a sense of responsibility, independence, and maturity for these youth.

    For those youth in the Fostering Futures Program, passing this Amendment could significantly lessen the transportation burden many of them face. The possibility of owning or driving a car, rather than be dependent upon public transportation – its time tables and the specific geographic area it serves – broadens the job market and the ability to attend higher education institutions – two requirements of involvement in the Fostering Futures program.

    About Susan Hoover: Sue Hoover joined Piedmont CASA in April 2019. Previously, she worked for CFA Institute as the editor of Connexions, and as the digital editor of the Enterprising Investor blog. She holds a BA degree from Lehigh University and a JD degree from the Washington College of Law, American University.

    Contact Susan at: shoover@pcasa.org

     

     

  4. Bill Explainer: SB 56 – Foster Care Prevention Program (Senator Favola)

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    Senator Favola, Chair of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, has introduced SB 56 to create a foster care prevention program in Virginia. The purpose of the program is to facilitate placements with relatives and ensure that these relatives are provided with the resources necessary to care for the children. Virginia has significantly increased kinship placements in the past few years, going from 5 percent of overall placements in 2016 to 18 percent in 2021 with the national average being around 30 percent. These increased placements have occurred because of several advancements such as, the creation of the kinship guardianship assistance program, creation of a kinship only TANF financial assistance fund, and kin first guidance from the Virginia Department of Social Services. The bill passed unanimously out of committee and is now waiting to be picked up in Senate Finance where the financial impact of the bill will be reviewed.

    The bill would do the following:

    • A child is considered eligible for the foster care prevention program if:
      • The child is in the custody of a relative by a court order; The child’s parent or guardian voluntarily placed the child with such relative; The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child; and Had the relative not agreed to take custody of the child, the local department likely would have filed a petition with the court to remove the child from the home of his parent or guardian due to an imminent threat of child abuse or neglect
    • If a child is deemed eligible, the local department and the relative who has custody of an eligible child will enter into a written agreement with the Department. The agreement will include provisions regarding the amount of each Foster Care Prevention program payment. In addition, the local department will determine if the kin, in addition to financial assistance, needs ongoing case management services.
    • Foster Care Prevention program payments will be no more than the foster care maintenance payments that the relative would receive if the relative was the child’s foster parent, reduced by any monthly payments received through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

    *For purposes of this section, “relative” means an adult who is either related to the child by blood, marriage, adoption or fictive kin of the child.*

    How to Show Your Support

    While we await the estimated cost of the program to be generated, we want to make sure legislators know individuals are in support of the proposed program.

    Complete this action alert and add your custom message to urge support for SB 56. 

  5. 2021 Legislative Session: Advocating for Kids in Child Welfare (Updated 2/26/2021)

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    In the 2020 legislative session, a number of key advancements were made for children and families in foster care, however these investments were almost all put on hold due to the pandemic. The pandemic created more challenges in day-to-day activities for foster and kinship caregivers, as well as child welfare professionals. Many children entering the foster care system have experienced adversity and trauma, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing. Virginia’s local department of social services has seen a decrease in reports of child abuse and neglect but expects a sharp increase as schools reopen. The child welfare system often feels immediate and long-term impacts from an economic downturn with more demands for services and increased parental stress.

    Our 2021 legislative priorities were developed in partnership with members on our Foster Care Policy Network (listed below) and individuals who have lived experience in Virginia’ foster care system. Our areas of priority this legislative session are:

    • Scale up evidence and community based services to achieve better outcomes for children and families, particular those vulnerable to entering the system.
    • Provide social supports to kinship caregivers
    • Help foster care youth have normal adolescent experiences

    View our full 2021 2021 Foster Care Unified Agenda

    Foster Care Equity Statement

    Voices for Virginia’s Children produced our first-ever equity impact statements for the 2021 legislative session. Here you will find data and talking points on the equity impact of the issues we are advocating on. View the full statement here.

    Bills We Support

    Please check this page regularly for frequent updates on bill status and new bills.

    • Supporting “Kin First” |HB1962 | Delegate Gooditis |  Requires local departments of social services and licensed child-placing agencies to involve in the development of a child’s foster care plan the child’s relatives and fictive kin who are interested in the child’s welfare. The bill requires that a child 12 years of age or older be involved in the development of his foster care plan; under current law, a child’s involvement is mandatory upon reaching 14 years of age. The bill contains other amendments to provisions governing foster care and termination of parental rights that encourage the placement of children with relatives and fictive kin.
      • Update: This bill has passed and awaits the Governor’s signature! 
    • State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program |SB1328| Senator Mason | Creates the State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance program (the 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.

      • Update: This bill has passed, was included in the budget, and awaits the Governor’s signature! 
    • Court Appointed Special Advocates Sharing Information and Participating in Meetings |HB1866| Delegate Delaney |  Permits court-appointed special advocates to participate in and share information with family partnership meetings and in meetings of family assessment and planning teams, multidisciplinary child sexual abuse response teams, individualized education program teams, and multidisciplinary teams related to child abuse.
      • Update: This bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature!
    • CSA Implementation and Monitoring | HB2212 | Delegate Plum | Requires the director of the Office of Children’s Services to provide for the effective implementation of the Children’s Services Act
      • Update: This bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

    Budget Items 

    The following are items included in the Final Proposed Budget that awaits the Governor’s signature: 

    • Funding Local Department of Social Service Positions for Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act | $16 mill over two years |- Appropriate federal funds for local staff and operations – Increases the appropriation for federal pass through funding for local departments of social services
    • Funding statewide Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) prevention services program |$14.2 mill | funds to scale up evidence based services for children and families to prevent entry into foster care
    • Implementing emergency approval process for kinship caregivers | $75,000 | – Funds an emergency approval process for kinship caregivers. Children in the foster care system often move from placement to placement and this process will help place children with eligible kin.
    • Casework Salary Increases | Restores $2.2 million | each year from the general fund and $2.2 million each year from nongeneral funds for local social services departments’ (LDSS) to increase minimum salary levels for LDSS family services by 20 percent, and to increase minimum salary levels for benefit program services, self sufficiency services and administrative positions by 15 percent that are currently below the new minimum threshold. These actions should assist in reducing the high turnover and vacancy rates in these LDSS positions.
    • 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. The recently passed federal Coronavirus Relief and Response Supplemental Appropriations  Act has extended the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood funding through September 2021
    • Diversion Program for Kinship Families | Adds language directing the Department of Social Services to create a diversion program supporting relative and fictive kin families who receive custody of a child from the court and report the steps to implement such program to the Commission on Youth by November 30, 2021.

     

  6. Studying Workforce Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care

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    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.

  7. Recap: Foster & Kinship Care Youth Advocacy Day

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    On January 27th, Voices hosted its second annual “Uplifting Young Voices: Foster & Kinship Care Youth Advocacy Day”. Due to the pandemic, we shifted our efforts to meet the virtual legislative session like many other advocacy organizations. This change did not stop our dynamic group of young people from having their voices heard!

    2021 Foster & Kinship Care Youth Advocacy Cohort

    Derek Lem
    Eva Elliyoun
    Brianna Scott
    Kamaria Wilburn
    Fariha Rahman
    Christopher Mavity

    We are grateful for this group for their willingness to share their stories with legislatures with the hope of changing the lives of other children still in foster care.

    Policy Priorities

    The youth highlighted the 2021 Foster Care Unified Agenda and the need to address systemic racism within the foster care system. They highlighted the growing need to invest in the foster care workforce, specifically highlighting the impact of having multiple caseworkers as children in foster care. The group agreed that for those who aged out the challenge of having a caseworker with a large caseload impacted their ability to achieve permanency or build a transition plan for when they turned 18.

    Legislative Visits

    Youth meeting with Delegate Karrie Delaney and staff.“ We’ve seen enough, we don’t want any other kid to go through what we went through.” – Eva, Youth Advocate

     

    Youth discussing policy priorities with Brendon, staff to Delegate Wendy Gooditis. “I feel pretty confident. The people we met with were engaged and took the time to listen to us.” — Chris

     

    Meeting with Delegate Sickles (Chair of Appropriations) and staff. “It’s a lot to be humbled by our traumas and help each other.” –  Fariha

    What’s Next

    Youth in the cohort will be invited to participate in a policy roundtable with current lawmakers and candidates for office after the legislative session to help build priorities for the 2022 legislative session and the next gubernatorial administration.

  8. 2021 General Assembly Session: Foster Care Priorities

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    Foster care is a state-run program that provides temporary care for children who cannot live with their parents or other relatives. Through this system, the local department of social services takes legal custody of a child when a parent or parents are unable to care for him or her, most often because of neglect and/or abuse. Placement of a child in foster care should be temporary and family-based when possible until a more permanent connection is made. Preferred options include working with families to improve conditions in order to return children to their homes, placement with a relative, or adoption.

    Pressing Needs in Virginia

    In the 2020 legislative session, a number of key advancements were made for children and families in foster care, however these investments were almost all put on hold due to the pandemic. The pandemic created more challenges in day-to-day activities for foster and kinship caregivers, as well as child welfare professionals. Many children entering the foster care system have experienced adversity and trauma, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing. Virginia’s local department of social services has seen a decrease in reports of child abuse and neglect but expects a sharp increase as schools reopen. The child welfare system often feels immediate and long-term impacts from an economic downturn with more demands for services and increased parental stress.

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

    • Reallot funding towards implementing the federal Family First Prevention Services Act. The Family First Prevention Services Act is the first transformation of the child welfare system in nearly 40 years and provides an opportunity to invest in prevention through evidence-based and trauma-informed services. To support implementation, we must add additional leadership positions at the Department of Social Services, invest in the infrastructure to scale up evidence-based services, and provide funding to help residential treatment centers to implement a higher standard or care.
    • Prioritize access to child care assistance for children at-risk of entering foster care. Currently families involved in CPS or CPS on-going cases are considered a “priority” eligibility category. They are not guaranteed care but are given a priority. In addition, families that fall outside of those formal designations and are still CPS-involved, such as kinship arrangements, may be eligible to apply but are not guaranteed assistance Adding language in the code that gives clear priority access to child care assistance funds for children 0-13 in any cases where families are receiving kinship caregiver financial assistance, prevention services are being provided, or the family is involved in CPS or CPS-ongoing services.

    Provide Social Supports to Kinship Caregivers

    • Bring social supports to the kinship diversion program, an effort designed to avoid foster care by facilitating placements with relatives by creating a statewide kinship navigator program. Provide funding to VDSS to develop a statewide Kinship Navigator program in Virginia, which will provide information, resource, and referral services to children and kin caregivers. Kinship navigator programs offer help to kinship providers and the public in areas such as financial assistance, legal referrals, education and support groups, basic needs, child care and respite, and outreach and public education. Many kinship navigator programs also assist caregivers in obtaining copies of birth certificates, social security cards, immunization records, and any documents needed for the school registration of a child.
    • Eliminate barriers to kinship caregivers becoming licensed foster parents by amending the barrier crime statue. One commonly articulated reason about why the percentage of kinship foster care has remained so low in Virginia compared to the rest of the nation, is that Virginia’s list of barrier crimes is extensive. A barrier crime is a crime set forth in statute that explicitly disqualifies a person from foster care or kinship foster care. Federal law sets the baseline for barrier crimes standards that states must follow in setting up their foster care program in order to be eligible for Title IV-E funds. They also have a limited list of barrier crimes that states must comply with, as well as a short list of crimes for which an exception may be granted after five years.

    Help Foster Care Youth have Normal Adolescent Experiences

    • Request the Commission on Youth to study workforce outcomes for youth in care. Virginia continues to rank 49th in the country for youth in foster care aging out without a permanent connection. We lack data on the educational and employment outcomes for this population. The study would provide the state with recommendations moving forward.

    Sign up to receive foster care news and legislation emails from Voices here.

  9. Apply Now: Foster Care & Kinship Care Youth Virtual Advocacy Day!

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    Voices for Virginia’s Children is looking for 10-15 young people with lived experiences in Virginia’s foster care system and formal/informal kinship care to participate in “Uplifting Young Voices: Foster and Kinship Care Virtual Advocacy Day” in January 2021. Youth will be a part of a cohort where they will learn how to share their stories and experiences with others and provide feedback on policies that affect them.

    The purpose of the cohort is to create a space for youth to have a voice at the table and establish meaningful impact in the systems that have impacted their lives. Youth in the cohort will be provided with an advocacy workshop and media training in the fall, as well as activities that will help them get to know each other. The advocacy day event will include a day of virtual legislative visits, a press briefing, and a virtual round table discussion with key administrative staff to advance reforms in the foster care system. Youth of color and youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are strongly encouraged to apply.

    Youth must complete an application to be considered for this opportunity. We cannot guarantee this opportunity again. Applications are now closed. Please contact Allison Gilbreath at allison@vakids.org or 804-649-0184 ext. 102 or Courtney Reece at reecec2@vcu.edu for more information.

    Application Criteria

    • Age: 18-25
    • Must have been in Virginia foster care or formal/informal kinship care or child welfare involvement at one point in time
    • Must currently reside in Virginia

    Participants Receive

    • $150 stipend
    • Advocacy Training
    • Leadership Opportunities

    Dates of Events (must attend all to be included)

    • December 2nd – 7:00 – 8:30 PM (Advocacy training 101)
    • January 6th – 7:00 – 8:00PM (Advocacy training 102)
    • January 25th – 12:00 – 1:00pm (Roundtable Discussion)
    • January 27th – 8:00 – 12:00pm (Advocacy Day)

     

     

  10. Advocating for Improvements to Child Welfare in Special Session

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    The corona virus pandemic makes it even more challenging than the usual for day-to-day care given by  foster and kinship caregivers, and child welfare professionals. Many of these children have experienced adversity and trauma, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing. Virginia LDSS’s have seen a decrease in reports to child abuse and neglect but expects a sharp increase when schools reopen. Without the General Assembly’s leadership, child welfare could experience a crisis of its own. The Virginia General Assembly placed all new foster care spending allocated in the budget on hold while the state works to address challenges presented by COVID 19. Special session will be the first opportunity to address funding that was placed on hold. Below, we lay out of 2020 special session budget priorities. 

    The Foster Care Unified Agenda is created by partners from across the Commonwealth who represent policy advocates, service providers, parents and caregivers, and—most especially—youth to identify key legislative opportunities to improve Virginia’s child welfare system.

    Special Session Priorities

    Scale-up Evidence-Based & Community based services to Achieve Better Outcomes for Children and Families

    • Enable providers to implement more trauma-informed, evidence-based, and community based services by funding efforts to train providers in new models. To support implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act we must continue to invest in the infrastructure to scale up evidence-based services. In addition, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the foster care system. Support the funding of community based services will support families by preventing maltreatment of children and responding to needs of families involved in child welfare.
      • REALLOCATE: $15M in Governor’s budget to provide a range of evidence based and trauma-informed mental health, substance use disorder, and in-home parent skill based training to children at risk of entering foster care.
      • REINVEST: $12M to fund community based prevention and intervention programs – with dollars specifically allocated to funds programs targeted at communities of color.

    Stabilize the Foster Care Workforce

    • The 2018 JLARC report highlighted that stability of the foster care workforce as one of the primary challenges. Turnover rates for an entry-level Family Services Worker Specialist is 42%, with retention efforts being an even greater issue is small, rural agencies. The minimum starting salary for an entry level position is $30,828, which is only slightly above the 2019 Federal Poverty Level for a family of four. The impact of the high-turnover of caseworkers on children is found in our low rate of permanency of children and the number of placements children experience. COVID-19 has further burdened the workforce with a combination of hiring freezes and more children with complex needs entering the system.
      • REALLOCATE: $18 Million over two years in Governor’s budget to increase family service specialists position salaries by 20%.

     

    Special session begins on August 18th, follow this page throughout the legislative session for updates.