Bill Explainer: Foster Care Prevention Program, SB 923 (Sen. Favola)1 Comment
Senator Favola, Chair of the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, has reintroduced a bill to create a Foster Care Prevention Program after it fell short during the 2022 legislative session. SB 923 establishes a program to facilitate placements of children and youth 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% of overall placements in 2016 to nearly 20% in 2022, with the national average being around 30%. 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 (DSS).
The bill introduced this year is slightly different and much improved compared to the previous version. Notably, this bill includes critical protections for both the child and their family of origin to ensure that parents have due process and kinship caregivers have added supports, with the remaining goal of reunification.
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 a relative and has a written agreement with the local board of social services.
- The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child.
- The local department of social services has documented the need for the child’s placement with the relative, including a description of the reasons the local board determined that the child was at imminent risk of removal.
If a child is deemed eligible:
- The local Department of Social Services and the relative who has custody of an eligible child will enter into a written agreement. 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 needs ongoing case management services, in addition to the financial assistance.
- The local board will identify the services and support that will be provided to the child, the relative with whom the child will be placed, and the child’s parent or guardian.
- The local board will describe the requirements that the child’s parent or guardian need to meet for the child to return home and include the visitation arrangements for the child’s parent or guardian.
- The parent or guardian must be made aware that they may seek legal counsel prior to entering into the agreement.
*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.*
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