Update (as of 2/5/16):
This week, the Health & Human Resources (HHR) committee heard testimony on HB 203, the House version of Fostering Futures. Del. Lingamfelter gave a thoughtful, passionate explanation of the bill, and two young women who aged out of Virginia’s foster care system movingly shared their experiences and support of the bill. We also heard support from our long list of diverse organizations who’ve been championing the program. The House committee did not act on the bill (or any of the others they heard), but instead will withhold any action until all of their budget discussions conclude, which will likely be the week of the 15th.
On Monday, Feb. 8th at 4PM, the Senate Finance HHR subcommittee will consider SB 436, Sen. Favola’s version of Fostering Futures. This may be another opportunity for testimony from supporters–we’ll continue to rally support for the program at that meeting, and through individual meetings with key budget decision-makers. We must keep up the positive momentum!
Update (as of 1/29/16):
House of Delegates: HB 203 (Lingamfelter/Peace/Toscano) was reported unanimously on 1/28 from the Health, Welfare, & Institutions committee and re-referred to Appropriations. The bill has not yet been docketed for its appearance in the Health & Human Resources Appropriations subcommittee, but could come up as early as Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 4pm.
Senate: SB 436 (Favola) reported unanimously from the Rehabilitation & Social Services committee on Fri. 1/29, and was re-referred to the Finance committee. It has not yet been docketed for its appearance in the Health & Human Resources Finance subcommittee.
Dates to watch:
Feb. 16th: Crossover Day (for bills). This is the last day bills can be heard in the chamber in which they originated: all House bills must be heard by the House, all Senate bills heard by the Senate. The money committees will have to act favorably on HB 203 and SB 436 by the end of this day in order to continue their progress. Note: even if these bills are “tabled,” Fostering Futures can still proceed through the budget process and be successful; any necessary language in the bills can be inserted into the budget, which has the force of law for two years.
Feb. 21st: the two chambers will each release their versions of the budget bill. If Fostering Futures appears in both proposals, we are in good shape. If it only appears in one chamber’s version, then we’re “down but not out.” If the proposal has been stripped from both chambers’ budget proposals, we could still have a chance, but it would be very slim. The first two weeks of February, we will be focusing all of our attention on advocating with the HHR subcommittees of Finance and Appropriations.
Stay tuned for opportunities to pitch in!
We’re now well into the swing of the 2016 Va. General Assembly session, so I wanted to jot down a quick update for you all on the Fostering Futures proposal (Virginia’s plan to increase the breadth & depth of our transition services up to age 21 for youth aging out of foster care).
First, some mechanics: there are a few pieces to keep an eye on as the session progresses. Fostering Futures is both a budget item and a bill. Well, bills, plural, this year.
The budget item (which is included in the Governor’s introduced budget) is what provides the funding for the program, while the bill makes some necessary changes to the Va. Code to qualify for the federal funding option under the Fostering Connections Act.
It’s a little confusing, but while both are important, it’s the budget item that’s most critical to Fostering Futures’ enactment. To simplify–Fostering Futures can move forward even if the bills fail, so long as the budget item is preserved in the final budget, but the program can’t move forward if the budget item is removed, even if the bills somehow pass. The bills, though, are easier to track as they move through the legislature, and provide some key advocacy moments to support both the budget item and the bills.
Sen. Barbara Favola is carrying the Fostering Futures bill in the Senate with SB 436. This is the Administration’s bill, but Sen. Favola (D) has also been a tremendous champion for the program proposal in her own right over the last few years. In the House, Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R) is the chief patron of HB 203, while Del. Chris Peace (R) is that bill’s chief co-patron. Del. David Toscano (D) has also put in a bill for the program with HB 935. Procedurally, the two House versions of the bill will likely be combined at some point, with all patrons listed in one way or another. The House bill and the Senate bill can both progress through the session, and both can be signed by the Governor (if, and even though, identical), so all patrons can be recognized.
The main point here, though, is that we’re extremely excited to have patrons from across the political spectrum as patrons for Fostering Futures–consideration of these youth and their needs is not rooted in politics, but rather in our responsibility to help guide them to a safe, stable adulthood with opportunities for education, employment, and family & community connections.
Some opportunities for advocacy:
We’ll keep you posted both here on the blog and through our weekly advocacy emails–please sign up for alerts if you haven’t already! The bills can be put on committee dockets quickly, so the advocacy requests on the bills might involve a quick turnaround–stay tuned…
You can use the advocacy tools linked in this prior post to help inform your advocacy. Constituent visits mean a great deal: if you are a constituent of any of the Finance or Appropriations subcommittee members & can come to the General Assembly in Richmond in the next few weeks, please let me know.
Personalized emails and phone calls to their General Assembly offices, whether you are a constituent or not, are also helpful. You can find sample scripts to personalize, as well as talking points for Fostering Futures and contact information for committee members linked in this post. Please shoot me an email if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[By the way: the image above is from the Richmond Times-Dispatch–we brought a group of young people who have aged out of Virginia’s foster care system to the Capitol to speak with and hear from lawmakers on the issues faced by older youth in foster care. They were amazing, of course. We’ll likely be doing smaller activities like these throughout the session, when we can…]Read More Blog Posts