Voices for Virginia’s Children Applauds Creation of “Safe and Sound Task Force”
RICHMOND, Va. – On Friday, April 1, Governor Youngkin announced the creation of the “Safe and Sound Task Force” that will bring together government agencies, the Virginia League of Social Services Executives, and other community partners to finally shelter children sleeping in local departments of social services, hotels, and emergency rooms. The task force will work to ensure placements for children entering foster care and collaborate with other state agencies to help meet the needs of children and families.
Allison Gilbreath, Policy and Programs Director at Voices for Virginia’s Children, issued the following statement:
“We are pleased to see the creation of the Safe and Sound Task Force as more progress – and investments – must be made to strengthen our child welfare system. The reality is that Virginia’s child welfare system is in crisis.
“More than half of child welfare workers quit within two years of hire due to low salaries and experiencing secondary trauma. Children’s mental health and families’ economic stability are deteriorating faster than underfunded support services can keep up. Shocks in the system have overwhelmed our child welfare workforce, created barriers to services, and denied the dreams of too many children and families in the Commonwealth. This task force must improve the foster care system at the root causes of replacement: neglect related to economic hardship and lack of support for kinship caregivers.
“The General Assembly can take immediate action during the budget negotiations to:
- Introduce new funding for local social services caseworker salaries, kinship and relative placements, services for families to prevent foster care entry, and overhauls to outdated data systems.
- Include financial resources to enact HB 653 (Wampler) that would facilitate collaborative placements among local branches of social services agencies. This legislation has passed the House and Senate but needs final budget approval to take effect.
“The task force must mobilize across agencies to implement crucial changes, including:
- Maximizing federal resources with the Family First Prevention Services Act to support children before out-of-family placements in foster care are necessary.
- Considerations for private hospitals to meet the needs of foster youth in mental health crisis.
- Implementing step down or stabilization placements for children in the foster care system.
“We cannot focus solely on finding placements for children, we must also address the lack of prevention efforts before children and families are in crisis.”
Voices for Virginia’s Children is a nonprofit organization committed to improving and protecting the lives of Virginia’s children, youth, and families. We believe every child should have equitable access to the resources, services and opportunities needed to thrive. For us, that means advocating for sound policies, educating the public, mobilizing communities, utilizing data to determine unmet needs, and leading with compassion. Our aim is to always close the systemic gaps that fail children, prioritize racial justice in policymaking, and ensure every voice has a role in shaping their future.