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Foster Care and Adoption

Voices advocates for reforms to Virginia’s foster care system that will offer youth in the child welfare system the opportunity to build permanent family connections and the supports needed to successfully transition to productive adulthood.

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.

In 2007, in partnership with Virginia’s child-serving agencies and then-First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton, Voices helped launch the Children’s Services System Transformation, a major child welfare reform campaign that reduced the use of institutional care and improved family-focused care for youth in the child welfare system.

 

2022 Child Welfare Legislative Priorities:

The child welfare system has not provided enough support to kinship caregivers and to young people aging out of foster care. One barrier to recruiting more kinship caregivers into the formal system is that they may not qualify for financial support and services if they have been convicted of a barrier crime. In addition, youth exiting foster care have great difficulty attending post-secondary education and gaining employment due to a variety of issues. 

Child Welfare Priorities 

  1. Improvements to the formal kinship system to allow more families to participate by providing additional resources to facilitate placements. Remove barriers to participation and placement with foster families by addressing the list of crimes that prevent individuals from becoming foster placements, even when crimes are far in the past. 
  2. Support for the Great Expectations program at community colleges to serve more students or recruit students. 
  3. Replacement of the outdated child welfare data management system. 
  4. Further implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act  to prevent children from entering foster care and continued efforts to recruit and retain a child welfare workforce.

Read our full 2022 Foster Care Unified Policy Agenda.

2022 Foster Care Agenda PDF

Bills We Support:

Foster Care Prevention program | SB 56 |Senator Favola| Establishes the Foster Care Prevention program to facilitate placements with relatives and ensure that such relatives are provided with the resources necessary to provide care for the child. The bill provides that a child is eligible to participate in the Foster Care Prevention program if the local department of social services (local department) determines that (i) the child is in the custody of a relative pursuant to a court order; (ii) the child’s parent or guardian voluntarily placed the child with such relative; (iii) the child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative, and the relative has a strong commitment to caring for the child; and (iv) had the relative not agreed to take custody of the child, the local department likely would have filed a petition to remove the child from his home due to an imminent threat of child abuse or neglect.

  • Status: Tabled (died) in House Appropriations (money committee)

Kinship foster care; notice and appeal | SB 307 | Senator Mason | Requires local boards of social services (local boards), upon receiving a request from a child’s relative to become a kinship foster parent, to provide the relative with an application to become a kinship foster parent within 15 days.

  • Status: Passed both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

Foster Care; Barrier crimes |SB 689| Senator Mason| Replaces the current list of barrier crimes that apply to foster and adoptive parents with certain barrier crimes set forth in federal law and regulations.

  • Status: House changed the bill to a study that VDSS will be directed to conduct. 

Unaccompanied homeless youth; consent to medical care | HB 353 | Delegate Willett | Allow a minor who is 14 years of age or older and who is an unaccompanied homeless youth to be deemed an adult for the purpose of consenting to medical examination or treatment, including dental examination.

  • Status: This bill was laid on the table (died) in subcommittee. It was recommended that the bill become a study of which the Commission on Youth will take up this year. 

Unaccompanied homeless youths; services; consent | HB 717 | Delegate Filler Corn | Provides that an unaccompanied homeless youth shall be deemed an adult for the purpose of consenting to housing, including emergency shelter, and other services and establishes requirements for providers of housing, including emergency shelter, and other services for unaccompanied homeless youth.

  • Status: Passed both chambers with amendments and awaits the Governor’s signature! 

Foster care placements; court review; best interests of the child | SB 396 | Senator Edwards |Provides that the court has the authority to review a foster care plan placement determination by a local board of social services

  • Status: Passed out the Courts of Justice and rereferred to House Appropriations (money committee) 

Foster care; housing support for persons between ages 18 and 21 | HB 349 | Delegate Tata | Directs local departments of social services (local department) to provide housing support to any person who (i) is 18 years of age or older but less than 21 years of age, (ii) was in foster care under the custody of a local department (a) upon turning 18 years of age or (b) immediately prior to commitment to the Department of Juvenile Justice and is transitioning from such commitment to self-sufficiency, and (iii) declines to participate in the Fostering Futures program. The bill requires that such housing support be provided in the form of payments not less than the amount that such person would otherwise receive for housing support through participation in the Fostering Futures program.

  • Status: Passed both chambers with a clause that the bill must be funded in the budget to be enacted 

Foster care; DSS to establish and implement a collaborative local board placement program | HB 653 | Delegate Wampler |  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. The bill provides that such program shall require local boards of social services (local boards) to enter into partnership agreements with other local boards to work collaboratively to (i) facilitate approval of kinship foster parents through engagement, assessment, and training; (ii) increase the capacity of local boards to recruit, train, and develop foster parents; and (iii) expand the pool of available foster homes within and across the localities of such local boards.

  • Status: Passed both chambers with a clause that the bill must be funded in the budget to be enacted 

Budget Items in the Governor’s Proposed Budget We Support:

  • Federal Funds for Local Staff and Operations – Staff Salary Increase – $32 million (10% increase in state salaries)
  • Funding for the development of an updated child welfare system (OASIS Replacement) that meets federal requirements – $22 million
  • Fidelity monitoring and evaluation of evidence‐based prevention services, appropriates federal Transition Act funding and fully funds salaries for allocated program positions. (NOT SERVICES) – $9 million
  • Language appropriating State and Local Relief Funds for trauma‐informed care networks – $1 million
  • Mandated Reinvestment for Child Welfare – Provides 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. Fund mandated reinvestment in child welfare services – $5 Million
  • Two additional positions for the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman – $400,000 (this funding was removed in the House proposed budget) 

Budget Amendments We Support:

  • iFoster Care Portal (Delegate Brewer + Senator Mason) – This amendment provides $98,038 the first year and $66,783 from nongeneral funds the second year for the development of the iFoster Portal or an App with similar functionality to include Virginia and locality specific resources available to individuals who are currently being served or have been served in the foster care system, as well as professionals serving the foster care population. The portal is 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.
    • Included in the House proposed budget
  • Foster Care Driver’s License Program (Delegate Keam + Senator Favola) – develop and implement a statewide driver’s licensing program to support foster care youth in obtaining a driver’s license.
    • Not included in either proposed budgets
  • Parent Representation Center Pilot (Delegate Kilgore + Senator Edwards) – This amendment provides $1.1 million from the general fund and $360,202 from nongeneral funds the first year and $1.1 million from the general fund and $355,686 from nongeneral funds the second year to create two Parent Representation Pilot Centers. The two centers will be multidisciplinary law offices employing a total of six, full-time, specially trained attorneys, two social workers, and two parent advocates representing parents in child removal and foster care proceedings.
    • Not included in either proposed budgets 
  • HB 716 Relative Foster Appeals (Delegate Gooditis + Senate Mason) – This amendment provides $102, 758 the first year and $87,595 the second year from the general fund and a like amount of matching federal funds each year and two positions for the fiscal impact of House Bill 716 which allows relatives to file an appeal regarding denials of a relative’s application to become a kinship foster parent with the Commissioner of Social Services, and requires the Board of Social Services to adopt certain regulations regarding the timeline of such appeals.
    • Included in the Senate proposed budget
  • State Infrastructure Family First (Senator Mason) – This amendment provides 22 positions the first year and $1.2 million general fund and $1.2 million from nongeneral funds and 22 positions the second year to the Department of Social Services to expand the state infrastructure needed to comply with federal requirements and support the local departments of social services related to the Family First Prevention Services Act. The department will utilize time limited federal funding to cover the first year costs of the positions.
    • Not included in either proposed budgets
  • Child Welfare Stipend Program (Senator Mason) – This amendment provides $3.4 million general fund and $2.0 million nongeneral fund the first year and $6.7 million from the general fund and $4.1 nongeneral fund the second year for local departments of social services (LDSS) to hire additional In-Home Services Specialists positions in order to provide services to children who are high or very high risk of entry into foster care. This funds 69 positions in the first year and 69 positions in the second year for a total of 138 positions in the biennium. The local cost impact is $991,036 the first year and $1,982,072 in the second year.
    • Not included in either proposed budgets
  • State-Funded Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (Senator Mason) – This amendment provides $312,458 from the general fund and $296,798 from nongeneral funds and five positions the first year and $308,536 from nongeneral funds and five positions the second year to support the staff time of local departments of social services (LDSS) in maintaining state-funded kinship guardianship assistance program.
    • Included in the Senate proposed budget
  • Foster Care Prevention Program (Senator Favola) – This amendment funds $15.8 million the first year and $17.2 million the second year and one position each year from the general fund for the fiscal impact of Foster Care Prevention Program payments for relatives (Senate Bill 56). The funding includes program payments to relatives, one-time system costs, the costs for local departments of social services and one position at the Department of Social Services to administer the program.
    • Included in the Senate proposed budget
  • Barrier Crimes Bill – Staff and System Costs (Senator Edwards) – This amendment provides $815,000 the first year and $190,000 the second year from the general fund to fund the implementation of recommendations from the Joint Study on Barrier Crimes regarding staff and one-time system costs at the Department of Social Services.
    • Not included in either proposed budgets
  • VCCS – Great Expectations (Senator Mason) – $500,000 the first year and $500,000 the second year from the general fund is designated for the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) to develop a state-funded grant program to provide 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.
    • Included in the Senate proposed budgets 

Resources:

FosteringHealthVA

In 2015, Voices launched an independent resource site, FosteringHealthVA, to provide youth aging out of foster care with health care information related to their Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Youth aging out of foster care are eligible for Medicaid, no matter their income, up to age 26 under the mandated sections of the ACA.

In 2014, Voices successfully advocated for this benefit to apply to youth living in Virginia who aged out of any state’s foster care system. Youth can self-attest to their status and should receive the full adult benefits package offered through Virginia Medicaid. Contact Voices policy analyst Allison Gilbreath at allison_at_vakids_dot_org with policy or personal questions related to Medicaid to 26.

Foster Care & Adoption Publications

  • A Portrait of Virginia’s Child Welfare System: The report highlights recent Virginia data on child maltreatment and foster care, including data on foster care children with disabilities as well as racial disparities. The report also evaluates the Children’s Services System Transformation and chronicles Virginia’s implementation of the federal Fostering Connections Act.
  • In 2008 and 2009, Voices, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, FACES of Virginia Families, and ART 180 hosted VOICES for Change, an art initiative to amplify the voices of youth in foster care. Youth were encouraged to submit an original essay, poem, painting, illustration or photograph expressing their feelings about transitioning to adulthood. A panel of expert judges reviewed the submissions and selected winners in writing, photography, and two-dimensional art.
    • Download Voices for Change: The Creative Vision of Virginia’s Foster Youth a compilation of the works submitted for the 2008 art contest or watch a slideshow of the artworks.
    • Download a compilation of all the 2009 submissions or view the slideshow of artwork.

Becoming a Foster and/or Adoptive Parent

Voices for Virginia’s Children does not work directly with families on foster care or adoption issues. For more information on becoming a foster, adoptive, resource, or kinship parent, please contact your local department of social services or call 1-888-837-7232.

Resources For Foster Care Parents and Youth In Care

Newfound Families Virginia is a nonprofit, membership-driven association offering information, support, and resources for foster, adoptive, and kinship families. Contact newfoundva.org

Great Expectations is a strengths-based mentoring/support organization that helps young people in and leaving Virginia’s foster care system access higher education. Great Expectations bases coaches at each of Virginia’s community colleges and works with youth at any stage of their transition out of care. Contact mentoring coordinator and assistant director Allyson Roberts at aroberts@vccs.edu for more information.

 

Our Partners:

Voices is a member of The SPARC Network, a partnership between First Focus and the Annie E. Casey Foundation that connects child welfare advocates from nearly all 50 states in a peer-advocacy network to advance best practices and foster learning and information-sharing between states.

We also work closely on an individual basis with First Focus.


Archives:

2021 Foster Care Unified Policy Agenda

Read our full 2021 Foster Care Unified Policy Agenda.

View our full Legislative Archive

2020 Foster Care Unified Policy Agenda

2019 Foster Care Legislative Agenda Video Overview

Past Foster Care & Adoption Policy Goals

Voices works closely with the Governor’s Office, the General Assembly, state and local social services agencies, service providers, parents and caregivers, and—most especially—youth to identify, develop, and champion policy improvements for Virginia’s child welfare system. Among our current priorities:

  • Ensure the full implementation of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provides Virginia opportunities to promote permanency and outcomes for children in foster care in the following areas:
    • Increased use of and support for kinship care
    • Transition support for older youth in care
    • Coordinated health and mental health services
    • Improved educational stability for youth in care
    • Improved services and supports aimed at increasing successful adoptions
  • Support evidence-based, prevention-focused policies for child-welfare-involved youth that emphasize family- and community-based settings
  • Improve access to and quality of health care services for child-welfare-involved youth
  • Increase capacity and quality of support to youth involved in multiple systems (social services, juvenile justice, homelessness)
  • Build systems that integrate family and youth engagement at every stage