Our 2021 legislative priorities were developed in partnership with members on our Foster Care Policy Network and individuals who have lived experience in Virginia’ foster care system. Our areas of priority for this legislative session were:
- 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
Here are some of the new initiatives which passed in this year’s General Assembly session to aid in child welfare:
Scaling Up Evidence & Community-Based Practices to Achieve Better Outcomes for Children and Families
- Funding statewide Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) prevention services program. $14.2 million in funds to scale up evidence based services for children and families to prevent entry into foster care.
- Funding Local Department of Social Service Positions for Implementing the Family First Prevention Services Act includes $16 million 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.
Supporting Kinship Caregivers & Families
- 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.
- 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.
- Implementing emergency approval process for kinship caregivers, allotted $75,000 in the budget. 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.
- 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
Other Supported Bill Outcomes
- 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.
- 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
- 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.