Foster care receives assistance

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Governor Ralph Northam recently signed legislation that will bring much needed assistance to the foster care system in Virginia. He also helped kick-off Virginia Fosters, a statewide campaign that empowers Virginians to be the solution for children, families, and workers in the Commonwealth’s child welfare system.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, Northam said, “Every child in our commonwealth deserves to grow up healthy, safe, and in a loving family that supports them through school, a career and in following their dreams.”
Northam went on to say, “We have made tremendous strides in improving our foster care system with this legislation, but we also know that the challenges we have did not come about overnight and cannot be solved in one General Assembly Session or by government alone. Each one of us has a role to play in giving Virginia’s most vulnerable children an opportunity to grow and thrive.”
The list of bills, their purpose and sponsors are:

Senate Bill 1339, sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves, makes clear state and local authority for foster care services, placement, and removal decisions, improves the case review and oversight process, and creates a new state position to oversee foster care health and safety.
Senate Bill 1679, sponsored by Senator Monty Mason, and House Bill 2014, sponsored by Delegate Chris Peace, aligns the Code of Virginia with the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018, which provides prevention services for kids at risk of entering foster care services and their families.

Senate Bill 1720, sponsored by Senator Monty Mason, and House Bill 2758, sponsored by Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, requires local departments of social services to take all reasonable steps in a foster care placement to determine whether a child has any relatives who may be eligible to become a kinship foster parent, provide notice to those relatives, and explain to them the opportunities they may have to participate in placement and care of the child.

Senate Bill 1139, sponsored by Senator Barbara Favola, and House Bill 1728, sponsored by Delegate David Reid, encourages post-adoption contact and communication with birth parents. Delegate Reid is a staunch supporter of improvement to the foster care system. As a child, Reid and his siblings grew up at United Methodist Family Services in Richmond. 

House Bill 2108, sponsored by Delegate Richard Bell, establishes a dispute resolution process through which a foster parent may contest an alleged violation of regulations.

Senate Bill 1253, sponsored by Senator Bryce Reeves, and House Bill 1730, sponsored by Delegate Emily Brewer, requires local departments of social services to request the placement of a security freeze on the credit report or record of any child who has been in foster care for at least six months.

Sari Goff is the Director of Social Services for Charlotte County. The Gazette reached out to Goff to get an idea of how this new legislation might help on the local level.

“This new legislation will be a help because it offers us another level of oversight, she said. “That is very important because we are talking about people’s lives.”

“Some of this legislation will help to provide preventive services to our work, to see if we can work with families and try to keep children in the home, which is our ultimate goals, anyway, Goff added. These bills will also increase the training that foster parents will go through to improve their ability in dealing with at-risk children placed with them.

The County’s foster care program is funded with a combination of federal, state and local monies.

Goff said that right now there are currently 16 children in the county’s foster care system.

The program currently has a director and two case workers. 

“They stay very busy,” Goff said. “Every case is individual. They can be extremely complicated.”