RD4 - Foster Care
As of 2003 study initiative, the Commission on Youth was asked to monitor the progress and work of the Department of Social Services’ Federal Child and Family Services Review; participate on the Statewide Stakeholders Committee; and analyze foster care payment rates in the Commonwealth. As a result of the study below are finding and recommendations adopted by the Commission on Youth at the November 17, 2003 meeting.
Finding - Shortage of Family Foster Parents in Virginia
Both nationwide and in Virginia, there is not only a shortage in the overall number of foster families, but also in foster families with the characteristics and willingness to parent children with certain conditions or needs. Additionally, the Commonwealth has fewer than 5,000 foster family homes (non-relative) for more than 7,900 children each year who need temporary placement. (This does not include emergency or relative homes.) The average stay for children in Virginia foster care is 36 months.
Request the Department of Social Services to present information to the Commission on Youth on potential ways to address the problem of the shortage for family foster parents in Virginia. Both systemic and financial barriers impacting recruitment and retention of foster families shall be addressed in this study as well as best-practices for utilizing CSA funds to reduce institutional placements. The Department shall report its findings to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session.
Finding - Benefits to Virginia’s Children of Title IV-E
Title IV-E eligibility enables localities to receive full reimbursement for the costs of foster care maintenance for eligible and reimbursable children. Maintenance costs paid by localities on behalf of IV-E children are reimbursed from state and federal funds, with each paying approximately one-half of costs incurred. In contrast, localities must pay an average of 35% of the cost of foster care maintenance for children who have not been found eligible for Title IV-E.
Request the Department Of Social Services to continue all efforts to extensively access Title IV-E funding, as well as other applicable federal funds for foster care youth. Such methods may include coordination of agency policies, negotiation of interagency agreements, unbundling of services on claims and integration of data collection and reporting procedures. The Department of Social Services shall report and present information on these efforts to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session.
Finding - Concurrent Planning in Foster Care
Concurrent planning is a process used by child welfare staff to efficiently and seamlessly resolve child placement issues. The objectives of concurrent planning are to achieve early permanency for children while decreasing the child’s length of stay in foster care. It also seeks to reduce the number of moves and relationship disruptions children experience in foster care.
Request the Department of Social Services to compile a work plan to implement statewide concurrent planning as a mechanism to transition children from foster care into permanent placements. The Department of Social Services shall present information on these efforts to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session. The work plan shall address necessary regulatory and policy changes, data-sharing and training issues. The Department shall report its activities and findings to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session.
Finding - Reimbursement of Foster Families
Focus groups members from the three localities that participated in the Child and Family Services Federal Review identified the low rate of pay for foster parents as a disincentive to becoming and remaining a foster parent. On average, 60% of the participants indicated the need to spend their own money to pay for basic living expenses. However, child placing agencies pay considerably more than the base rate established for local department of social services’ homes. As a result, many foster parents choose to affiliate themselves with these agencies rather than the local departments. As more foster care is provided by child placing agencies, more state and local funds are spent to reimburse the expenditures of these agencies because Title IV-E cannot be used for all of these expenses. At present, no statistics are available to verify the assumed increase in child placing agency foster care homes but every indication from local agencies is that more and more foster families are choosing to contract with these private agencies than local departments.
Additionally, the low annual allowance amount paid to foster families to cover clothing expenses is also seen as a barrier to recruitment. The amount is usually insufficient, particularly for older children and adolescents. Moreover, this amount frequently starts off a child's wardrobe nearly from scratch.
Recommendations 4, 5 and 6 are submitted by letter to the Chairmen of House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees from the Commission with relevant attachments, expressing Commission on Youth support and requesting the Committees to consider them in their budget deliberations.
Request a budget amendment to increase to reflect the intent of the General Assembly that the maintenance rates paid to foster families be adjusted annually consistent with changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Request a budget amendment to fund an increase in foster care maintenance rates paid so to make them equivalent to the national average.
Request a budget amendment to fund an increase in the clothing allowance from $300 to $440 (the national average amount spent for a 9-11 year old by a family making less than $39,700 per year).
Finding - Flexible Special Needs Payments to Foster Families
A significant number of foster parents do not remain foster parents once they are offered therapeutic foster care status by therapeutic foster care agencies (@$436 per month v. @$1,100 per month per child). Children are placed in therapeutic foster care because they require some additional services or supports. However, they may not require the high level of case management or supervision that is offered by therapeutic foster care.
Flexible special needs payments could provide a means of increasing reimbursement for families managing more difficult to care for children but who do not need the higher level of care offered in therapeutic foster care. Such an approach would enable these families to care for the child appropriately without moving the child to another placement or sending the child to an even more expensive placement. Such a special needs payment could offer localities flexibility and enable them to cut down on more costly placements such as residential care. Such an approach would reward families that are successful with providing care to more difficult children and reduce the number of placements per child.
Request the Department of Social Services to evaluate the feasibility of utilizing special needs payments as a means of increasing reimbursement for families managing more difficult children who do not require the additional case management or services set forth in therapeutic foster care. The evaluation should address therapeutic foster care placements, reimbursements for such placements and offer recommendations to ensure the appropriate use of these placements. Additionally, the evaluation shall address tax credits to foster families including an adoption tax credit for foster families who adopt children under their care shall also be examined. The Department shall report its findings and activities to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session.
Finding - Recruitment and Retention of Foster Families
Several states received the highest rating (4 out of 4) on the "recruiting and retaining" dimension of the Child and Family Services Review. They are Alabama, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Increasingly, states are partnering with communities and with businesses to implement specific recruitment strategies and partnerships. Recruitment plans are being designed to attract families with the skills to provide quality foster care.
Request the Department of Social Services to further investigate public-private partnerships for recruiting and retaining foster families in the Commonwealth. Such efforts may include collaboration to improve the service array offered to foster families, as well as training and other forms of assistance. The Department shall report its findings and activities prior to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2005 General Assembly Session.