RD17 - Barriers to Kinship Care in Virginia - September 2011
Kinship care complements federal requirements of providing children with stability and permanency. Children in kinship care experience less trauma, have positive perceptions of their placements and have fewer behavioral problems than children placed in foster care. Virginia policy requires that family members be considered first when out-of-home placements are sought for children. However, in 2006, according to the Child Welfare League‘s State Fact Sheet, Virginia ranked last in the U.S. in the use of kinship care.
At the Commission's meeting on April 21, 2010, the Commission adopted a study plan to assess barriers to kinship care placements in Virginia. The purpose of the study was to examine challenges which impact kinship care, including policies, training and funding. Commission staff also was directed to review Virginia’s barrier crime laws and to compare such laws to federal requirements in order to determine their impact on kinship care placements.
In conducting the study, Commission staff established an Advisory Group consisting of stakeholders, including the Virginia Departments of Aging, Criminal Justice Services, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Social Services, local Departments of Social Services, child and family advocacy groups, faith groups, and parent organizations, as well as members of the Commission on Youth.
At its November 15, 2010 meeting, the Commission on Youth approved the following recommendations:
Support the continued implementation of Virginia’s Children’s Services System Transformation.
Request the Department of Social Services clarify policies and provide training to ensure kinship care, both formal and informal kinship care, is identified as a goal for permanency.
Request the Virginia Department for the Aging Kinship Care Task Force develop a plan for the creation of a Kinship Care Navigator. This effort will include local departments of social services, local health departments, Virginia’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), community services boards (CSBs), local school divisions, and community action agencies and will address dissemination of information to relative caregivers regarding available social service programs and benefits (e.g., TANF, FAMIS, Medicaid, WIC, housing assistance, and the Comprehensive Services Act). Potential public and/or private funding sources will be included in this plan. The Department will report on the status of this plan to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.
Request the Department of Social Services develop a plan for using Virginia 2-1-1 to serve as a resource tool for juveniles released into the community in assisting them transition back to the community.
Request the Department of Social Services move forward with implementing the Custody Assistance Program (formerly Subsidized Custody to a Relative Program). Request the Department of Social Services report on the costs of providing formal kinship care as compared to therapeutic foster care, residential treatment, and even the cost of incarceration. The benefits and positive outcomes experienced by children who are placed with family members will also be included in this report. The Department shall report these findings to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.
Request the Department of Social Services update the Commission on Youth on the Kinship Care Diversion Project, which will help identify the number of children diverted from foster care and placed with kinship providers. This update will include outcome data and cost savings of such diversion. This update will take place prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.
Request the Crime Commission evaluate Virginia’s barrier crime statutes in the Code of Virginia and offer recommendations which will make provisions consistent while reducing existing gaps in these statutes. The Crime Commission will update the Commission on Youth on the findings from this study prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.
Request the Department of Social Services, with assistance from the Office of the Attorney General, to annually review and update the listing of barrier crimes impacting the licensure of foster or adoptive parents approved by child-placing agencies and family day homes approved by family day systems. The barrier crime listing will be distributed annually to all local departments of social services.
The Commission on Youth will convene an advisory group of representatives from impacted agencies and stakeholder organizations to study ways to clarify the school enrollment process for informal kinship caregivers. Legal guardianship will also be addressed in this review. The advisory group will formulate recommendations to be shared with the Commission on Youth prior to the 2012 General Assembly Session.
Request the Virginia Department of Education to issue a Superintendent’s Memorandum outlining the Attorney Generals Opinions which state local school divisions may not refuse to provide free education to bona fide residents and that enrollment determinations be made based on all pertinent facts.
Request the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, the Virginia School Board Association, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents include information from the Attorney General’s Opinions clarifying local school divisions may not refuse to provide free education to bona fide residents and enrollment determinations be made based on all pertinent facts at their annual conferences and trainings.
Support the Virginia Department of Social Services in their efforts to provide training to local departments of social services on family engagement, technical assistance on the requirements of diligent family search, and strategies for rural localities.
Support the Virginia Department of Social Services’ efforts to obtain funding for a family locator search engine, e.g., Accurint®, which will assist local departments of social services in their efforts to perform due diligence searches and identify extended family to help children maintain connections with their families.