RD549 - Report on Pilot Program - Temporary Placement of Children in Crisis – December 1, 2017

Executive Summary:

In the 2016 Legislative Session of the General Assembly, VDSS was directed to establish a pilot program in Planning District 11 (Counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell Counties and the City of Lynchburg) for the temporary placements of children in families in crisis and report its findings and recommendations by December 1, 2017. This pilot program would allow a parent or legal custodian of a minor, with the assistance of Patrick Henry Family Services (PHFS), to delegate to another person, by a properly executed power of attorney, any powers regarding care, custody, or property of the minor for a temporary placement for a period that is not greater than 90 days. Specifically, this program would allow for an option of a one-time 90-day extension. Prior to the expiration of the 180-day period, if the child is unable to return to his home, then PHFS shall contact the local department of social services (LDSS) and request an assessment of the child and an evaluation of services needed and to determine if a petition to assess the care and custody of the child should be filed in the local juvenile and domestic relations court. VDSS shall ensure that this pilot program meets the following specific programmatic and safety requirements outlined in Virginia Administrative Code § 22VAC40-131 and § 22VAC40-191.

VDSS shall also ensure that the pilot program organization meets the background check requirements described in § 22VAC40-191. The pilot program organization shall develop and implement written policies and procedures for governing active and closed cases, admissions, monitoring the administration of medications, prohibiting corporal punishment, ensuring that children are not subjected to abuse or neglect, investigating allegations of misconduct toward children, implementing the child's back-up emergency care plan, assigning designated casework staff, management of all records, discharge policies, and the use of seclusion and restraint pursuant to § 22VAC40-131-90. In addition, the pilot program organization shall provide pre-service and ongoing training for temporary placement providers and staff pursuant to § 22VAC40-131-210 and § 22VAC40-131-150. As part of its charge, VDSS will examine the use of a power of attorney to delegate parental authority. Virginia statute already allows for limited use of a power of attorney for kinship care cases. However, many other states go further and follow the Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act (UGPPA)(*1), which allows a parent to delegate to another person, for a period (usually between six months and one year), any power regarding care, custody, or property of their child. The pilot program will take a similar approach. To accomplish this task, VDSS Division of Family Services consulted the Division of Licensing Programs in evaluating the effectiveness of the program, articulating findings, and providing recommendations.

VDSS acknowledges the intent of concerted efforts to support vulnerable families in the community without child welfare system involvement. These efforts create a medium for meaningful partnerships with community-based providers to offer temporary care for at-risk children in the community. This alternative can facilitate the support and strengthening of families and perhaps prevent at-risk children from being placed into foster care. The potential success of such efforts comes from the ability to recruit volunteers prepared to support vulnerable families over short periods of time, while being attentive to child safety, well-being, and permanency. Vulnerable families benefit from having access to extended community networks and local resources. In turn, the volunteers benefit from the sense of contributing to their respective communities.

VDSS believes in partnering with others to support child and family success in a child welfare system that is family-focused, child-centered, and community-based.(*2) The purpose of the pilot program is to evaluate a short-term model of temporary custody for families in crisis to help prevent family disruption and children being placed into foster care. Thus, VDSS has identified the following programmatic and practice recommendations in providing parents with support and respite while children reside in an alternative environment with the ultimate goal of reunification.

Recommendation 1: A more rigorous evaluation of the Safe Families model's impact on children and families in crisis is needed to justify broader implementation of the program in other communities.

Recommendation 2: VDSS supports the enhancement of family-driven service models, like Safe Families, as a best practice in prevention. Thus, LDSS and other community-based organizations have the opportunity to work together as partners to strengthen the infrastructure and array of local prevention efforts.


(*1) Uniform Law Commission. (2017). Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act (1997/1998). Retrieved from http://www.uniformlaws.org/shared/docs/guardianship%20and%20protective%20proceedings/UGPPA_2011_Final%20Act_2014sep9.pdf

(*2) Virginia Department of Social Services. (2017). Virginia Children's Services Practice Model. Retrieved from http://www.dss.virginia.gov/about/practice.cgi.