UPDATE: 2016 VA General Assembly

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Virginia State Capitol (PHOTO: Ava Reaves, 2015) Source: wtvr.com

Every January, the Virginia General Assembly convenes, and this year children’s issues are once again at the forefront of many discussions. The three main agenda items SCAN will be focusing on in 2016 are early education, foster care and youth, and kinship care. A significant development this year that has the potential to greatly impact children, youth and families in Virginia is Governor McAuliffe’s announcement at the joint money committee of his biennial budget, which included support for early childhood education.

Bills that have been introduced in the legislature that pertain to these issues include:

Early Education and Child Care

A major focus of this year’s agenda is the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and other aspects of early education. The bills listed below cover a range of issues from early education and childcare providers to providing funding for a mixed delivery approach, which is a major component to reforming VPI.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 46: Establishes an Early Education Workforce Committee
  • HB 47: Funds for a mixed delivery preschool program
  • HB 242: Removes the requirement for local communities to provide matching funds to qualify for VPI funds
  • HB 500: Requires national background checks for day care providers and anyone living in the home of a day care provider
  • SB 269: Replaces the requirement that 2 members of the State Board of Social Services represent stand-alone child care center that meets state standards and a religiously exempt child care center

Foster Care and Youth

Reforming Foster Care has been a large part of SCAN’s policy agenda, and was recently addressed at SCAN’s Advocacy Day 2015. In the upcoming General Assembly, Virginia lawmakers have introduced bills surrounding issues of expansion of foster care services and maintaining records.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 81: Expand time frame for maintain foster care records until age 22.
  • HB 203: Extends foster care services for children 18-21.
  • HB 271: Parenting time; replaces “visitation” in statutory language.

Kinship Care

Both of the bills introduced this year work towards amending and reenacting exiting laws referring to Kinship Care. (What is Kinship Care? Learn more here.) The third item is a study commissioned to have a better understanding of the feasibility in lessening the restrictions of barrier crimes in order to promote kinship foster care and adoptive placements while ensuring that they are a safe placement for children.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • SB 433: Kinship Guardianship Assistance program
  • HB 674 Kinship foster care; waiver of foster home approval standards
  • SJ 73 Study: Department of Social Services; feasibility of lessening restrictions of barrier crimes

The current session continues through February – will you track bills or contact your legislators? We hope so!

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

Kinship Care: It’s Time to Understand and Advocate

window-932760_1280September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group.  And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.

What is kinship care?  Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).”   There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth.  And there are also challenges.  Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child.  (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)

When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced.  According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:

  • Loss
  • Roles/Boundaries
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Projection/Transference
  • Loyalty
  • Child Rearing Practices
  • Stress Management/Physical Limitations
  • Bonding and Attachment
  • Anger and Resentment
  • Morbidity and Mortality
  • Fantasies
  • Overcompensation
  • Competition
  • Intrusion

This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure.  Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have.  Families that are trying to do right for children.

At our Advocacy Day on November 17th, we will be talking about kinship care in Virginia.  To register to attend, please go to https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=113088

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

SCAN