Governor Ralph Northam ceremonially signed legislation to improve Virginia’s foster care system. Joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, government officials, and leaders from the business and faith communities, Northam 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.
“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,” said Governor Northam. “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.”
● 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.
● 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.
“I could not be more proud to have this legislation signed into law today,” said Senator Bryce Reeves. “We are putting our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children first and raising the bar for other states to do the same.”
“When we take children from their parents, we have a responsibility to keep them safe, healthy, and with a brighter future,” said Senator Janet Howell. “Too often, Virginia has failed these, our children. The problems with Virginia’s foster care system are largely fixable. We are determined to fix them. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission staff provided us the impetus and guidance we need.”
“The Families First Prevention Services Act offers Virginia a chance to make historic reforms to help keep kids out of the foster care system,” said Delegate Chris Peace. “I’m proud to be part of a bipartisan effort to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect some of our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children.”
“The report provided to us on the condition of our foster care system was sobering, and the Virginia legislature tackled the problems listed with the help of members from across the state and across the aisle,” said Senator Monty Mason. “For the first time ever we have dollars to put toward preventative services to keep families together. We have a plan to create better outcomes for children who enter the foster care system. While the foster care system always needs improvement, we have made incredible strides with the legislation that is being signed into law today.”
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