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Northam signs legislation to improve state's foster care system

by Elizabeth Tyree

Wednesday, March 27th 2019

Virginia's Secretary of Health and Human Resource

RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) -- Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation Wednesday to improve Virginia's foster care system.

Northam was joined by legislators, government officials, and leaders from the business and faith communities to 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.

📷Daniel Carey@VaSecofHealth Packed house in #RVA this morning as @GovernorVA signs several major foster care bills and announces the launch of @VAFosters, a statewide campaign to #BeTheSolution for kids, families, and workers in Va’s child welfare system 508:45 AM - Mar 27, 2019 · U-Turn Sports Complex

"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 [Wednesday],” 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."

📷Virginia Fosters@VAFostersIntroducing Carlos Johnson, our Master of Ceremonies for tomorrow's Virginia Fosters launch! 📷📷📷 Carlos is an AMAZING young man who was in foster care for 4 years before aging out last December. Last call for tickets! Go to to reserve them today! 85:02 PM - Mar 26, 2019

Virginia Fosters is based in part on a successful model run in Virginia in 2013 and in Colorado starting in 2005, focused mostly on recruiting adoptive families.

Virginia Fosters coordinates leaders in the government, faith, non-profit, business and creative communities at the 'grass tops' level and engages Virginians from all walks of life at the grassroots level to address the challenges inherent in the child welfare system.

Not everyone can foster or adopt, but everyone can do something to be the solution.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the number of children in foster care across our nation has continued to rise—from 396,000 in September 2012 to 443,000 in September 2016.

VAKidsBelong@vakidsbelong Foster care provides the opportunity to love a child in times that can be lonely and stressful. That makes finding youth a loving home all the more important, regardless of how long a child is in foster care, they should always feel loved. 2:30 PM - Mar 24, 2019

On average, nearly 2,700 children enter Virginia's foster care system each year. Thirty-eight percent of these children are teenagers and 60 percent are siblings.

When a relative cannot be identified, foster parents provide temporary placement until the child can be successfully reunified or permanency is achieved. Nationally, relatives care for 32 percent of children in foster care. However, in Virginia, less than 10 percent children are placed in relative foster homes.

"As human service professionals, children are among those we strive hardest to protect. We need the help of relatives and foster parents in facilitating the supports children need as they struggle to overcome adverse situations," said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner Duke Storen. "These are Virginia’s children, and they deserve our best efforts. Working together, we can help better support the success of the child, parent, and their family as a whole."

These bills will become law on July 1.

For more information on the Virginia Fosters campaign, go online here.

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